By Lily Wachtor
In the business world, there are always more tasks than time, and it’s tempting to take everything on yourself. However, one study suggests that delegation can increase your revenue and quality of life. Here’s the best part: if you’re ready to divide the load, there are tools that can automate processes with the press of a button.
That’s right, we’re talking about technology. Outdated tech has probably added plenty of headaches to your business over the years, but new automation tech can be a business’s best friend. Here’s some general advice about automating elements of your business, as well as four specific suggestions on where to begin.
Advice for Automating
Integrating automation and AI into your business may feel out of reach, but as much as 63% of people already use AI—they just don’t always think of it as such. So automation tools should actually fit right in at your office. As with any initiative, few solutions are really one-size-fits-all, so approach this list of areas that you can (and should) automate in the order that makes sense for your business. Rome wasn’t built—or automated—in a day, after all.
Start with tools that free up time by simplifying your systems or that streamline the processes that require the most manpower. Freeing your employees from time-wasting, labor-intensive work will allow them to handle high-function tasks that only humans can do. And once the high-priority processes are under control, you can look at the less urgent tasks that still deserve automation.
Now, here are four specific areas where your business could benefit from automation.
1. Financial Processes
Cash flow is a constant of commerce, which makes it a viable candidate for automation. If invoicing eats up tons of time, for example, automate it with a service like Invoicely.
Or, for a more comprehensive approach to automation, services like BotKeeper offer AI-powered bot accountants to sort through your accounts, pay bills, send invoices, and transfer financial data into your company software. This tech can sort through any backlog and bring your accounts up to date, all for significantly less cost than a full-time, in-house team.
2. Versioning, Scheduling, and Tracking
The following suggestion may seem obvious, but it’s effective nonetheless. G Suite tools can facilitate real-time editing, collaboration, and data transfer, so instead of sending countless versions of edited documents between different team members, you know everyone automatically has access to the most current version. Plus, new AI integrations can predict what you’re going to say in an email or chat before you say it, and give your content a quick spell check.
For scheduling, coordinate meetings with calendar assistants that collect each person’s availability, then notify you of the best time to meet, like Doodle. And if you need to track company travel for meetings or deliveries, Motus uses GPS to track employee miles and calculate the appropriate reimbursement. The time saved on these tasks may not seem like much, but it adds up.
3. Social Media
Using the commercial power of social media is necessary for businesses of all sizes. But if keeping your accounts active and effective has been difficult, consider automating them with a service like Stackla. The service’s visual content engine searches social media platforms for user posts that fit with your brand, then automatically requests the rights to those images. It will monitor customer engagement on your accounts and find more content to mimic the posts that gave you the best ROI.
If you’ve already got content under control, you can instead automate the publishing aspect across all mediums with a platform like Sprout Social. It combines all your accounts into one location, so you can plan your social media campaigns ahead of time, then schedule content to post on all accounts simultaneously. Many social automation tools also provide advanced analytics that employ machine learning to guide your future campaigns.
4. Apps and More
Last—but certainly not least—services like Zapier and IFTTT will require some imagination on your part, but they can automate an incredibly wide range of processes and tasks.
The idea coincides with IFTTT’s name: it stands for “if this, then that.” So, if a certain activity happens, another activity can be triggered automatically. IFTTT and Zapier link programs, apps, websites, smart devices, and more to automate your most repetitive tasks. They’re useful for streamlining interactions between productivity apps like calendars, reminders, Slack, MailChimp, and more.
We’re not yet at the point of total automation—there’s still plenty for you to do to keep your business running. But by automating some of these routine aspects of the daily grind, you free up yourself and your team to tackle those issues that need a human touch.
Lily Wachtor is a freelance writer focusing on small business and technology—and how to combine the two for success. When not writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, and finding new restaurants. Catch her on Twitter @lilyawachtor.
Automation stock photo by everything possible/Shutterstock