Choose Ai In The Workplace For A Meteoric Boost In Company Productivity
The workplace has changed beyond recognition in the last two years or so, with accelerated changes noted in 2020. Both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and, sadly, Covid-19 have been major drivers of change and have made us, employees and employers alike, question the status quo and reinvent ourselves in relation to work. According to Bobbe Baggio and Nov Omana, Consultant in learning technologies and HR guru respectively, in an enlightening piece published in the Workforce Solutions Review, Apr-Jun2019, AI has been on the horizon for decades. Philosophers, novelists, and screenwriters have all imagined responsive devices capable of communication with humans. Robots are now delivering meals, playing music and turning lights on and off. They are even helping to drive cars. Overall AI can be described as the process of machines doing work that would require human intelligence. The small business owner can adopt AI at work by choosing the automation of some processes: this simplifies things and is cost-effective in the long run, once the initial set-up costs are met.
PLANNING FOR AUTOMATION IN THE WORKPLACE
The work culture, business mantra, and operation styles are all analysed when anyone starts planning for the automation of tasks and decision-making for the small business. There are so many factors involved that any potential major disruption in employee habits or relationships should be carefully considered first. Multiple processes can be automated but behind it all the questions of why and where should be asked. For example the following can be automated:
- The Proposal Process -
- The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Process -
- The Sales Process-
- The Service/ Product Delivery Process-
- The Invoice Process-
- The Payment Process for services/products-
- The Auditing Process-
- The Staff Hiring Process-
- Employee Communications-
- Cyber security-
- Business Analysis-
Before the small business owner makes any important decision about automation, the reasons for setting it up are to be carefully weighed, with an eye on the business finances and staff readiness and wellbeing when deploying the new technologies. Hiring experts in the field of work automation is crucial at this stage. The benefits of AI for the company will depend on this move.
For the micro or small company speed of delivery for products or services and quality of work are key factors for building a trustworthy reputation and a happy customer/client base. Also the business owner is always delighted when he/she can minimise overheads whenever and wherever possible. Moreover, in light of Covid-19, flexible working and new ways to interact with the client are prioritised. For all these reasons, and more, automation in the workplace is highly recommended. Tasks can be performed quicker, in different settings, and result in consistent quality work.
On the operational side of things, automation changes the structure of the workplace. Less staff will be needed to perform tasks and duties. The business owner is then free to rent or own a smaller office. Staff are either busy working from home a few days of the week or are out and about, meeting clients face to face in a Covid-secure way and engaging with them. Smart chatbots can even do the work of Customer Advisors. A lot of marketing and sales tasks can be self-activating, with a small degree of personal touch, resulting in more cost-effective campaigns and better Return on Investment (ROI). Generally overheads are minimised.
For both staff who are home working and those who are doing fieldwork communication and synchronisation of data are important. Employees will be able to communicate via email, Slack, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. Real-time data is accessible for quick data capture for the CRM or for other processes such as invoicing, quoting or business analysis. Business trends can be analysed on the go, allowing smarter decisions to be made regarding future actions. Cloud Computing allows all these "small wonders".
It also helps with Quality Assurance as there will be more consistency across projects with regards to forms and other documents. Templates can be integrated and customised for each operation or each client. Diagrams or other extra features can be added by the user as he/she goes along, to fit specific situations. Some users might even want to customise his/her documents by writing code. Overall there will be better management of staff or projects as the more mundane and even the more complex tasks are automated. Project files can then contain all required templates. This all contributes to the business ownerís peace of mind.
EXAMPLES OF CLEVER AUTOMATION: MS EXCHANGE SERVER AND MS TOOLS
Microsoft Exchange Server is a clever service which allows you to synchronise data across all devices i.e. desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. You can get business emails, calendars and contacts on any device. This is incredibly useful for top-level CRM as there will be no need to sign up for another Software as a Service (SaaS) such as Salesforce (the popular subscription-based CRM). Documents can be templated. Itís always better for your company branding to send templated emails directly, rather than for example sending quotes via your accounts package. For smaller businesses it might even be appealing that in some instances no internet is needed for data synchronisation.
Microsoft Tools allows customisation of tasks: everything is tailored to your everyday requirements. Task automation improves speed of delivery and enables one to manage work without a lot of staff. You liven up the work environment as well by automating the more boring and repetitive tasks and allowing people to be more creative at work and concentrate on the bigger, more important outcomes. Staff and business owner alike will be able to focus on the bigger picture.
Although upfront costs for setting up automation for key and repetitive tasks might seem relatively high, the overall costs for daily operations are wonderfully cheap, making this a very attractive solution towards a more efficient workforce, a stronger company brand and a profitable business. With automation, the workplace becomes agile and perceptive, moves quickly and is more adaptable. However, the pace of the deployment of automation, the exact type, the involvement of training or not (there can even be automated tutors), will all depend on the outcome of the initial assessment carried out by experts in this field.
THE WAY FORWARD
Here, at Associate Planet, a boutique IT and technology consultancy, we provide that expertise. We help micro and small businesses thrive and become more efficient and productive. We plan for and implement AI within any type of small business.
We won't drown you in technobabble. We want you to weigh the pros and cons, to be aware of the landscape and to act accordingly.
Please do not hesitate to contact Richard from Associate Planet for a no obligation discussion and let's work towards a solution.
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