Breaking Down the Barriers to Office Automation

Office automation is a powerful technology that many businesses still find hard to digest. While the pure money-saving opportunities of hyper-intelligent automation solutions are well documented, automation as a whole remains underutilized across industries.

McKinsey estimates that 45% of paid jobs can be automated using today's technology. Yet, 22% of businesses have no plans to incorporate machine learning, 29% have no plans to use Natural Language Processing, and (perhaps most surprisingly) 25% have no plans to leverage the power of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

There are obvious frictions surrounding automation. What happens to workers when redundant processes become relics? How do you string together comprehensive automation solutions without funneling significant liquidity into internal IT teams? And where do you start?

Let's take a look at these questions and discuss some of the office automation solutions you can start with that don't require a significant stakeholder handshake and complete IT overhaul.

Dismantling The Barriers to Automation

Maybe it's the sum of the unknowns about office automation that keeps your business from embracing its benefits. Perhaps not knowing where to begin is the most significant roadblock. Or maybe it's the negative misconceptions that surround re-skilling and transitioning workforces  during digital transformation that throws up blinders. Industry by industry, it's been shown that automation has generated new skills and better roles more than it has dismantled the existing workforce. The World Economic Forum projects that automation will create 58 million more jobs than it replaces.

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Cloud computing, data lakes, and outsourcing options eliminate the need for time-intensive internal onboarding campaigns. Global IT outsourcing is projected to grow by 4.4% by 2022, and a full 90% of enterprises are already in the Cloud. So, the barrier to automation doesn't come down to why businesses should automate or what impact automation will have on their workforce—it comes down to how businesses should automate.

By now, you've seen the statistics—automation reduces costs and boosts productivity by a baseline of 1% across industries. You've read the headlines—Automation is the Future of Work. You know that automation makes sense. And you probably know of businesses in your industry that are making competitive gains thanks to automation. Those businesses began their automation journey by disrupting how they did things.

Disruption gets thrown around a ton when we talk about automation. And disruption makes us uneasy because it means systematically tearing down existing workflows, building new strategies and policies that enable automation, and rethinking business practices.

So, where do you start? 

Three easy places to begin the automation journey

Start with office automation processes that have rapid integration, minimal training needs, and significant profit-driving capabilities out-of-the-gate. These are the office automation processes that businesses can adopt without completely transforming their IT architecture or leveraging full-scale automation adoption.

office automation

Accounts Payable (AP) Automation

Despite high adoption rates for ERP systems, AP is plagued by manual processes, redundant human touchpoints, and frustrating waiting periods. Given that AP is the liquidity gateway for your business, automating invoice processing, coding, and approvals is one of the easiest and most immediately impactful ways to start your automation journey.

AP automation is in the sweet spot. For starters, it has a well-documented track record. AP teams leveraging best-of-breed automation systems see 6x lower costs per invoice and 4x faster processing rates. AP automation reduces error rates by a minimum of 8%, and it can save organizations an average of 90% of their total invoicing costs.

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Applying automation to AP is almost natural. AP fraud costs businesses over $7 billion per year, employees spend around 40% of their day on the job simply looking for paper documents, and an alarming 80% of invoices are still paper-based. Plus, AP automation immediately reduces all of those sticky, error-prone manual touchpoints and streamlines AP workflows across your organization. 70% of workers believe that the biggest value proposition of automation is that it has the very real potential to eliminate redundant tasks from their workflows. AP automation is one of the easiest office automation solutions to prove employees right.

But it's not only about improving throughput, cutting costs, and increasing productivity from AP teams; it's a legitimate business advantage. Despite all of the benefits, 36% of businesses have yet to deploy AP automation solutions.

Of course, once you've fully adjusted to AP automation, there are larger business strategies that open up. For example, 21% of organizations still view AP as a back-office function. But once you free your human resources to focus on more critical-thinking heavy tasks, you can transition AP into a more strategic business unit. 52% of organizations say that an over-reliance on employees and paper are their two biggest AP frictions. With the right automation solution, you can reduce errors, improve productivity, and virtually eliminate paper from your invoice workflows.

HR Onboarding Automation

In today's hyper-competitive HR landscape, onboarding is a strategic advantage. The faster and more accurate your onboarding processes are, the more likely your company is to avoid unnecessary onboarding redundancies and training issues.

To put it simply, onboarding isn't cheap. The average cost of onboarding a new employee is over $4,000. But that's just the visible cost. It takes up to two years for an employee to become fully productive, and minimizing this time frame starts with the onboarding process.

In the first quarter of 2020, 83% of HR leaders found it difficult to scout skilled workers in the talent marketplace. When skilled workers slip through the cracks because of inefficient onboarding, that isn't only wasteful, it's damaging to your overall business productivity and profitability.

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When we think of automation applied to HR, we aren't suggesting that the entire process should be automated from start to finish. Instead, workflow automation software should be integrated into the onboarding process to help your business with workflows that promote consistent, holistic, and speedy onboarding procedures.

HR automation isn't only software-enabled. You need cross-collaboration between HR stakeholders to design and implement the right systems and policies. This can be semi-time-consuming, but it's a solid exploratory starting point because there's immediate value. It sits in that perfect spot between ad-hoc and full-integration that makes it easy to adopt and leverage without upheaving your IT framework.

Sales Order Processing (SOP) Automation

It's best to break down automation into subcategories. High-potential automation requires a portfolio of solutions woven together and integrated across your entire IT architecture. That can be a tough sell. So, let's take a step back and look at an automation solution that exists in its own fractured ecosystem—sales order processing automation.

Sales order processing streamlines manual and redundant tasks in the sales pipeline. Typically, it's aimed at reducing sales order frictions, though it certainly has implications for a variety of sales processes. SOP automation help you process orders faster. It also improves relationships hinged to SLAs and opens up new areas of opportunity for sales data.

It's difficult to discuss automation specifics applied to SOP, since each vendor will offer a unique solution. You may leverage RPA tools to orchestrate complex bots across your enterprise framework, or you may purchase an ad-hoc SOP automation solution. It depends on your goals. But the primary value lever remains intact. SOP automation is immediately impactful. And, perhaps most importantly, its results are clearly visible using the right KPIs.

Businesses that embrace digital sales solutions see 5x the growth of their less innovative peers. Applying automation to sales orders is the first step toward embracing a solidified sales automation framework.

Baby Steps Create Monster Footprints

If you're still navigating the increasingly complex waters of office automation, it may make sense to start small. Accounts payable, sales order processing, and HR onboarding are all ripe for automation. Integrating automation solutions aimed at these office processes doesn't necessarily require massive investment or a complete policy overhaul.

Automation is valuable. The question is how you go about implementing the ever-growing list of automation capabilities into your core business strategies. By starting with these three office functions, you can explore the value of automation in the short-term, which will inevitably lead to sustainable, long-term automation investments built on trust, authority, and understanding.

Are you looking for office automation solutions to help your business streamline processes, eliminate manual and hyper-redundant tasks, and breed a more holistic compliance culture? Contact us. DRS Imaging offers a broad range of content and process automation solutions aimed at helping businesses embrace digital transformation.

Digital Transformation Experts