19Feb Save Your Business an Hour a Day by Automating These 5 Tasks
Here are some typical business processes whereby businesses can consider to automate.
Automating business processes need to necessarily mean an immediate major overhaul to processes. It could be several daily tasks that could help the company to save an hour a day. Here are some typical business processes whereby businesses can consider to automate.
Accounting, invoices and taxes
Given the amount of manual calculations and paperwork, accounting tasks and invoicing is one of the most dreaded tasks faced by small business owners. With the help of automation, this tedious and time consuming task can be avoided.
There are numerous online invoicing services that automate accounting tasks ranging from recurring payments, tax filling and deduction, storing or receipts and even bank transfers. These online accounting services can help the business when it comes to balancing books and filing of taxes during the tax season.
Laptop crashes due to malware or hardware problems are fairly common within the workplace. Of course, it does not make sense for departments to print hard copies of the data and store them in a cupboard for the next 5 years. Neither will there be sufficient memory storage on any hardware to store years of company’s data.
Thankfully, with the introduction of the cloud, business data can now be automatically stored online. This means that even if there is the unfortunate situation of a hardware crash, the company’s data can still be easily recovered.
Tracking Employee’s Schedules
Timesheets and punch cards simply adds on to the mountain of paperwork that the HR department and line managers have. Moreover, punch cards and timesheets might be easily misplaced, resulting in employees not being compensated for the time they have worked. Instead, there are plenty of online tools available that can keep track of employees’ schedule. At the same time, employees can also easily view their line managers or availability should there be a need to arrange meetings or discussions.
Payroll is another major issue which small businesses face. Given that most small business owners are unable to afford third party payroll vendors, many simply rely on manual Excel calculations to calculate the company’s payroll and cheques to disburse salary payments. However, such methods are typically highly prone to calculation mistakes.
Instead, there are several online payroll services that may not fully automate the company’s payroll but could take care of time consuming payroll tasks such as wage calculations and tax filings.
Email marketing is an essential task for small business owners in order to grow their brand awareness. However, it can be a time-consuming responsibility to send individual emails to each and every client. Online tools such as Mailchimp and Drip can help business with marketing emails, from email launches to welcome messages and follow up emails.
There are many other ways in which small businesses can automate tasks to save on costs and time, while enhancing productivity at the same time.
3Oct The case for ERP in the Medium Business SME SMB
If you’re running a successful small-medium business (SMB), chances are that over a number of years, you would have developed some pretty robust processes along the way to manage the myriad of your business processes. You probably haven’t had the time or bandwidth to perfect them, but they work well enough to keep you up and running.
From what I have seen, these usually consist of multiple applications that have been procured along the way, with a bunch of manual processes filling in the gaps. If you track the history of a company, problems that have arisen are often tackled one by one, by implementing new processes or looking to the applications marketplace for an individual solution.
The result, for the most part, is a bunch of disparate applications that are not at all integrated with the best-case scenario, with some manual processes on top of them doing some data replication.
The problem with manual processing is that it’s usually done intermittently in batches. This means that systems are rarely real-time, and, even with the most careful consideration, errors accumulate through typos, naming conventions and duplicates.
Just take reporting. Manual reconciliation requires time-consuming data manipulation in excel just to get the data to a state in which it can be analysed. As a result, decision makers look at this crucial information less frequently. The business becomes less dynamic. It spends its time and resources keeping pace, instead of using the reporting data to make predictive decisions or build competitive advantage.
A vicious cycle is easily created – the quality and frequency of data going into all these systems becomes less important, as fewer decisions are being made because of the doubt about their accuracy and timeliness. Low adoption then ensues throughout the organization as it becomes apparent that management are not doing anything with the information they have.
One compelling alternative to this stagnant state of affairs is to select one of the handful of enterprise resource and planning (ERP) systems available for SMB. These highly configurable platforms integrate most functions of a business, including quoting, planning, managing customers, manufacturing, service, sales and marketing. It also covers activities like stock control, order tracking, customer service, finance and staff.
The objective of enterprise resource planning is to drive the flow of information between all internal business functions, while managing connections, or “touchpoints,” to outside stakeholders.
SMB business owners and decision-makers with a corporate past may have been exposed to ERP and understand the benefits of these platforms. What they may not know is that these benefits are now within reach of small to mid-size businesses. How many SMB owners would choose an ERP platform as their first or best choice to streamline their business?
The value proposition for ERP to the SMB business is huge. The big players in this space – such as SAP, Microsoft and Oracle – are well aware of this, looking to the SMB space to meet their future revenue numbers. Last year, Oracle acquired NetSuite for USD$9.3B, while rivals SAP have been developing the only true cloud ERP suite for SMB, Business ByDesign, since 2004. SAP are doubling investment in the ByDesign platform in 2017.
Without question, the main obstacle for any SMB assessing whether it should move to a ERP system is price. Even with a large multitude of licensing costs across many internal systems, an ERP platform will be at least five times the annual subscription cost of the business’s entire application landscape.
This initial cost may be difficult for an SMB to get their head around, but how much the platform costs is the wrong question to ask. For example, the trigger point for decision-makers to go to market for a new platform is usually the result of a series of either inefficiencies, stock losses, missed billing, lack of transparency, after-the-fact discoveries and integration failure. Any of these have an attached commercial impact to the business. Decision makers need to understand what the real cost of this is having on their business.
Like any business investment, investing in an ERP system should not be looked at as simply “buying software”. Implementing an ERP system is a business transformation project that engages all levels of the organisation.
The value is derived from both tangible and intangible results. Business owners should have a good idea as to where these will come from. They need to understand that ‘Systems’ within any business is one of the key areas of competitive advantage – therefore, a business that develops superior systems will nudge out those competitors with less efficient ones.
For sure, the cost question has to be asked – given the commercial constraints on an SMB – whether investment in an ERP system is the best allocation of capital. And needless to say, every SMB should take a moment to assess the value an ERP platform would offer to their business.