Digital transformation strategies often have manual and repetitive tasks in their crosshairs as a main priority. This is because they’re typically so easily converted to an automated workflow that enhances productivity and cuts costs.
Many organizations and decision-makers are all too familiar with the struggle involved with balancing the streamlining of their departments and minimizing costs. Achieving this goal is possible though, especially with the help of automation tools.
This blog explores the burden that manual repetitive tasks put on both businesses and employees and how embracing automation can improve operations as a whole.
Taking on a total digital transformation can be a bit daunting, but you don’t have to go in blind. Read Impact’s E-Book, Fast-Tracking Your Digital Transformation for expert tips and tricks on launching your digital transformation without a hitch.
The Cost of Keeping Your Business in Manual
Today we’re going to be taking a look at how repetitive tasks are a money drain for businesses of all sizes and how automation can help strengthen your resource allocation, time management, and profit line.
Common manual processes, like using spreadsheets instead of accounting apps; using paper-based systems; and handwritten data, can quickly add up and bloat your spending. These tasks are often left unresolved by decision-makers though, because of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
However, not being broken is wildly different than being optimized.
“Today the typical office worker spends 10% of their time on manual data entry into business applications, such as the ERP system, CRM or spreadsheets. In total, they spend over 50% of work time creating or updating documents, eg. PDFs, spreadsheets or word documents.”
Why Should You Care About Repetitive Tasks?
When organizations pursue an automation initiative with a service provider like Impact, consultants will often advise targeting “low-hanging fruit”.
By this we mean they will see if there are processes within the company’s operations that can be automated and optimized without the growing pains of a larger digital transformation initiative. In most cases, these involve simple, repetitive tasks that are costing the organization more time and money than it would with a robotic process automation solution.
As we noted above, these jobs are usually manual, menial tasks that clog up employees’ work days and take their time away from more valuable tasks.
Why Is it Any Different Now?
Automation through solutions like robotic process automation (RPA) has become significantly more viable for businesses with any size budget thanks to advancements in technology making these tools more affordable and accessible.
Where in previous years, process automation would be considered an initiative that was out of reach for businesses with smaller operating budgets, today it is something that can be adopted, deployed, and scaled with relative ease, meaning the upsides of automation are quickly outweighing the negatives from a cost-effective perspective.
Moreover, businesses all over the country are seeing the benefits of automation as a standout competitive advantage in terms of improving their efficiency and effectiveness in leveraging data.
Over 78% of companies are already implementing RPA in their processes whereas an additional 16% are planning to implement RPA in the next 3 years.
Because of this, businesses from all industries and disciplines find themselves in a position where automation—even to a small degree—is not just nice to have, but actually a necessity of a modern organization to be able to compete.
1. Human Error
Whether we like it or not, human error is a certainty in business processes. It doesn’t matter how good an employee is, there will be mistakes from time to time.
There may be a misread piece of data or a wrong key hit, humans are susceptible to lapses that automated systems simply aren’t.
For example, implementing a fully automated system for shipping means that you can drastically reduce the chances of a misprinted label, or something more problematic that can cost money down the line to resolve.
In instances of human error, you must also factor in the lost time fixing it. Through automation, you can help ensure that preventable mistakes are kept to an absolute minimum and substantially improve your bottom line.
81% of companies are investing in robotic process automation technology to achieve their financial saving goals.
Human Error Stats You Need to Know
- According to a study conducted by the Journal of Accountancy, human error rates in manual data entry can range from 1% to 5%, depending on factors such as the complexity of the data and the experience of the data entry personnel.
- Poor data quality costs organizations an average $12.9 million.
- For 10,000 data entries, automated systems would make between 1 and 4.1 errors, while humans would commit between 100 and 400 errors.
2. Reduced Productivity
Put simply, if an employee is spending time doing a job that could easily be automated, it’s money down the drain in today’s world. While you’re paying a full-time employee to input data into a spreadsheet, your competitor has already automated that process and is completing it quickly and at a reduced overall cost.
Time spent on repetitive jobs would be better spent on more complex tasks where the worker is needed.
An HR worker, for example, might be spending all day inputting employee benefit data manually.
With automation, tedious jobs like these can be alleviated and HR staff can instead focus their energies on more skilled labor where they’re needed like employee training or education.
Productivity Stats You Need to Know
- A survey of more than 6,000 knowledge workers by ServiceNow shows that that BPA boosts not only productivity but satisfaction
- 74% of employees in the most automated companies say automation improves job satisfaction, compared to 53% in highly manual companies
- Professionals take 18 minutes on average to locate a document manually—20% to 40% of their time—and spend 50% of their time searching for information
3. Increased Labor Costs
Eliminating unnecessary costs is a major priority for most businesses.
If there’s a job that can be easily automated and you’re paying a member of staff to complete it, then you’re wasting your money and their time. This is even more pertinent when you consider that mistakes can and will be made, which can mean that staff have to go back and re-do a task they’ve already spent time on.
Automation allows you to reduce the necessary staff to a particular task, reducing cost and improving profitability. You can then use the staff who are freed up and have them do something that is a better use of their time.
Take device provisioning, for example. If your IT staff are spending inordinate amounts of time preparing and provisioning laptops and PCs, that’s time spent on a task that can be easily automated.
Manual Task Labor Cost Stats You Need to Know
- Low-level, automatable tasks eat up 30% of IT departments’ time.
