In the first part of this series about business automating and streamlining business processes, I gave a more general overview of the topic and stated why it is a relevant issue for every business today. In this second part, I will have a closer look on how to identify the business processes that can be automated. As every major area in your business is made of smaller processes that help you to reach a certain outcome, they all are candidates for streamlining and automation.
How to identify the processes that can be automated
As a business owner who isn’t very tech-savvy and unfamiliar with tools to automate your repetitive tasks, you may find yourself spending a lot of time manually executing tasks.
For example, the initialization of a new client project consists of several steps. If you are forced to do things manually, you will probably find yourself mailing back and forwards with a new client to collect necessary information, and you’ll also spend a bit of time with registering the new client in your databases and project management tools.
In the previous article, I have discussed the advantages of automating business processes. And if one of these advantages don’t apply to you, there is no reason to go any further. However, chances are that you do feel that some of your business routines could be transformed into an automation. For this reason, I’ll give an example here as to how such an automation could look like.
Areas of application
Imagine your business as one big system that comprises of a bunch of subsystems, like marketing, accounting, administration, sales, customer service, or project management to name a few.
These subsystems are comprised of even smaller subsystems that can be broken down even more.
- Accounting (e.g., invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, record keeping)
Spending too much time on manual lead management
One of the most important things to be concerned about as a business owner is prioritizing your tasks.
In order to prioritize, you’ll need to identify them first.
This is usually the first hurdle: how perfectly do you know your processes?
Let’s illustrate the identification step on a lead generation example, which is a subsystem of sales.
How could a lead generation process possibly look like?
- A visitor fills out an inquiry form on your homepage for a phone call [0 min]
- You receive and read the form submission in your email [1 min]
- You check your calendar for possible appointment slots and email the prospect 3 dates for a phone consultation [10 min]
- Upon confirmation mail from the prospect, you mark your calendar with the agreed date and send a confirmation mail to the lead [5 min]
- You call the lead at the prearranged time [60 min]
- Should you have landed a new client, you open a new project in your project management application [5 min]
- You add the contact manually to your CRM [5 min]
- You create a new client in your accounting application [5 min]
Your invested time total (without the phone consultation): 31 minutes.
Now, lets see how this lead generation process could be automated:
- A visitor requests a phone call scheduling on your homepage by accessing your online calendar, which comprises of available time slots for phone consultations; the lead is automatically sent a confirmation mail with the appointment dates
- The call request is added to your business’ calendar
- You receive and read the call request [1 min]
- 24 hours before your consultation, your lead is automatically emailed an appointment reminder
- You call the lead at the prearranged time [60 min]
- Should you have landed a new client, you fill out a web form that automatically creates: [2 min]
- An entry in your project management application
- An entry is created in your CRM application
- An entry in your Email Marketing application
- Sends a welcome mail to your new client
Your invested time total (without the phone consultation): 3 minutes.
Through the use of a few automation tools, you have reduced your time investment by 28 minutes!
For every 20 prospects that contact you via your website, you’ll save 560 minutes, which is roughly 9.5 hours!
Making use of technology
As you can see in the picture, the order of processes has changed a bit. This is not uncommon.
Having a second look at this lead generation subsystem, what tools have you made use of that allowed you to streamline this process?
- You have added an online calendar that comprises of available time slots for phone consultations, adds an entry to your business calendar, sends the prospect a confirmation mail as well as a reminder 24 hours before the appointment
- You have set up a web form that collects your lead’s contact details
- You have set up some connector service that sends the information entered into the web form to your CRM, project management and accounting information
As your business grows, so do processes. However, keep in mind that other processes may change direction as they grow and might need new connections. The third part of this article series will emphasize the matter of automation services and integrations between single applications.
And what tools can you use to automate your business processes?
“Any task that introduces an unreasonable amount of inefficiency to your business is a candidate for automation, as is any task that you hate doing.”
Making the decision on what to automate is partly a decision of common sense, and partly personal preference. When reviewing their systems, some entrepreneurs fizzle out or feel very uncomfortable. That’s okay. Your strength might lie somewhere else. Should you think that there is indeed potential for your business to streamline processes, but you don’t know how to start, feel free to drop me a line. I help non-tech savvy entrepreneurs set up their systems. If you want some support in this matter, or even in figuring out what tech tools would work well for your business, you could also schedule a Clarity Session with me here.