Too many small business owners spend too much of their time in their business rather than on their business. They should be driving growth, profit and business development! The solution: Automation. To automate your business processes is to free up time so you can handle more high-level tasks.
There is no shortage of automation solutions in the market today.
Everything from automated accounting and payroll systems to customer support, marketing and HR.
If you’re a small business owner or SME that wants to survive beyond the next 5 years, there are some processes that are well worth automating.
We’ve compiled a list of some popular, practical and proven tools to automate most types of business processes.
Most accounting activities are perfect for automation. They’re tedious and time-consuming for small business owners. Whether it’s retail, restaurant, manufacturing, shipping or professional services, it’s the same processes.
In addition to tracking revenue and expenses, paying bills and collecting payments, you have to update ledgers, prepare financial documents and file tax returns on a regular basis.
Everyone, from CEOs to auditors to banks, wants a clear view of the company’s financial position. And of course, they want it fast and 100% accurate. Automating the accounting process will help you achieve just that.
Auto reconciliation is the matching and validating of balances in the general ledger to external sources. Here, we’re talking about bank statement reconciliation, adjustments to entries and the like.
Instantaneous matching: For the cash or bank reconciliation process, it’s critical that the balance in the bank matches the cash balance shown on the balance sheet. Having an automated system to speed up the verification process can save you and your team a whole lot of time.
Increased accuracy: Making adjustments is also probably the most complicated process and where most bottlenecks take place. This is where accountants spend the bulk of the time, acting as detectives to find the source of discrepancies and justifying the numbers.
Generating financial reports
Improve efficiency: Accounting automation speeds up the process of gathering data and generating reports. There’s no need to check against earlier reports or fetch data from spreadsheets hidden in folders. Now your team can focus on more important things.
Reduce fraud and risks: When the financial reporting process is manual, you’re susceptible to human errors. When your business can automate these processes, all the data gets linked in the financial report gets linked back to it original sources. Tracing ability means there’s increased transparency and a lower probability of fraudulent activity.
Cash flow balancing & forecasting
Cash flow is the number one reason why businesses fail. 82% of small businesses go under due to poor cash flow. And one of the best ways to overcome this issue is by knowing your Accounts Receivable (AR) and Accounts Payable (AP).
ARs and APs are critical aspects of every business’s financial health. Optimising these two functions could mean the difference between a year of healthy profit and another rough season in debt.
You might be interested in: Business forecasting software to grow your company – cashflow, budgeting, reporting
Maximise your working capital: You have bills to pay. If you don’t get paid on time, you will inevitably run into dry spells when you owe more than you’re taking in. And if you pay too early, you face a similar issue. With automation, you’ll know when’s the best time to pay out and when to chase for payments (the system even sends out reminders for you).
Minimise credit risk: Accounts Receivable will never turn into profits if payment is not made. But how would you know which will become bad debts? Which customers can you extend credit to? An automated accounting system can let you know which accounts are overdue and which are at a high risk of default.
Cash flow forecasting and Scenario analysis
Make better business decisions: Know what cash you should receive in the next week and out next month. Having insights like these, you can make strategic investment decisions such as capital equipment purchases, new employee hires and other investments to grow your business.
Quotations and invoices
Faster payments: Most customers want to pay you on time, and it’s often your fault they pay late. Either you didn’t send the invoice early enough for them to make an on-time payment, or there was a problem with the invoice, and they won’t pay until it’s fixed. That’s a problem that is very much preventable if you automate your business processes.
Improved customer service and satisfaction: Imagine calling and continually call them for late payment when it was your team’s fault that the PO was excluded from the invoice, or someone forgot to send the invoice
Stay on top of late payment and failed billing charges
Maintain a good reputation: It’s easy to lose track of invoices and payment deadlines to your own vendors. It’s understandable, but it’s not good for your company’s image. An automated system tracks each invoice so you can look up exactly what stage of processing it’s in. You can be sure you always pay on time and you don’t get hit with late payment charges.
If there’s one universally thankful creation in business, it’s creating HR systems.
