Business automation is usually a function of how fast a company is growing or maturing. Customers are moving from old desktop/server apps with limited connectivity into more modern apps with APIs enabled.
Now it’s more a “must have” rather than “nice to have.” APIs are built for improving automation and user experience, and it’s already happening. To give an example, Salesforce gets more API transactional traffic than from Browser or mobile UI.
Manual updating is at its peril: Scale-up
Manual updating and reconciling between systems will not sustain long-term growth. Think Facebook – if they had to approve or set up each person joining Facebook, where would they be? You get the point. If businesses want to move fast, they need to get manual steps out of the process.
Scaling up is the best way to compete. It requires focusing the team’s efforts on growth, not maintaining current operations. Also, the more there are links in the chain, the more it is prone to break, and this is even truer when humans are involved.
Businesses must take their team and let them spend that time creatively, figuring out how to take the company to the next level.
A market tendency towards SaaS or Cloud-based applications
Software implementation helps to improve processes, not merely map current processes into the new software. It takes a little more time but is worth it. We do see trends that clients who focus on getting the processes in place scale much faster.
The growth of Cloud is undoubtedly tremendous.
The tendency towards cloud-based applications came mostly from the years of heartache caused by on-site servers.
We also see the growth of eCommerce as integral. Earlier, warehouse data was used for internal purposes only. But now when a scan happens, that data is automatically reflected publicly to the whole world.
Software as a Service has inherently built-in demand for increasingly complex integration. If you have two SaaS apps, you have two integration points. If you have three SaaS apps, you have six integration points.
Evolution of Business Automation
Automation is evolving.
First, it was getting an application to expose APIs, then came orchestration of business processes.
The third phase would be intelligent automation, where business processes learn and adapt over some time. Much work has been done, and there is a lot to be done.
To improve process automation, it takes planning, implementation, and usually a bit of back and forth. As technologies evolve, time to execute process automation tends to decrease and will continue to do so.
Let’s compare an EDI setup to API integration. API integration takes a fraction of the time, breaks less often, and is much faster to fix. It will continue to improve and speed up. It only means that the time and cost to execute will become trivial.
All of our time and efforts can be spent on the planning stage, substantially increasing and speeding up our iterations, therefore speeding up our improvements, growth, and success.
Industry trends towards Business Automation
Two of the most talked about trends are – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain.
While Blockchain is still trying to find a foothold and would take some time, AI is getting embedded in all parts of our lives, many of what we don’t even notice.
Businesses should start actively looking at AI on all aspects of what they do, including business process automation and often reducing manual labor. In a recent article, it was mentioned that there is a shortage of candidates, and many jobs are going unfilled.
With current immigration policies, it is to get worse, and this is where we feel businesses need to start thinking about removing manual work.
Digital integration and AI to play an active role in most software we build.
In the retail industry, retailers are moving towards private labels versus reselling models.
This is happening as the MAP becomes more prevalent, and brands themselves are going direct.
With this, we see a lot of blurring of the traditional supply chain lines and an increase in 3PL as retailers compete with Amazon’s standards.
As the supply chain consolidates, EDI will die out. We can have fast, easy, stable, and inexpensive integrations that achieve standards with APIs instead.
Best Practices for organizations to implement Business Automation
Disciplined approach with Data: Flourish or perish
Focusing on business automation will enable organizations to compete in the digital age. Companies that start down this path now are the ones that will survive over the next 5-10 years, but also are the ones who will thrive.
One of the things we notice with our most successful clients is that they pay attention to the data and use it to gain critical insights.
Companies beat out their competition over time with data insights. Getting the ideas and having the systems to execute them with pig-headed discipline is the key.
Transform error-prone manual approach into automation
Companies should look at each of their processes and manual touchpoints. Then to figure out which touchpoints are causing the most pain or error.
They can use Six Sigma or other methods to identify errors within business processes.
Take the one that is most impactful and automate it and then move to the next. I don’t mind going slow as long as organizations are tackling those process hiccups first that cause the most pain.
Why businesses need to work towards Digital Transformation and Integration
Businesses that are thinking digital today are the ones going to succeed in the future.
Many traditional retailers have already started their digital transformation, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is an absolute necessity to have their systems work together seamlessly along with their suppliers’ and clients’ system. Not to mention capturing the data and getting the insights are also needed to decimate the competition.
There are two camps of thought.
Purchase an all-inclusive package to run your business end to end
Get the best of breed application.
While most “all inclusive” ERP packages are well integrated, companies have started to look for the best of the breed.
With this type of integration, they can maximize productivity for their businesses and minimize risks with vendor lock-in.
For example, Salesforce is mostly chosen for CRM, even if the businesses have SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft. When organizations are looking at such business architectures, they need to be digitally integrated and provide their end customers a seamlessly integrated experience.
How automation has changed the way of work
Our client’s focus shift from maintaining the business to working on growing the business. When you have your systems and processes set up, then you have the framework or scaleup. As you scale up, your systems can hopefully adapt to the change, but you will need to either update processes within your system as you grow or upgrade to ones that can scale with you.
It’s like hiring. Hire for the size you are now and will realistically be soon, but you always want some room for growth. The lucky part is that the right systems could take you through more business phases than a person usually can.
From a software vendor standpoint, our goal is to “delight” our customers.
Our vision focuses around improving visibility and efficiencies in the supply chain. There are still lots of inefficiencies that we see in day-to-day activities that we will be working hard to eliminate. Companies that take the customer feedback loop to heart will partner with similar companies, and these alliances will improve the experience of end consumers exponentially.
All-in-one software systems will struggle as best of breed becomes the norm again. Throughout the past, the software has seen a few cycles from the best of a kind to the all-in-one.
Today, the ease of system integrations matched with stability dominates. We will see all-in-one systems that are hard to use, expensive, and impossible to set up, slowly die off even for large enterprises.