The challenges of automation

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Process optimization is a primary concern for entrepreneurs. Automation is the solution to reduce costs and increase efficiency. What exactly are we talking about? Which tasks can be automated? And what are the challenges related to automation? Let’s decipher these enigmas.

Automation: definition

From the connected speaker to the autonomous vacuum cleaner, automation is already present in our daily lives. What do all these automated devices have in common? The promise of offloading unpleasant tasks so that you can devote your time to more enjoyable activities. The same is true in the business world. Whatever your field, it goes without saying that your business includes a number of low-added-value tasks that could be automated.

Simply put, automation refers to any technology that decreases human intervention. Decrease being the key word: automation does not aim to replace 100% of human tasks but rather to lower the proportion of manual tasks, from 50 to 70%, to restore time and value to the company.

More concretely, IT automation relies on software solutions to automate reproducible processes to alleviate human intervention. In the context of digital transformation, and at a time when companies need more than ever to optimize their processes to gain productivity, automation is a key issue. Automation is how to gain a real competitive advantage and grow exponentially.

Computer automation: which areas can be automated?

In theory, all IT tasks can be automated, regardless of the domain.

Sales automation: close sales opportunities faster by automating lead and contract management.

It is possible to automate your sales process to save time in lead generation. For companies that need to generate a high number of leads to close new deals, automating their lead management is essential to reach their objectives.

Operations: automation can consolidate your IT system and share data between all your tools.

Whether you are a marketplace operator or e-commerce, you have several different applications and systems that interact with each other. To avoid errors and data loss, you need to be able to visualize data exchanges. And when an error occurs, you need to understand where it is to solve it.

IT: automation to accelerate inter-application connections

Google Suite, Back office marketplace, payment provider, Legacy APIs… Process automation usually involves tasks assigned to several solutions (SAAS or in-house applications). On the IT side, it is necessary to interconnect the different solutions – via an orchestration tool – to enable data transfer between systems. This interconnection will be advantageous because it will make information transfers more secure (lower risk of errors during transfer). It will also be easier to monitor the processes from a control panel. Therefore, choosing the right automation and orchestration tools to supervise the flows is essential.

HR: Facilitate the onboarding of your new employees and improve the follow-up of your teams by automating HR processes

In companies, it is still prevalent for HR processes not to be automated, which can be pernicious. When an HR process is poorly calibrated, the company’s image suffers, despite being vital to make a good impression at the beginning of a relationship. 

In addition to the recruitment process, the automation of HR processes can improve the follow-up of teams. Contract signature, employees to meet, annual interviews… All these steps can be mapped and standardized from a process point of view to make the whole company operation more fluid.

Automation: what are the advantages?

By automating 50 to 70% of manual work, first and foremost, you will reduce costs and save time. Filling in files, clicking on an interface, filling in forms… Automation aims to eliminate all low-added-value tasks so that employees can focus on more mission-strategic duties, such as participating in sales operations, sourcing new products, and improving customer relations, to name a few.

In addition to freeing up time, automation also removes menial work. For experienced employees with five years of higher education, performing manual, repetitive and low-added-value tasks is tiring. For example, it is possible to automate the clipping of product photos, which usually requires a graphic designer to work long hours. In this sense, automation also contributes to better team loyalty.

Automation: the business, human and technical challenges

It is impossible to automate all areas of a company’s activity. You must identify the business processes that are up for improvement. Doing so requires determining the main pain points of your organization. Whatever your activity, your teams will inevitably have time-consuming tasks to perform. They don’t weigh much individually, but these repetitive manual tasks quickly drag on scalability when put together. In the context of an e-commerce or marketplace, for example, if you are looking to reach high volumes of orders and products online, you will need to set up automation to scale. 

Whether you want to transform existing or future processes, you must think at scale and in stages. Starting as an MVP, some tasks can be done manually. However, as soon as you move to the next stage, managing large volumes in this way will become impossible.

How to support the change management inherent in automation?

Implementing an automation process will inevitably change the daily life of your teams. Whether out of necessity or out of goodwill, your employees were used to do certain tasks they will no longer need to. Or at least they will do differently. For the automation project to be successful, you need to be able to support your employees in this change by clearly communicating the objectives and opportunities involved. Despite all its advantages, automation can indeed create mistrust among teams, who may be concerned with being replaced. It is, therefore, necessary to reassure them and, if necessary, to plan a training period to familiarize the employees with the new operation. 