No need for post-it notes for all those due dates. Get rid of that sea of files of employee information. It’s all in the cloud now. It saves you so much time, money and energy.
Send, receive and store important documents
HRM software can help large organisations and small startups increase their rate of growth and productivity. From tracking employee history, skills, abilities, salaries and accomplishments. Having automation in place not only helps keep business processes more accurate but ensures HR professionals are not unnecessarily bogged down by repetitive tasks.
Save time: CPF submissions can be a chore. Different employees have different salaries and it can get really messy calculating employee contributions, employer CPF share submitting them on time. Pass on this time-consuming and error-prone job to your HRM system instead and focus on more important tasks.
Timely, accurate submissions: When tax season is approaching, everyone’s frantically looking for forms and doing calculations. But rushing usually increases the chance of mistakes. Or worse still, you forgot to submit your papers on time! Save yourself the stress with auto-computations and generation of IR8A and other tax forms for ALL your staff including part-timers with a simple click. All this at no additional charges per employee!
Stay organised: Keeping records with a manual system can be difficult and requires a lot of space for files and paperwork. Keeping records in the cloud and electronically stored can make things easier. Old files can be accessed or deleted easily, current files can be updated and organised without much hassle.
Reward employees appropriately: Using a business process automation to track, monitor and review employee performance can help most companies maximise efficiency and provide more accurate feedback for employees. Self-assessment and peer reviews can all be done within a HR system.
Time tracking and employee scheduling
Collaborative scheduling: Anyone who’s manually planned out a daily, weekly, monthly schedule knows it is a hair-pulling task. If employees can set their own availability and manage shift trades, how much time would that save you from the back-and-forths? How much happier would your employees be?
Spend time on more important tasks: If you’re a one-person HR team, you can reduce time spent on time tracking by more than 75%! Leave overtime tracking to your system. Track billable vs non-billable hours easily. Know who has worked on specific projects or tasks, for how long.
You might be interested in: The step by step guide to payroll software for small business
Time off approvals, Leave approvals
Improve your workflow: Business owners and managers don’t have to send countless emails approving leave or remember which employees will be absent. Attendance-tracking software is available to do all the back-end collaborations with payroll and scheduling.
Eliminate payroll errors: Handling payroll is an important function of any business. No one notices payroll until something is wrong. Wrong salary, incorrect deductions, late payment… Free up your time and have error-free processes with an HRM automation for your business.
Correct discrepancies immediately: A HRM will alert you and/or your staff if there are any discrepancies. If someone keys in an incorrect dollar amount of the number of hours, or even if something is different from previous paychecks, the system can send an alert.
“Inventory management refers to the process of ordering, storing and using of a company’s inventory. This includes the management of raw materials, components and finished products, as well as warehousing and processing such items.” – Investopedia
Inventory is an asset. It’s money that’s moving through the supply chain before reaching your customers. In order to meet your customers’ expectations and identify where your money is moving, you have to track. Tracking SKUs in your possession, the locations which you store them and the quantities available at each location.
Barcode and Product tagging
Less downtime: Trying to coordinate so many different moving parts can be an impossible task. But with a barcode tracking software, you can locate the information you need any time. Know exactly when you can expect shipment, if they are with vendors or if they are lost. With business process automation, your team can work more efficiently to have a more streamlined operations process.
Stock data monitoring
Optimised warehousing and inventory: Do you need to replenish stock? When should you reorder? How much? Overstock means you’re incurring costs for nothing. Understock could be a fulfilment issue to your clients. Automation helps you forecast your needs and make the most of your capital.
Never miss out on a sale: If you’re managing online and offline channels, multiple store locations, or both, stock alerts can help you ensure every location has enough stock on hand to meet demand. Get alerts on which products need replenishing. If you’re a distributor, you’ll know when to prompt your clients to reorder. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Identify opportunities: An inventory report is an overview of a retailer’s existing stock. It gives details like how much stock you have, which products are selling fastest, product performance, and other information about the status and performance of inventory.