Graham Penman

Graham Penman

I'm Graham, Head of Automation at jaam. My goal is to help companies, departments, and individual users be more effective through automation by combining great people and great technology.
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How Automation Can Increase your Business Efficiency

When I describe to people what I do for a living, I try to be concise, and usually say something like “I help companies become more efficient and effective through automation.” Now, for those outside of the tech space this can sound a little obtuse. So, let’s unpack this a little and try and explain what we mean by increasing your business efficiency.

 

Trying to make ourselves more efficient in what we do is not a new thing. Humanity and businesses have been trying to achieve ‘efficient’ status for thousands of years trying to work at becoming better at what we do, incrementally making positive changes to improve what we do and how we do it.

 

Although as a tech company we look at effectiveness through the lens of technology, it doesn’t have its origins there – we just use the same core foundations. So, what are they? How do we define effectiveness?

 

Effectiveness can only be measured by one thing. Value. This can then be split down simply as direct Value to the business (internal operational processes) and direct value to the customer (externally facing processes) which then increases value for the business through increased revenue (or meeting the goals of the organisation – whatever is your quantifiable objective). So, when we’re talking about effectiveness, we’re really talking about this:

 

“Increasing (value) by being more productive (doing the right things), efficient (doing things with less input), and increasing quality (producing a better end product).”

 

Let’s take a look at these three things: Productivity, Efficiency, and Quality:

 

1) Productivity – a focus on increasing output of the right things

 

At its simplest, productivity is the volume of valuable output. For organisations, this output depends on what you do as a business. If you’re a legal firm, you may look at productivity being the number of chargeable hours logged by a fee earner. If you’re a manufacturer of goods, you look at the number of items coming off a production line – the more you produce, the more you can sell. If I think about my own personal productivity as I go through my daily tasks, I look at productivity being the sum of what I’ve achieved – but I don’t usually count things that I didn’t attribute value to.

 

Sometimes we go through days where we may have done a lot of tasks but how many of them directly attributed value to achieving the organisation’s goals. Filling in timesheets on an excel spreadsheet, copying data from one system to another, walking through the building to track down where a document is as it needs to be signed. The question then is, how do we remove the non-valuable work, and increase the amount of valuable work output?

 

I think there are two ways we can increase productivity on its own:

    • Automate work for people allowing them more time to spend on productive value adding tasks
    • Automate the process of delivering the output itself (we’re going to cover this in efficiency

 

2) Efficiency – how can we maximise output while minimising input

 

When we look at defining what efficiency, it can really be simplified to this – the number of resources used to produce output. The more effort, time or raw materials required to do the work, the less efficient the process is.

 

The scenario I’m going to give is a little ludicrous, but it makes the point, and is prevalent across many businesses globally. The example is of an account executive who needs an order document counter signed by someone in their finance team. Currently the document is sent by email to the customer, printed by them and signed, scanned back into an email, sent back to the account executive who prints it off and walks it to the finance team on the second floor, where it sits in a tray waiting to float to the top before someone in the team then reviews and signs, it’s then walked back to the account executive who then completes the transaction in the CRM. What’s the issue here? So, many touchpoints, across multiple people and departments, with no control over the process.

 

What would you do to fix this? From a pragmatic view, you could say the process works – do orders get signed? Yes. Is this achieving the organisation’s goals? Could be. If we implemented some process improvements, could we make it better and allow people to have less input but still achieve the same outcome – of course.

 

Now there are many ways we could think about improving this – we could move sales up to the finance floor of the building! Less walking, more efficient! But sometimes, just trying to take a process you have and improve it is not going to give you the results you want, we need to rethink what we do and apply technology to solve each of the parts of the process.

 

3) Quality – how do we reduce errors, enhance customer experience, and make better decisions

 

Quality is so important when it comes to effectiveness as an organisation. Customer expectations about the service or product that you provide them are sky high. Repeat business will only come if people feel they are receiving the quality of service they are being asked to pay for. And when it comes to effectiveness there are a few aspects of quality we need to look at.

 

Information Quality

 

While your organisation is working to provide products or services to customers is the information you have:

    • Accurate – is it correct?
    • Complete – do you have everything you need?
    • Consistent – if you are using data across multiple systems is it centralised, and do you have a strategy to keep it that way?
    • Unique – do you have information that makes your services better
    • Timeliness – is it up to date and available to use

If you do not have quality of information across systems, it creates a very disjointed experience for both internal employees and ultimately frustrated customers. How many times have we been engaged with a company where you are asked the same information repeatedly? We need cohesion in our data. We can only make good decisions if we have all the information we require available to us. This is so important in highly regulated industries where we need to prove compliance on decisions made and information we hold. If we don’t have this at the touch of a button, we can be scrambling around disparate data sources just to get a small part of the overall picture our data may present. In some instances, this can be crippling for organisations as they spend more time stitching data together than performing actual value creating work (back to our productivity section at the start!).

 

As we digitise, transforming from manual to automated processes data quality is of utmost importance as we need to have data accessible, so we make better decisions.

 

User satisfaction and experience

 

One final part of quality we need to focus on is user satisfaction and experience as we are now in the days of the Netflix generation of instant gratification where customers switch service providers on a whim, so customer retention is key. We need to provide a service that is distinctive and be of competitive advantage to us. A service that customers use again and again, that enables them rather than hinders.

 

Being user centric in our products and services designs, both for internal users and external users is key. Creating these through their eyes and visualising how they will interact with us as an organisation using technology in the right way to support this.

 

Conclusion

So where does this leave us? How do we achieve our purpose at jaam which is “To make organisations more effective through automation”?

 

Well, we use the right technologies for the right job with a focus on how humans work. To aid effectiveness we use technology platforms to support productivity that do not necessarily prescribe the process but are adaptable to change and allow organisations to define what their effectiveness looks like. Some of those technologies are Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Workflow (BPM), Document Automation, AI, and Integration Platforms. These platforms allow organisations to be more effective and provide competitive advantage. Sometimes we view them as just allowing us to improve quality, increase efficiency, and be more productive. But add these together and be more effective – the results will be more than the sum of the total – competitive advantage.

 

If you like us to help you and your organisation become more effective through automation, get in touch with us. We’re great at what we do, and we’d love to talk to you about what you do.

 

Graham Penman – Head of Automation