Working with companies to help them understand how they can leverage the internet to improve their business processes is a sweet-spot of ours.
In this article, we look at some case studies of business process automation projects that have been successfully carried out. We hope this post will help readers better understand what these projects can look like, and inspire you to think about how you can improve your own business’s efficiency.
1. Going paperless
A field service company was working with a transportation business whose goal was to grow from 50 to 150 drivers without any increasing their back-end staff. What they wanted is what every business wants, to boost productivity.
Their biggest obstacle to achieving their goal was that all the back-end work was still completed manually. Drivers would collect customer information, including payment details, and manually track their own hours. They would then call or fax that information back to head office to have it manually entered into their accounting books, and then dealt with from there.
This was time-consuming, inefficient, and prone to human error (e.g. receiving a fax where you can’t tell if a number is a 3 or a 6, or mishearing an order over a bad connection).
A business process automation project improved this workflow. The field service company issued drivers with tablets pre-loaded with custom software that:
- Easily captured customer information
- Automatically tracked drivers’ hours and time on the road
This information was then automatically sent to the accounting team and automatically synced with their QuickBooks system.
This automation project helped the company meet its productivity goal, and it gave the company new insight into data at a driver level, opening the door for further optimization down the line.
2. Reducing errors
“Reducing errors” is a frequent goal of clients exploring business automation.
In this example, a company that develops large and complex information systems (medical, aviation, military), worked with a partner to build a system that would facilitate change requests to the Medical Directory for Regulatory Activities (MedRA).
The old process was clunky and complicated where data was passed through various different systems manually in a hodgepodge way. While in some cases this process was fine, in this one particular process, any error (and the potential was extremely high) could lead to non-compliance.
By centralizing this process through the installation of a single end-to-end system, the company contained the entire approvals process, making it easier to track and prevented errors caused when information wasn't transferred between systems properly.
While not everyone works on compliance and highly technical problems like this example, most organizations do have processes that are unrefined. Processes that:
- Rely on shifting information from one system to another (usually via email)
- Tend to bottleneck at key approvers
- Require multiple manual steps (any of which could be forgotten in a busy moment)
These types of clunky processes continue to exist in plenty of organizations, and even if the consequences of a mistake are small, they will always create more unnecessary work and inefficiency.
3. Workflow management
In our final example, a convenience food company was having problems with regional marketing teams that would run local promotions in response to local conditions. For example, they might want to run a promotion for ice cold drinks in Texas in February but not run that promotion in New York City at the same time.
Of course, each promotion has to be approved by a central marketing authority to make sure that the offer being promoted in Texas doesn’t conflict with what’s going on elsewhere and to make sure that all the active promotions are on-brand.
At the time, the convenience food company was running this process with a combination of zealous emailing and complicated Excel spreadsheets to track all the promotions for all the regional marketing teams. Approval was slow and burdensome to the teams involved.
The solution was simple, switch the approvals to a task-based process. This meant that at each the relevant stakeholder only saw what they needed to approve. It built a system that, that allowed different regions to uploaded their idea for a promotion, progress it step-by-step through the correct stakeholders automatically from withing the same system, which also sent out automatic notifications telling users when they had something to do.
As a result, the client was able to process 120% more promotions annually.
Again, it’s easy to see how useful this would be in different situations:
- Approving marketing messaging (even internally)
- Approving content for websites
- Change management
- Documenting relevant process for compliance or audit trail purposes
- Consulting with geographically disparate stakeholders
The results you can achieve from automation and process simplification are staggering. Whether you’re making workflows easier, field workers’ jobs faster. or just making sure the job gets done right every single time, business process automation helps organizations stay competitive just by making it easier to do what they do.