Automation could save you time, money, and energy. Here’s 5 Steps to help get you started on your journey to automating your business.
Before we dive in, let’s first explain what we mean by automation. As our CEO, Jason Morjaria, puts it: “automation creates consistency—if something is automated in your business it means it’s done every time, without fail. You’re not relying on a person to do something (or forgetting to do something). You also know it’s done in a particular way, every time.”
Consistency is the name of the game.
No doubt you have tasks that take up too much of your time, or that of your colleagues. You’ll also know that repetitive tasks (especially manual ones) can lead to complacency, or even laziness, which can cause costly mistakes. Fortunately, that’s where automation comes in by setting a standard which helps to preventing these problems occurring.
When thinking about your Fire and Security business, it’s important that you’re taking the necessary steps to save time, money, and energy, so you can invest them in what really matters: the safety of your customers and the success of your business.
The perks are excellent, but we need to answer a primary question first: "how do I automate my business?"
Well, we’ll start by saying that this isn’t something you should aim to do overnight—you want to do it right, after all. The experts at Forbes agree too, stating that you should focus on key areas (your businesses pain points) first, then “over time, as [automation] tools get more and more sophisticated, you may organically evolve to a fully automated process.”
Identifying pain points is step one, so let’s look at the rest:
- Do an audit to identify your pain points
- Choose a solution: tools to tackle the problem
- Set targets to aim for and track them
- Get your staff involved in automation
- Review your strategy regularly
We’d mentioned that you may have tedious tasks that take up your time; I’m sure some have come to mind already. However, it’s true that no matter whether you’re an operations manager, engineer, or office staff, everyone has them. Perhaps it’s too much time spent generating invoices. Or is creating purchase orders a nuisance? Are there difficulties with mass scheduling your diaries? There are certainly more...
It won’t come as a surprise to hear, then, that engineers (but if we're honest, like most people) dislike the administration side of their jobs. A recent study revealed the biggest work-related complaints were “paperwork and administrative tasks”.
So, how do you resolve these issues? East: by automating repetitive processes, thus making them infinitely easier to deal with. It’s a straightforward answer, but it will take time to implement effectively. This is why you need to be selective an well-organised when it comes to getting started.
The experts at Gartner predict that by 2020, 75%+ of field service organisations will use mobile apps to assist staff. This is because such software helps automate tedious admin tasks via simple solutions. For example, auto-filling templates for invoicing or purchase orders, or providing suggestions to optimise diaries through intelligent scheduling; your software does the legwork for you, letting you focus on making the best decision.
Some of these things may be beneficial to your business, or perhaps it’s something else, but that’s why the first step: to audit your business and identify your personal pain points, is so important. By understanding what’s taking up most of your time and energy, you can figure out what to prioritise, and then go about finding the right tool to achieve your desired result.
This leads us neatly to point two...
Automation is a technological solution, but as you will no doubt have numerous tasks that can be automated, it’s a good idea to also think about the bigger picture. Yes, you can automate emails through programmes, like MailChimp, but how well is that connected to your customer data? Additional tasks, like invoicing, customer communication, or service reminders, can all be made easier through integrating them with job management software.
A good piece of software will allow you to integrate your data and manage a variety of applications, all in one place. Automating is all about making your life easier, so it doesn’t make sense to automate tasks across numerous pieces of software. Instead, focus on choosing an all-in-one system that allows your business to function in both the way you want and need it to.
You may even be able to integrate your current software solutions with your chosen system; but keep in mind you’ll want to choose a system that will allow you to make use of more and more tools as you grow and/or decide to automate more of your processes.
You want to know that the changes you’re making are having an impact, so you need to set targets for the goals you want to achieve. For example, by understanding how long certain tasks are taking before you begin automating, you can look back to compare and see how successful the changes have been. Automated monitoring will also allow you to assess performance and adapt or tweak your strategy by letting you easily look back over the previous weeks, months, or even years.
When it comes to time, for example, reduced time spent on Admin means more time engineers could be out at appointments. Over the course of 3-6 months, you could check to see if the average number of appointments completed by engineers has increased as the result of freeing up their time with automated solutions.
You can also weigh-up the success of the changes you’ve made by looking at other areas of the business, too. For example, automation can have a positive impact on time management, profit, and more, so consider things like:
- Have staff had more time to spend troubleshooting or dealing with customer queries? You may notice an improvement in the quality of your customer service.
- If using automated scheduling, have you noticed an increase in the average number of jobs being completed by your engineers; this could lead to an increase in revenue.
It may sound counter intuitive to say that there’s still a significant human element involved with automation, but it’s important to keep in mind that it should largely be seen as a collaboration between man and machine. It’s a tool to rely on, but you shouldn’t become solely dependent on it either.
After all, Fire and Security revolves around dealing with people, so maintaining the human element is essential as you work to establish trust with customers and colleagues alike.
Robotic elements help you to deliver quality work, consistently, by removing the hassle of mundane repetitive tasks. This is what you need to make clear to your staff, that automating aspects of your business will help them in the long run.
It’s true, there can be a learning curve with new technology, but the long-term payoff will be substantial. If you’ve already spoken to your operations, office manager, or engineers about what problems they’re facing, and are then proposing solutions with them in mind, they’ll likely feel happier knowing they’ve been implemented as a result of their input.
Similar to staff involvement, it’s not wise to just leave automation alone to run its course. We’ve all experienced issues with technology at one point or another, and it’s true no system is full-proof.
So, just as you might check up on an installed fire alarm, or the integrity of secure locks, you need to keep up and maintain your automated solutions. Check they’re performing correctly. For example, if you’ve automated your email responses to clients i.e. about a completed installation, or impending service of equipment, are your templates still sending correctly after a few months?
Updates to systems or software outside of your control could cause issues (think about your laptop or computer updating), so make sure you’re updating your devices regularly. Think of it like preventive maintenance for your own business, it doesn’t hurt (and can even be prudent) to check back regularly and make sure everything is ticking over as normal.
If you’re thinking about automating your business, then these 5 Steps will help you on your way. If you’ve already started the process, then no doubt these will be good to keep in mind as you go ahead and automate more aspects of your business!
After all, the world continues to change and efficiency is the name of the game. If you’re aiming to compete against rival businesses, deliver a quality service yourself, and expand your business, then you need to invest in automation to reap the benefits. Whether it’s enhancing the way you organise staff, improving the way you communicate with customers, or even optimising your business strategy, automation is the essential.
If you need a hand to take things further, we thoroughly recommend downloading the our Practical Guide to Automating your business. With it, make sure you’re ticking off the right tasks and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to enhancing the day-to-day productivity of your business, giving you the time and energy you need to invest in bigger, better things.