In this difficult time, Self-isolation or the need to “Social Distancing” has been regulated to promote health and safety but it is no longer hidden that in this process, several businesses are also suffering – worst they are bound for massive losses. Although working home has been one way to keep a business running, some companies still struggle considering some tasks remain dependent on the physicality of working in an office – access to paper documents, use of onsite technology, and more. Hence, the digitisation of business practices has increased flexibility of team work and the best way to ensure business meets scalability and demands is by automating the critical process.
First, look at your internal processes and understand why things are done manually. This is often because of external factors, notably data not available in a form or quality that is consistent with the requirements for straight through processing (STP).
Just think of a sales order arriving by email. The customer service team have to open the email, save the attachment, scan the PDF, correct the OCR (scanned data) and finally upload the data into the fulfilment system. One person can process maybe 10 orders an hour – max! If staff are not available or not on-site, then there are no orders in your system, unhappy customers and loss of revenue. All you really need is the correct data in a machine-readable form without the reliance of scanning equipment, and you can go straight through to fulfilment. Your order is shipped in minutes, and not days.
Second is to use the right technology, designed to automate and deliver touch-free processing. I don’t mean systems designed to make a manual process more efficient, where you still need elusive staff to complete routine tasks. Systems that are designed to achieve guaranteed high levels of automation and accuracy are essential for the true, scalable, high-volume straight-through process. A system that can guarantee quality must be deterministic. That is, it must be clear how it works, why it works and (probably just as important) when it fails, why it has failed. If your business systems are non-deterministic, the output cannot be predicted and you don’t know how it works, then you can’t drive for full automation. Perhaps you already have an invoice scanning/OCR service – think how annoying it is when sometimes it gets the data correct, and other times it corrupts or misses information that appears clearly on the original document. The result is you need to check manually each document. It is only when the mechanisms of automation are transparent that you can achieve continuous improvement. A system that is best endeavours and (maybe) improves in an obscure way can never deliver the straight-through processes you should strive for.
So, business leaders think automation and think STP. Modernizing your business is not vanity, or even just a way of improving margins, it is a necessity to survival.