Businesses of all sizes have been hit hard by the disrupted economic environment in 2020. Australia dipped into the deepest recession it has had in many, many years, and lockdowns and social distancing have severely affected cash flow and, in many cases, the ability for the business to be operating at all.
As a result, companies need to be cutting costs and finding efficiency wherever possible, while not crippling the business as a result. As a recent KPMG report argues: “history has shown that companies that take a strategic future-focused investment approach during times of unrest were better placed when the global economy rebounded.”
In other words, those businesses that haven’t cut back to a skeleton staff and have looked for ways to prepare the business for the rebound will be the ones to leap ahead once the markets start to settle.
Why automation matters
This is why many enterprises are turning to automation. In simple terms, automation is the use of technology to undertake a task that a human would previously. This saves the business money (as there are no wages needed to pay to the automation undertaking these tasks), and boosts the organization’s productivity, by allowing the automation to do the work of lots of people at once.
Automation can be either physical (i.e. the work of robots), or it can be software-based. If you’ve ever “spoken” to a chatbot when you’ve needed support from a business and visited its website, then you’ve encountered software automation. More and more things are being automated as IoT – Internet of Things – allows data-gathering and processing chips to be placed in everything, from self-driving cars through to the microwave.
Automation can be used in accounting software to make payroll less time-consuming. It can be applied to CRM systems to boost sales and marketing efforts by automatically handling campaigns and categorizing customer data. Implemented well, automation can become a foundation to the business, allowing the staff to focus on much higher-value tasks (the kinds of things an AI can’t currently handle), and that in turn delivers greater value back to the business.
What’s needed for automation?
Automation is a technology-driven solution, and it needs some robust technology behind it to function as intended. An enterprise will typically need to be comfortable in adopting cloud solutions, as automation relies on significant amounts of data moving over clouds that it can access. One example of this is the hosted PBX. Rather than rely on the business having a PBX unit and system on-premise, the hosted PBX is delivered over the Internet by a provider, and in doing so it gives enterprises access to any number of features, including call forwarding, custom on-hold music, a night switch, and an online portal for management – all automated features that are very expensive in traditional PBX systems.
Because the cloud plays such a heavy role in automation, businesses need to be very security aware. Data breaches are one of the most damaging things that can happen to a company, both in terms of the penalties and the reputational damage. The good news is that automation is available here, too, with hosted firewalls and other managed services able to carry the bulk of the security load.
Organizations will need robust and stable Internet connections, however. If the company Internet suffers an outage, it would also lose access to all the automation underpinning it, which can be very costly. It’s not just about speeds (though with cloud applications, speeds do help). It’s also about having an enterprise agreement and SLA with a provider that gives a guarantee for a minimal number of “downtime” hours every month.
Businesses should be investing in automation now so that they can prepare for the inevitable rebound in the market. Automation affords an organization with additional resources, scope, and efficiencies, and increasingly, automation is a solution that benefits organizations of all sizes – it is a set of technology solutions that can level the playing field and give small businesses access to enterprise-grade features and solutions.
For automation to be effective, a business will need to look at its technology environment, and be willing to adjust to adapt to the needs of automation, but as technology investments go, automation is more accessible than ever, and there’s no real reason not to jump in.