With powerful digital technology at businesses’ fingertips, software automation has fast become a key component for organisations of all sizes. Not only does it hold the potential to boost productivity, reduce costs and improve workflow, but with the advent of AI and large language models, automation is also augmenting human information analysis and decision-making with data-driven processes. In some cases, it’s replacing them entirely.
Whether it’s through software applications or AI integration, the objective of automation in a digital process or system remains the same: boosts overall productivity and reduces pressure placed on individual employees, by eliminating the mundane and repetitive, freeing up time and resources for strategic thinking and creative ideation.
The Benefits of an Automated Approach
From data entry, analysis and reporting to client communication, customer service and human resources, the list of potential applications is seemingly endless. Let’s look at some of the tangible benefits associated with effectively automated processes.
First and foremost, automation boosts efficiency by handling otherwise monotonous tasks. Automation tools are able to handle repetitive tasks with greater accuracy than their human counterparts, allowing employees to shift their focus to higher-value projects, such as creative or strategic work.
Example: Workflow automation tools such as Make or Zapier, allow you to connect different apps together through a common user interface that, for the most part, does away with the need for coding. By using time or event-based triggers these tools use simple logic (WHEN, IF, THEN) to allow you to create joined-up fully automated business processes across one or more app (eg when a spreadsheet updated, send a slack notification and generate an invoice in my accounting software).
Improved Customer Experience
Additionally, automation can significantly improve the experiences of individuals interacting with your business. Automated customer service solutions, including chatbots and self-service portals, offer personalised and timely customer interactions. Unlike people, these systems can handle queries 24/7, leading to faster response times and resolutions. The result is improved customer satisfaction, loyalty and repeat business.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Crucially, automation facilitates real-time data collection and analysis, with tools like automated dashboards generating real-time reports and actionable insights. This enables more accurate and timely decision-making, allowing companies to identify trends, assess performance metrics, and adjust their strategies based on up-to-date information
Example: At Superb, we use a tool called Supermetrics which allows us to seamlessly import data from Google Ads and GA4 directly into our budget-tracking spreadsheet for every client campaign we’re running. By automatically collating real-time information, such as ad spend, cost per acquisition and conversion rates, we can continually review and monitor campaigns and adjust budget allocation accordingly.
Scalability and Growth
As businesses grow, automation provides the scalability needed to handle increased workloads efficiently. Tools like Robotic Process Automation can manage larger volumes of tasks without requiring a proportional increase in human resources. From data transfers and payroll processing to onboarding and system set-up, this flexibility facilitates growth, allowing businesses to capitalise on new opportunities without fear of operational hiccups.
Focus on Value
As mentioned briefly above, by automating mundane and repetitive tasks businesses are able to allocate resources to value-added activities. For instance, time saved from automated data processing can be redirected towards innovation, research and development or enhancing customer relationships. This strategic focus allows businesses to differentiate themselves, drive growth, and maintain a competitive edge in their respective industries.
What Areas of Your Business Can Automation Benefit Most?
Properly implemented automation can prove transformative for a business. Although the areas best suited to this technology may differ based on a business’s unique requirements, industry and structure, there are a number of processes and business functions where automation proves to be consistently advantageous. These include:
A well-built automation system forms the backbone of many modern businesses. From streamlining e-commerce inventory to the automation of online order fulfilment, this translates to fewer manual errors and a work process that runs like clockwork.
Example: Here at Superb, these systems underpin a huge portion of our work. Integrating automation with platforms such as Google Workspace and ClickUp facilitates seamless interconnectivity between tasks and teams. Whether we’re syncing Google Calendar with capacity planning software, or passing projects between SEO and creative, the automation ensures a smooth transition and consistent tracking of progress. This integration allows for real-time updates and collaboration, ensuring that all team members are on the same page and can access the most current information.
Customer Service and Support
As mentioned, automated ticketing systems and chatbots are game-changers in customer service. They deliver instant, spot-on responses, boosting customer satisfaction and response times.
Example: Uber uses the customer service software Zendesk to categorise tickets and route them to the appropriate team. The implementation of this automation at an early stage was crucial, ensuring that Uber’s support services were able to meet the growing demand of their drivers and users as the company scaled.
Marketing and Lead Generation
Automation can streamline marketing efforts by managing lead generation, email marketing campaigns, social media, content distribution, and data analytics, increasing the overall efficiency of marketing processes. These systems can also enhance sales processes by automating lead qualification, tracking customer interactions, managing sales pipelines, and automating follow-up tasks.
Example: Email marketing tools and CRMs like Hubspot, Pipedrive and Mailchimp have automation that allows emails to be sent to prospective buyers at specific, targeted points in their sales cycle. This could be a welcome message when a customer downloads an e-book, a voucher code, or a reminder about items left in a shopping cart. It could be a targeted email, which is only sent when a user clicks on a certain link in your monthly newsletter.
