by Scott M. Lewis
Automating is one thing. Calculating return on investment (ROI) to ensure that automation is paying off for your business is another issue. Two major costs to consider regarding ROI for automation are hard dollar costs and soft dollar costs. Both are important when you evaluate your automation ROI.
There are several items to think about when considering business automation. The first question is why you are automating and what problems you are attempting to solve. Are you trying to correct or resolve (a) unexpected downtime due to human error; (b) operational issues related to project management, parts and inventory, scheduling, customer communication, or approval processes; (c) Monday morning surprises due to uncompleted weekend tasks, scheduling conflicts, human resource management problems, or unscheduled Monday tasks; or (d) delays related to customer access, parts management, or human errors that create a delay? These are the types of events that have a real financial impact on your business and, assuming you are tracking these costs now, calculating ROI going forward in savings should be an easy process.
Once you have identified the problem you are trying to solve, consider the tools you need in order to address the issues, and automate the processes to support your business financials and improve customer experience. High priority processes to automate may include:
- Scheduling processes that are integrated into other internal processes. Processes that could be affected by scheduling are time and attendance – i.e., which employees are working and which aren’t, and which ones have scheduled events already.
- Critical process management - for example, scheduled events or tasks that were supposed to happen today but, due to an employee absence, you now have a significant event that needs attention.
- Managing priority processes such as tasks; parts and inventory; CRM processes; ongoing and upcoming projects; time and attendance; and escalations. The goal should be to manage all these processes through a single portal. Such a single portal allows you to manage your business proactively and effectively in real-time, and to manage your customers in a manner that makes financial sense.
- Automation of workflow notifications, such as integration with calendars, schedules, priority setting, tasked events, and ticklers on reoccurring events because missed events are costly in the customer’s eye and in the process of workflow and time management for staffing.
We have discussed some of the hard dollar processes or costs related to ROI. However, there are also soft dollar costs to consider when looking at automation.
- Downtime or opportunity mistakes due to human error. There are a lot of reasons for such mistakes to happen, including lack of documentation, lack of preparedness to perform the job or the project, or lack of familiarity with the client. However, most result from lack of training or documentation about what the project consists of, which may be due to having data in multiple systems, disassociated data (meaning unavailable to anyone but the holder), and lack of proper history on the customer. Business Manager 365 has a built-in document management system, which allows you to upload any electronic file and picture, along with indexing capabilities. Business Manager 365 also offers a customizable customer information section that will enable you to build informational and operational storage for detailed information related to a specific customer.
- Customer service levels and satisfaction that are not being met. How do you measure customer satisfaction today? Most MSPs or service companies are not measuring it at all -- not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have a methodology to do so. The emotional factor is something I also have learned is very important in the continued growth and success of our business. It’s one thing to be able to provide facts and figure analytics; it’s another to ask and report out on, “How are you doing?” Business Manager 365 has an automated Quality Assurance module that allows you to consistently address the “How are you feeling?” question so you can proactively manage customers when they are dissatisfied with service provided.
- You are managing scheduling delays due to resource issues. Human resource issues that cause delays are expensive regardless of whether they are associated with a shipped part; a delay in the ordering process; a customer-requested delay; or something as simple as an employee calling in sick. Having work processes in place to catch such problems as soon as possible is critical to limiting a financial, soft-dollar impact on your business. Business Manager 365 has a fully integrated scheduling process that manages all key indicators that can affect scheduling, such as time and attendance.
- Overhead cost increases due to incomplete jobs, mistakes, or human error. In most cases for service-based business, the highest costs are overhead costs, i.e., employees and benefits. Managing your overhead based on the analytics of your business load and customer requirements is vital to being profitable. Knowing what is costing you money, which employees are working, and which ones might be hiding in the weeds can affect your financials drastically. Part of being a good employee is making sure that paperwork and documentation are completed promptly to support the financials of your organization. Overhead costs due to delays and sickness, exceeded contract values, wrong parts ordered, or arrivals at customer locations without the right parts (or no parts or materials) are all costs that impact your business and should be reported and controlled if possible. Business Manager 365 has a lot of reporting and business analytics that can assist you in managing financials and overhead costs based on trends within your business and customer needs. Business Manager 365 analytics can help you determine if staffing levels are too high or too low, who is working a full day, and who is not. It’s all in the collection and management of those data.
Business automation is now considered to be competitive weaponry in today’s business environment. Finding and utilizing the right tools to help you (a) streamline work processes, (b) reduce costs, and (c) make information easily and quickly accessible are keys to any business’s long-term success. If you fail to consider automated tools to help you grow your business and reduce costs while improving profits, then you are limiting your potential and business opportunities.
About the Author: Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 36 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with hundreds of large and small businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium, and small companies, and Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management, and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279. To learn more about Business Manager 365, visit www.businessmanager365.com.