What the hell is business process automation? A guide for small businesses

A tonne of buzzwords and phrases have taken over the vocabulary of business in recent years from digital disruption (the computers will take over) to deep diving (an in-depth look) and customer experience (help people buy stuff).

One phrase at the top of the business vocabulary list is “business process automation”.

In the interests of full disclosure, I plead guilty to regularly saying this when talking about what our team does at Buckham & Duffy and how we can best assist clients.

In my defence, regardless of how you term it, business process automation - or the act of doing something smarter - is what I’m passionate about.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start by looking at what business process automation actually means and, importantly, how it relates to small business owners.

In a nutshell, business process automation takes essential, but repetitive and inefficient day-to-day tasks – the rinse-and-repeat jobs that chew up time and resources - and automates them so they are more efficient and effective.

An example of the kind of tasks that can be easily automated could be arduous copy-and-paste type tasks or the answering of the most popular questions from clients.

Does your business need automation?

The best way to determine if you have a task that could benefit from business process automation is to ask yourself three quick questions:

  • Is it basically a copy-and-paste job/task?
  • Does it keep you up at night thinking ‘surely there is a better way to do this?’
  • Does it bug you that your qualified team members are wasting their time doing a mundane job that is necessary but not the best use of their time?

If you have answered yes to one or all three to these questions, then there is a great opportunity to find efficiencies and cost-savings for your company through automation.

And this is where partnerships come into the picture. As a small business owner, you know your business, what works best for it and where any inefficiencies may lie. After all, you live and breathe your business.

So Buckman & Duffy starts the automation process by listening to the business owner... The “brains trust” of the company if you will.

Together we conduct an audit of the business to check which procedures are in place and where we can find efficiencies.

It is not unusual, once we have been approached by a business owner, to address a specific issue and then discover other unseen inefficiencies in the business.

Sometimes a business owner can be too close to the problem to examine it objectively or, more commonly, they are not aware of the incredible improvements in technology that allow them to automate their business in ways they would never have dreamt of.

We worked with one business recently that churns a large volume of staff to fill contract positions. In the past, this would have meant countless hours chasing up reference checks and applicants, thus beginning the unpleasant game of phone tag.

Our team was able to develop a process to streamline checks via an automated email that linked all completed checks back to an online and secure reference point.

It allowed those providing the references to do so when it was convenient for them, eliminated the time it took for staff to chase up reference checks and ensured each referee was asked the correct questions.

This resulted in their staff having more time to focus on sourcing the right people for the positions rather than checking references, and their time was freed up to focus on doing their job more efficiently.

So while the term “business process automation” may seem to be a buzzword at the moment, in reality it’s about doing things smarter and more efficiently.

Surely that’s what all small business owners are striving to do.


Read next: Automate or perish: Why your small business needs to get smart fast

Tags: Automation, Original, Strategy


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