Moreover, the automation process will be all the more effective if it is thought through transversely and globally, involving all stakeholders.

Technical challenges to overcome

Technically, automation is done by connecting application systems. You must be able to interconnect tools and software – SaaS, but not only! -between them. We propose several approaches in our article on the interconnection of SaaS solutions. In the case of internal systems it is possible, for example, to retrieve a flat file through a “cron command” type of program that will automatically execute a task, for instance, data integration. Too often, in automation projects the integration part is neglected in terms of costs and resources to deploy. We recommend using an automation solution to manage the entire process.  To accelerate the time-to-market, using a low-code technology is also highly recommended.

Furthermore, implementing automation, and therefore of flows between applications, requires the ability to supervise, monitor and repair these flows. And unfortunately, when connecting software A to software B, some exchanges may not work all the time. It is then necessary to detect why it did not work, what the impacts are and fix these errors.

For all these reasons, if automation is often delivered through low-code tools, integration is simplified with the help of an iPaaS type platform such as Marjory. It allows you to set up automation quickly and connects applications, environments and company data while controlling costs.

Marketplace sellers: 4 examples of automation to implement

1.Automate the creation of product sheets with AI

Creating product sheets is part of the tasks inherent to the activity of a seller on a marketplace and necessarily takes time. You need a product description and cropped visuals to create a product sheet. Even if you use tools that allow you to crop automatically, you still need to upload the right photo, rename it, save it in the right place, etc. As for the product description, you either work hard to write clear and striking text, making sure you don’t duplicate content, or rely on text generator tools, such as Chat GPT. But again, between the prompt to fill in and the text to copy and paste in the right place, you spend time on repetitive tasks.

Marjory has developed a workflow to automate this process to save marketplace sellers from these pitfalls. Thanks to the prior interconnection of Remove bg (a tool for cropping images) and Open AI (the GPT chat editor), all you have to do is enter the title of your product and the URL of the visual to crop. That’s all there is to it. The generated texts are automatically saved in a Google Sheet or your PrestaShop / Magento / Shopify interface.

  • Thanks to Majory, it is possible to automate 70% of the work related to creating and issuing product sheets!


2. Automate the matching of product references to accelerate the preparation of sales operations.

Participating in commercial operations is essential to develop the turnover of a marketplace seller. Unfortunately, to participate in this type of operation, you must first fill in an Excel file with each product’s reference and each marketplace’s internal reference. Without an adapted tool, humans do the matching manually and takes a considerable amount of time. For a seller managing 44,000 orders per year, this represents 30 hours of work, or 5 days per year.

  • By automating the matching of product references with the internal ID of each marketplace, Marjory offers you a recurring time saving tool, allowing you to focus on commercial operations.


3. Automate the sending of invoices

Did you know that nearly 40% of customer contacts in the marketplace concern a request for an invoice? All told, sending these invoices represents 16 days of work per year for a company with an annual turnover of 3.5 million euros. This task has no added value, but it definitely needs to be done. Automation will also be relevant here.

  • As soon as an order status changes to “shipped”, Marjory automatically sends an invoice to the end customer of the marketplace.


4. Automate accounting reconciliation

Accounting reconciliation is one of those tedious and time-consuming yet necessary tasks. To avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the year, it is necessary to link payments to commission invoices. Accounting reconciliation can and should be automated.

  • Marjory downloads transaction logs and commission invoices and links each order to the relevant invoice and its actual payment. Marjory then calculates the actual commission for each order, allowing you to manage your profitability better. The estimated time saving is 50 days per year!

As you can see from these examples, the value of automation will become more and more important as your business grows. For a salesperson with a 3.5M annual turnover and 44,000 orders, the total bill for manual operations related to these four automation amounts to almost 100 days. One hundred days spent on low added-value tasks, usually entrusted to graduate profiles who should be focusing on high-added-value responsibilities to grow the business!

Don’t wait until tomorrow to automate! Rising costs, shrinking consumption, declining revenues… The bleak forecast for 2023 requires companies to find new growth drivers. To stay in the race, you need to be able to focus on high-added-value tasks, to build a more profitable business. Low-code automation is a pragmatic answer to all these challenges. Ready to jump on the automation bandwagon? Contact us to discuss your needs!

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