This targeted approach, driven by customer behaviour and data analytics, ensures that communication is relevant and timely, significantly improving the chances of converting leads into sales.
Automation can simplify financial tasks, including invoicing, payment processing, expense management, and financial reporting. It reduces manual data entry, minimises errors, and improves accuracy in financial operations.
Data Analysis and Reporting
Automation can expedite data collection, analysis, and reporting by integrating data from various sources, simplifying data processing, and generating real-time reports. It enables data-driven decision-making and helps identify trends, patterns, and insights.
Considerations when Implementing Automation
Automated technology and software should exist as a reaction to your business’s specific needs, software stack, and future requirements for growth. Automation should also focus on those areas which are lacking or may be further optimised.
Identify Pain Points
Begin by identifying bottlenecks and operational hurdles. Are certain tasks consistently error-prone or time-consuming? These are your prime candidates for automation. The goal is to focus on areas that drain resources or are prone to human error, making them ripe for automation.
Set Clear Goals
Clearly articulate what you aim to achieve with automation. Is it cost reduction, enhanced customer satisfaction, or perhaps a productivity boost? Having well-defined goals not only guides your automation strategy but also provides a benchmark for measuring success.
Be sure to evaluate the return on investment of the proposed automation. This should factor in the initial setup costs as well as ongoing expenses, such as training and maintenance. Compare these costs against the potential benefits—be it time saved, productivity gains, or revenue growth—to get a comprehensive view of automation’s value to your business.
Don’t Forget Your SOPs
While automated processes exist as powerful additions to any business, they are not infallible. For this reason, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and human input are essential during both application and maintenance; SOPs document how the automation works, and what to do if they break.
Top tip: Involve your team in crafting SOPs that integrate automated processes, ensuring a seamless transition. This balanced approach not only maximises the benefits of automation but also retains the irreplaceable value of human insight in your operations.
Integration and Compatibility
As touched upon above, compatibility is key. Ensure that the automation tools you select integrate smoothly with your existing systems, be they CRM software or project management tools. A seamless integration will streamline workflows and make data management more efficient.
Data Security and Privacy
As with all areas of digital business, data security and privacy are non-negotiable. Be sure to evaluate the security protocols of the automation tools you’re considering. Ensure they comply with relevant data protection regulations and are capable of safeguarding sensitive customer and business information.
Continuous Monitoring and Optimisation
Last but not least, the value of a robust monitoring system should not be underestimated; regularly assess the impact of automation on key performance indicators. These insights can then be used to continually refine and optimise your automated processes, ensuring they deliver maximum efficiency and meet your business objectives.
Our Journey with Automation at Superb Digital
We have invested heavily in automation here at Superb Digital. Not only has this allowed us to become more efficient, cutting out the time spent on repetitive tasks, but it’s freed up time across the business to focus on the strategic tasks that bring real benefit to our clients.
Below are just some of the applications of automation in our business:
- Content management: scheduling and publishing.
- Process streamlining: Automating elements of a repeatable process
- Advanced data entry: Populating one system based on inputs into another (ie creating pre-populated Google Docs through a dropdown on our task management software)
- Workload management: capacity planning, task delegation and prioritisation.
- Email marketing: automated sequences and performance tracking.
- Budget tracking: pulling data from Google Ads, GA4 etc.
- Reporting: generating regular reports on marketing campaign performance, website traffic, etc.
Automation in the business can be split into two broad camps – native automation built into the many apps and tools we use and workflow automation software (in our case we use Make).
Native automation allows us to use a given tool at maximum efficiency, taking advantage of all native features in order to get the best results out of it. A tool like ClickUp, which we use to project manage every client’s campaign, as well as our own marketing and operations, has very powerful automation that is malleable enough to fit around our own bespoke processes and workflows.
Workflow automation software on the other hand (we use Make for this) allows us to connect tools like ClickUp to other tools and apps we use, creating a seamless workflow.
For example, we use Google Docs and Google Sheets for a lot of our client deliverables. Using a tool like Make, we can not only generate these form a simple dropdown in ClickUp, but we put them in the right folder on our GDrive and then pre-populate them with information inside ClickUp. When you’re creating over a hundred docs a month, that’s a lot of saved time.
We are continuing to develop our automation all the time and with the advent of AI, I’m excited about the possibilities this will open up to take more menial and repetitive tasks out of the hands of staff, freeing them up to think strategically and bring more inimitable creativity towards their work. Not only does that allow everyone’s skills to develop, but it generates better outcomes for our clients.
If your agency seems stuck in the dark ages and you’re interested in working with a future-facing business that is serious about maximising efficiency in order to focus on truly strategic outcomes, then why not book a call today.