Growth – for some, it’s a breezy long drive; for some, it’s a roller coaster ride; and for many, it’s a belly flop. When you are thinking about business growth, you must also plan to sustain growth. You need agility, resilience, and efficiency at the core of your operations. In the digital era, it’s never challenging to attain these capabilities. Let’s discuss three digital initiatives (Business process automation, apps, & analytics) that help you drive success.
Business growth brings more work and more challenges. In 2021, department stores generated 35% of their annual sales during the holiday season alone. That’s an excellent opportunity to build a loyal customer base and generate revenue to nurture more growth opportunities. On the other hand, it’s also a challenge for retailers to cope with the demand. They need more sales associates to help customers. More back-office staff to replenish goods. A sophisticated system to get a big picture of the business. Should a retailer fail to keep up with these challenges, it’s a lost opportunity.
Sustaining growth is all about agility, scalability, and flexibility in operations. You must revisit your enterprise operations and find gaps in the processes.
In the digital era, every company is a tech company. Digital technologies have evolved to a level where you can find a digital solution for every operational problem. Is there a broken supply chain? Get complete visibility with a supply chain management solution. Too many pending orders? Speed up with an invoice processing system.
Enterprise apps are enticing. But their procurement is challenging for non-IT companies. There are questions. For example, should you build or buy these solutions? Can I build an app for everything?
I agree software development is not kid’s play. But then we have modern development methods like low-code/no-code development. Frontrunners like Microsoft are taking this game to the next level by incorporating Artificial Intelligence into their low-code/no-code platforms. AI in these platforms empowers citizen developers with the ability to build applications in minutes as per the requirements described in natural language. It just feels like asking your friend on WhatsApp to bring an ice cream with your favorite toppings.
So, if you are still hinging on traditional systems, such as paper forms and Excel sheets, it’s high time you modernized those systems with low-code/no-code apps.
With business growth come more complex time-bound processes. Manual business processes are slow and cannot cope with the influx of tasks.
Let me explain this with a real-world example. Coca-Cola once launched Freestyle vending machines to expand its reach. Along with a massive growth opportunity for Coca-Cola, Freestyle brought a challenge for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United.
‘Coca-Cola innovation collided with our supply chain system. Replenishing the high-tech, small flavor cartridges was best done by outsourcing production, but it created a back-office nightmare,’ says the director of business solutions at Coca-Cola Bottling Company United.
They had a daunting 11-step process to fulfill a purchase order. A single CRM agent could handle only 50 Freestyle orders, and 50,000 more orders were in the queue. There was this one challenge between a great growth opportunity and them. The company made a smart move here. They leveraged robotic business process automation using Microsoft Power Automate and the Azure cloud to streamline the order and invoicing processing. The automation solution eliminated the need for more workforce and increased productivity. The solution also eliminated the scope for human errors and enhanced customer experience.
Robotic process automation is an entry-level solution. Now is the era of intelligent process automation technologies, aka Cognitive automation. Cognitive automation learns the context and uses all the available data to act accordingly, minimizing the need for human intervention in your enterprise processes. Gartner found that process automation helped an average company save 25,000 manhours a year worth $878,000.
Want to learn more about Cognitive automation? I would suggest Hari Mylaraiah’s book Unleashing the Power of Cognitive Automation. This book will help you create an effective automation strategy to capture growth opportunities. You can read the e-book here.
How easy is creating an automation solution?
Intelligent process automation might sound savvy to you. But it’s going to be just as easy as asking Siri to play South of the Boarder.
Microsoft is incorporating its generative AI tool, Copilot, into Microsoft Power Automate. The AI assistant will create business process automation flows based on verbal descriptions you gave to it in natural language.
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Productivity challenges, process inefficiencies, and employee attrition are growth barriers. We humans are creative animals. We love to do high-value things at work. Sadly, most of our time at work goes into repetitive low-value tasks such as data entry, sending and approving requests, etc. These mundane tasks are killing productivity and creativity. You can turn the tide with intelligent automation and unleash your employees’ full potential with business process automation.
Business growth is not a card game where success is sheer luck. Your decisions decide success. Support your decisions with data.
You cannot fly blind in your growth journey. Data helps you answer the question: where are you going?
In his book In Search of Excellence, Robert Waterman says that companies were data-rich and information-poor. His book was published four decades ago, and his observation still stands to be true for most companies.
A Gartner survey found that companies were losing $15 million on average every year due to poor data quality.
Why do companies fail to drive a data culture?
There are multiple factors contributing to this failure.
Data comes from many sources. Most companies fail to build a single source of truth. So, their data analysis is incomplete or inaccurate with missing or redundant data. In other cases, their data analysis is inconsistent. You might be monitoring your performance in real time. To stay ahead of your competition, you must look beyond the obvious. You must gather data from different sources rather than relying on your operations data. You must uncover hidden patterns in market trends and forecast the future.
I will take the classic example of Nokia here. They were monitoring their operations and finances. Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. Nokia’s finances were good till 2010. A good three years of thinking they were in good shape and no need to change strategy. But they failed to collect data from external sources to see what’s cooking in the smartphone market. This led to poor decision-making, and a legend was laid to rest.
Remember, if you want to grow, cultivate a strong data mindset.
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In summary, you need a robust digital ecosystem for your business to sustain growth. This happens at three levels:
- Modernize your operations with enterprise applications,
- Optimize operations with automation flows,
- Create a robust data analytics mechanism for informed decision-making.
Should you need any help at any level in creating your digital ecosystem, we’d love to help you.