Digital innovation brings significant economic and social opportunities, and could be worth as much as $315 billion to the Australian economy over the next decade, according to a 2018 report commissioned by CSIRO’s Data61. The multi-billion dollar opportunity is not lost on the Australian Government, which released its vision for strengthening Australia’s digital economy, Australia’s Tech Future, in December 2018.
Australia’s Tech Future concludes that Australians’ ability to engage with technology is critical to ensure the country's prosperity and competitiveness in a world where digital technologies are changing the way we live and work.
For business, technological change brings new business potential: potential to help develop new products and services, enter new markets, work smarter, serve the customer better and operate safer. What business owners want to hear is that it improves the bottom line.
Automated systems are a great entry point for businesses looking to capitalise on the digital opportunity. Cloud services in particular offer a relatively low upfront cost, maintenance and upgrades are part of the service provider’s package, and they’re designed to be easy to use.
The automation advantage
Strategy and economics firm, AlphaBeta Advisors, values the automation advantage in the trillions of dollars. It estimates that Australia has the capacity to boost productivity and national income by up to $2.2 trillion by 2030 if it embraces automation to create millions of safe and more meaningful and more valuable jobs.
Drilling down to a single business level, when workers are relieved of the most manual and routine work, then redeployed to more valuable work, the net effect is a gain:
Safety: workplace injuries fall as dangerous or repetitive manual tasks are automated.
Job satisfaction: staff find their jobs more satisfying as they engage in higher value work.
Productivity: staff work efficiently when given the right tools to do their job and output improves.
Safety, job satisfaction and productivity can improve with automation.
Automated platforms are changing almost every aspect of how we used to manage businesses:
Hiring tools scan applications at speed, looking for the best applicants for the job, then track candidates’ progress through the recruitment process.
Impact: HR professionals create more time for meaningful engagement with employees.
Chatbots can automatically answer customer queries as well as work as an internal help desk, fielding employee questions about policies and procedures.
Impact: Customers and employees have their questions answered quickly so they can get on with their business.
Marketing campaigns can be personalised and automated to communicate with specific audiences on a variety of channels.
Impact: The sales cycle speeds up as more high quality leads enter your sales funnel.
An accounts receivable automation example
Lacklands is a wholesale provider of photographic supplies and electronics in New Zealand. The accounts team was spending a lot of time manually following up the 30 percent of debtors who paid late. It was hard to keep track of more than 1000 small debtors who needed one or more reminder emails or phone calls before they paid. The accounts team found it difficult to coordinate and allocate work via a mixture of spreadsheets.
After integrating accounts receivable automation software, ezyCollect, with their MYOB Exo software, the team at Lacklands immediately had better visibility of their debtors, down to the invoice level. The automation delivered the following:
A disciplined workflow of payment reminders automatically reaching every overdue debtor, on schedule.
A system-generated call list each day, detailing the debtors due a reminder phone call.
An 80 percent reduction in workload on the repetitive, manual task of sending reminders.
More time created for higher value work from the accounts team and more time for a one-to-one approach with specific debtors.
Better cash flow with 95 percent of debtors paying on time.
As Lacklands reported: “With ezyCollect, 80 percent of our accounts team’s work is done.”
"With ezyCollect, 80 percent of our accounts team's work is done."
AlphaBeta’s research found that automation purposefully shifts the way we do our jobs. With automation tools on board, two major events occur: people spend less time on routine and predictable tasks (the monotonous tasks), and people have more time for tasks requiring creativity, interpersonal skills and strategic problem solving.
As automation takes over the typically more dangerous and repetitive tasks, workplace injuries are set to fall. At the same time, job satisfaction levels will rise as workers focus on more creative, interpersonal and strategic problem solving activities.
Of the 20 billion work hours analysed, AlphaBeta concluded that tasks requiring human-to-human interaction, creativity, decision-making and information synthesis are the least likely to be replaced by machines. In other words, machines will enable more work that is essentially ‘human’.
“As machines take over our most dangerous, most tedious and least valuable tasks, human work will become more human.” - AlphaBeta Advisors
What should you automate?
With many work processes ripe for automation, where to start becomes the next big question. Look for the telltale signs in your business that point towards an automation solution:
Your staff are busy but still can’t get through their workload which involves a lot of routine and repetitive tasks.
Staff job satisfaction would improve if staff felt more successful in their roles.
Information is disorganised and decentralised.
Current processes don’t meet the demands of your business strategy.
Legacy systems are costing you time and money yet operational efficiency hasn’t improved.
Moving from maintenance mode to innovation mode takes purpose-driven action from business leaders. The AlphaBeta Advisor’s report on automation concludes that automation is, at its core, an opportunity to harness the power of machines to improve human lives.