- 47% of AP professionals consider manual data entry and the cost of subsequent inefficient processes are their biggest challenge.
- Automated timesheet and payroll processing to reduce the need for 1.5 full-time employees can allow business to reallocate personnel from data entry into more strategic roles. The time it takes to create and manage employee schedules can be reduced by 75%, and the problem of paying for costly overtime hours can all but be eliminated due to automated warning.
4. Unpredictable Workflows
Automating workflows creates a clear structure, a sense of routine within your business, and establishes accountability.
Manual reporting processes have of course worked in the past, but for SMBs, especially midsize businesses, this can be difficult to monitor over time, and in any case manual reporting can be very time-consuming.
Digitizing your workflows helps project managers use software to prioritize assignments within their teams far more quickly.
Workers can instantly report updates on projects they’re working on—or have software report automatically. Either way, it quickens workflows and gives far better insight than before.
Workflow Automation Stats You Need to Know
- Market research firm IDC says that organizations lose 20% to 30% of revenue every year due to inefficient processes.
- CEOs spend almost 20% of their time on work that could be automated, such as analyzing operational data and reviewing status reports.
- The workflow automation market size is estimated at USD 21.70 billion in 2024, and is expected to reach USD 34.18 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 9.52% during the forecast period (2024-2029).
5. Compliance Risks
This would typically be considered as part of implementing digital solutions to remove human error, but compliance is such a huge issue for SMBs that it deserves its own mention.
As any business owner will know, staying on the right side of compliance is crucial in order to steer clear of hefty fines. This is particularly the case with certain industries, like healthcare or finance, where abiding by regulations is absolutely crucial.
By removing manual tasks and utilizing automation, you can be safe in the knowledge that your employees will be following procedures that comply with industry standards and don’t jeopardize your compliance needs.
Compliance Stats You Need to Know
- Of organizations that are currently using Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) technology, 61% of them plan to increase their spending on GRC platforms in the next three years.
- Just 69% of businesses are utilizing technology to support their compliance programs.
- Only 18% of organizations have automated processes for IT risk data collection and reporting, despite it being the most effective way to mitigate risk.
6. Business Agility
Business agility is one of the many buzzwords within the world of digital transformation that needs a little deciphering.
In essence, what we’re talking about is affording your staff the tools necessary to complete their jobs to the best of their ability. In addition, giving them the means and agency to boost the capability of your departments and workers is what business agility is all about.
This can manifest in a few ways; most notably robotic process automation (RPA)—which is used by many SMBs and typically consists of:
- RPA robot: Single piece of software to execute a specific task
- RPA management software: Software that directs RPA bots (robots managing robots)
- RPA development tools: Software components that RPA developers use to design robots
Business Agility Automation Stats You Need to Know
- Costs savings as a result of improved business agility are estimated to range from 20 to 30%
- A survey by the Business Agility Institute indicates that just 27% of businesses have what can be considered high business agility maturity
- 74% of workers say that employers do not give them access to the latest technology to help them do their job more effectively and efficiently
7. Lack of Visibility into Processes
Finally, we have a lack of visibility, one of the most important aspects of business today.
There is so much data in the world today, and organizations more frequently want to be able to leverage the data they’re sitting on in order to gain actionable insights that will lead to process improvement.
Put simply, those manual repetitive tasks that workers are slaving away doing; not only are they eating into your employee productivity amongst other things—they’re also very difficult to keep track of. What this means in practice is that it’s extremely difficult for managers to have a clear overview of processes and how they can be improved.
Also, consider your ability to better serve your customers without being able to use data to determine how to improve their experience.
The more manual processes are digitized, the more you can build profiles and understanding about particular behaviors that can then be addressed. Take for example customer service. If you have an automated ticket-based system, you’ll be able to assess the volume of certain topics and what concerns are frequently being brought up by customers.
Analyzing this data can then inform your decisions regarding how to better deal with customer service in the future.
How to Automate Repetitive Tasks
Businesses can streamline their operations by leveraging automation to tackle repetitive tasks efficiently. Initially, they need to pinpoint tasks that are repetitive and follow set patterns, such as data entry or invoice processing.
Subsequently, they select suitable automation tools tailored to the nature of these tasks, which might include specialized software, robotic process automation, or artificial intelligence solutions. Once these tools are chosen, you’ll then design workflows that outline the steps needed to automate these tasks effectively.
Once workflows are designed, it's time to integrate these tools into existing systems and processes, potentially requiring customization to align with specific business needs or goals.
After integration, testing is crucial to ensure the automation functions accurately, and continuous optimization enhances efficiency and accuracy over time. Lastly, employees are brought up to speed on new systems, technologies, and processes so all of this work yields real benefits.
Overall, automating repetitive tasks enables businesses to boost productivity, minimize errors, increase profits, and allow employees to focus on more valuable tasks.
Final Thoughts on Saving Money with Automation
Manual and repetitive tasks run rampant throughout the majority of businesses today. Even with more accessible and affordable automation tools available, organizations are still relying on the manual execution of repetitive tasks.
By continually relying on employees to complete tasks that could easily be automated, you limit how productive any one individual can be, and in turn, hinder the organization as a whole.
With automation tools and other business technologies, though, organizations can improve the employee experience, boost productivity, and ultimately strengthen the bottom line.
Sometimes the first step is the hardest to take. Don’t get bogged down by inaction; read Impact’s E-Book, Fast-Tracking Your Digital Transformation to jumpstart your digital transformation journey toady.