Punctuate

Automate your future

Creating more time for businesses to do what they do best

Better business with automation

- 4 minute read

Automation using web technologies has become a hot topic as businesses look to take advantage of the power it brings. But what is it and how can your business tap into the benefits of automation?

Before we dive in let’s talk briefly about what automation is. Wikipedia’s definition is suitably succinct - to reduce human intervention.

Why would we want to reduce or remove humans from the equation? Quite simply because we're human. If we're given a mundane task to complete, it's highly likely that most of us will, at some point, make a mistake if we’re asked to perform that task over and over, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. We are creative, mindful beings that have a tendency to get bored in such situations and our minds wander off on to what we consider to be more interesting things. Bots on the other hand don’t get bored, they don't have focus that will wander off, they perform the same task the exact same way time after time after time. Until they're told to stop.

So what kind of things can we automate? Let’s take a statistics widget on an app dashboard as an example. We’ll say this widget displays customer interactions with your business over time. The widget draws some meaningful graphs showing trends, perhaps hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. The data for these statistics needs to be aggregated and analysed before it can be displayed. As your business has many points of contact with your customers it is likely there are multiple sources for this data - a CRM, a website, social media channels, email campaigns, maybe even SMS campaigns. Using automation we can instruct a bot to fetch all this data and aggregate it on a regular basis, then analyse it and make it ready for display. Imagine having to do this every hour as part of your job and automation becomes an attractive option. We can even hang additional automated processes off the analysis, such as scheduled reporting, threshold notifications or handing the data over to a different system.

Let's look at another example. We’re currently building in additional automation to our collaborative Inquiry app. Inquiries consist of a number of phases (or parts if you prefer), each which contributes to form the whole. Each phase can be accompanied by references, so we’re building a bot to confirm the presence of reference sources at various stages during an inquiry lifecycle. We know the reference will exist at the time of entry, but it may be it has moved or even disappeared entirely by the time a report is written, which could be months down the track. Having to double check each reference would be a long and tedious task, especially for a sizeable inquiry that has multiple contributors. Tasking a bot to check these and notify the authors of any references that require further investigation is a major time saver.

As software developers we use automation daily. We use it for browser testing our websites, for checking our code and fixing common issues as we write, to package and deploy our products, and to monitor the status of our websites. We’ve also built automation into many of our business processes - billing, hosting, domain name management and data security to name a few.

Setting off down the road of digital automation starts in exactly the same way as it would in the physical world, by examining business processes and identifying opportunities for improvement. These can be small or large but should provide a measurable benefit to the business, perhaps by streamlining a workflow, increasing visibility on business data to rationalise decision making, or more directly as a cost saving. As is the case with all projects, a clear purpose is key - starting out knowing what the objectives are will deliver best outcomes. Quite simply, good information in equals good data out.

Well conceived and implemented processes automation can improve productivity, dramatically reduce the risk of input error, and free up a considerable number of working hours. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from automation and while the size and complexity of task may differ, the high level objectives remain comparable. We create automated processes for businesses that range from small automated data entry routines, to more complex multi-tiered processes that interact with multiple independent systems. Whatever the size or scope they all have one thing in common, helping businesses to focus on what they do best.

If you’d like to talk to us about automation for your business reach out to us, we’d love to chat over a coffee.

 


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