What damage can disorganised data cause businesses?
Scattered and unorganised information can have a significant impact on businesses, resulting in inefficient processes, a waste of business time and money, and decisions being made on incomplete data.
Therefore what do businesses need to do to combat this burden and positively impact growth?
The source of scattered information
Two decades ago the average business worked with a pretty simple system for managing information. An office with no more than five or six employees would place documents in each other’s in-tray, complete the tasks and move onto the next job. Now and then the telephone would ring, the call would be noted and any potential action would be allocated and completed.
However, with the advent of modern technology the work environment has completely shifted. Now employees are facing 60-100 emails per day, colleagues who aren’t office based, SMS messages, tweets, images, you name it. However the system for managing this information has barely changed over the years and is now completely failing.
This has caused information within businesses to be scattered across different devices, different apps and systems, on different servers, in the cloud and in many cases just on a piece of paper and in someone’s head. It has become unmanageable and is causing data to become a hindrance to businesses, rather than an enabler for growth. Employees are therefore confronted with information from everywhere and have to find their own system for managing it.
Scattered information is an issue felt by many businesses. As a result, some try to create ad-hoc processes for their particular office or department but it has little effect on the wider problem.
All this scattered data is therefore leading to a range of growing problems for businesses. Some may just be losing time as employees search for lost information, some are losing profits due to missed revenue opportunities, while some may even be risking their customer satisfaction by having incomplete information available when it is most needed.
The impact can also be felt by the employees themselves. Most are likely to be frustrated by inefficient process, which could potentially lead to reduced job satisfaction and the possibility of employee talent, and the information they have in their head, moving onto a rival organisation.
So what can be done?
Businesses must consolidate all their information. By implementing a central system to manage data and enable clear processes to be formed, businesses can begin to effectively manage internal and external information.
However, businesses must consider what system to implement, particularly given the continually changing ways of working. Today a significant number of employees either work from home or are field-based. The modern employee is mobile, they are not tied to a desk, but equipped with a laptop, tablet and smart phone and able to work wherever, whenever they need to.
This means businesses must find a system that can operate independently of an office and is accessible on the go.
A recent FileMaker study has shown many organisations are turning to custom apps to reduce inefficiency and increase productivity. Apps enable employees and customers to securely access vital information at any time, from any place and extend mission-critical business processes far beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. The difference with custom apps is they are created to meet the unique business needs of a team or organisation; working across various devices, desktops and mobile, to service the modern worker.
There was a time when custom app development was out of reach for small and mid-sized businesses, but that time has passed. Today it can be faster and less expensive to build a custom app from scratch than to buy and try to customise off-the-shelf software.
The study in question highlighted how 81 percent of businesses had reported that custom apps reduced inefficient tasks, with a further 74 percent stating they increased team productivity.
This demonstrates that businesses are facing a problem with scattered information but have decided to tackle the problem directly; implementing central systems to ensure the business is aimed more towards growth.
It is an approach we all need to follow to ensure scattered information is not having a negative impact on business productivity and limiting potential for growth. It may seem daunting, but if you find a solution that fits the unique needs of the business, works across multi platforms and easily integrates with existing systems, it’s pretty straight forward.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”