(This post originally appeared on Inc.com.)
How Small and Big Businesses Can Use Automation To Get Ahead in 2018.
Your growing business can realize these eight benefits if you automate your automation this year.
While "complicit" is the 2017 Word of the Year, according to Dictionary.com, a likely contender for 2018 is "automated." Organizations that automate have a strategic advantage over those that don't.
For example, Henry Ford automated car manufacturing with the development of the assembly line. Amazon implemented automation throughout its entire business model to become a global powerhouse. Now, the keys to automation and its benefits are available for all of our businesses.
There are myriad applications available to help your organization achieve its objectives and deliver value to its customers. However, there are so many solutions available that it can be difficult to integrate them into your workflow effectively.
Sometimes it feels like herding cats. Fortunately, the standardization of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and cloud technology allow you to streamline applications and make your company an automated organization simply and easily.
Automation is the future. The development of the cloud allows you to stitch together all of your cloud applications--from email to CRMs--something that was unfathomable merely 10 years ago. As a result, you can make more sense of your data--and unify your business processes into simpler dashboards that don't require a computer science degree to use.
In my book with Travis Wright, Digital Sense, we wrote at length about how any business can easily architect their software solutions to more effectively deliver on customer experience and growth--and talked about it at CES earlier this month:
1. Facilitate better marketing.
Marketers perform better when they use automated processes to support their efforts. From data enrichment to happy customer monitoring and precise lead scoring, the benefits of automating your marketing workflow are both wide and deep.
2. Drive sales enablement.
Streamlined sales processes can be more than twice as valuable as other streamlined processes within an organization. Sales data management, CRM, and follow-ups are improved with automation. Leads are always routed to the right people at the right time to make a conversion.
3. Enhance HR and support services.
Automation allows your support team to monitor client relationships throughout their entire lifecycle to prevent issues from becoming problems that result in churn. Automation also streamlines HR processes to manage relationships with employees as well.
4. Streamline special operations.
Many industries must abide by special rules or processes that can be complicated. However, automation allows companies in heavily regulated industries such as finance to ensure compliance automatically. It also allows complex project-driven industries such as engineering to streamline workflows and remove inefficiencies.
5. Mend the technological disconnect.
Amazon invested heavily in automation and grew exponentially as a result--through one-click ordering, automated warehousing and fulfillment, and perhaps even drone-based delivery sometime soon. What's different for your organization is that now you don't need billions of dollars in capital to realize the benefits of automation.
6. Use APIs more effectively.
Back in the day, connecting disparate technologies required a significant investment in IT and software development. Now, APIs and cloud technology allow you to drag-and-drop apps into your workflow so they communicate with each other instantly.
This drastically reduces the number of resources your company must invest to achieve the benefits of automation. You no longer have to be a developer to automate your stack.
7. Get more out of your employees.
One of the most beneficial aspects of automating your organization is that it can unshackle your teams from tedious, low-value work. When managers use relevant applications without needing to consult with IT, the result is customized internal processes that optimize your company's performance. As a result, your managers can use their resources more effectively for creative problem-solving and company-wide integration.
8. Turn everyone into an expert without coding experience.
APIs allow you to create user interfaces that make app and data integrations easy with little or no backend development. As a result, your managers and employees become "citizen automators" who can quickly and easily design processes that streamline their workflows for maximum effectiveness. Rather than replacing people, automation empowers them.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.