The past 20 years have democratized access to technology, and today, SMBs can easily leverage the same cutting-edge technologies and solutions as large enterprises with big budgets. A recent report found that global IT spending by SMBs increased by 5.8% year-on-year in 2022; this growth will reach 7.4% by 2025, showcasing that there is no hesitancy to improve business processes among resilient SMBs.
This inherent nimbleness is important during good times, and non-negotiable during economic downturns. SMBs have garnered access to the same tools and technologies as large players, but with an added ability to adapt and innovate when the going gets tough. With economists near certain that a recession will hit the US economy within the next year, SMBs need to continue onward in this tech adoption and efficiency-mindset in order to survive. Before a true downturn sets in, its critical SMBs are prepared to do more with less until business is once again bustling. Enter, the end of time-sucking, administrative work brought to you by workflow automation.
Identifying the processes ripe for automation
Business process automation (BPA) has helped many businesses navigate through the last period of economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. The fast-paced adoption of digital technology not only allowed for streamlined business processes by eliminating inefficiencies but made the transition to remote work smoother. According to a recent report, the global BPA market is expected to reach $19.6 billion by 2026, at a growth rate of 12.2%. In the coming years we’re going to see more automation technology deployed for a vast range of use cases.
For proactive small businesses, workflow automation is an exceptional way to protect operations as an economic downturn might mean functioning with less resources on hand. If cuts are made to non-essential items, employees and remaining resources may feel a significant strain. By definition, SMBs operate with a limited number of employees, but let’s say workflow automation can offer a 20% improvement in a team of 5-10 people. In a company of 50-200 people, that adds up to countless hours and resources now directed at high-level tasks instead of tedious, redundant work. Businesses that adopt automation now will fare the recession better, and emerge far ahead of competitors when the economy inevitably levelsets. The key is to remember that “admin work” must become synonymous with “work to be automated” over time.
Routine business processes and workflows can be automated using software bots that require no knowledge of programming. No-code bots are pre-programmed to mimic human behavior while performing monotonous, rule-based tasks. End-users don’t have to touch a single line of code to leverage these bots in a specific business process or workflow. This is why no-code automation can fit into a vast variety of scenarios ranging from automatic email response generation to using a combination of bots for automating a particular workflow.
Once SMBs have a solid grasp on what technologies can assist with automation strategies, the next step is to identify the proper use cases where automation can be applied and drive true efficiency in a business.
- Contract Management: Paper-based contracts and contract management in general can be a burdensome process. According to a report, the average contract can take up to 30 hours to negotiate and modify and even digitized contracts have unique bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Contract approval along with managing signature approval processes can take an unnecessary amount of time. For small businesses, eSignature automated workflows can reduce administrative time so SMBs can source additional clients and contracts, rather than remaining stuck in the monotony of completing contracts in the first place.
- Price Quoting: At least 30% of sales activities can benefit from workflow automation, according to McKinsey & Company. By automating tasks like sales strategy and planning, lead identification, configuration and price and quotation (CPQ), sales professionals can increase their time in front of the customer which can lead to higher customer satisfaction and upsells, directly contributing to higher revenues over time.
- Employee Onboarding: HR processes like employee onboarding, record management, policies and procedures and administrative tasks have historically been routed in paper processes. However, this has changed over the course of the pandemic with business automation becoming more common in the HR industry. According to Gartner, 17% of organizations use some form of AI-based HR automation and another 30% will do so by 2022. For small businesses who want to reduce the hassle of employee onboarding processes to focus on the big picture of hiring and workforce needs, automating employee onboarding is a must.
- Security and Compliance: There are some areas worth cutting corners, but proper compliance and security measures are mandatory. For SMBs using workflow automation for contract negotiation or document generation, these documents must have an added layer of security and limited access. And when inputting data and information to be used in workflow automation, its critical automation solutions offer encryption, have a backup policy, meet regulatory and compliance standards and otherwise meet industry-leading standards.
The power of point solutions for SMBs
There are a considerable number of processes that SMBs can automate now to survive in times of economic uncertainty. For SMBs who are used to succeeding without an insurmountable number of resources and backing, it’s not as daunting to trim the fat when fat is a luxury to begin with. For the agile SMBs, workflow automation is a critical piece of the puzzle in increasing efficiencies when the going is good, and when the going gets tough.