Sage Canada Managing DIrector Paul Struthers offers three suggestions how SMBs can automate more necessary but routine tasks, saving time and money.
For many businesses, achieving growth can be challenging. To do so requires that the company continue creating great products and/or providing services that add value, while in tandem focusing on scaling and building up the customer base.
To successfully navigate today’s rapidly changing landscape, businesses need to invest in their operations. And this doesn’t just mean IT. It means turning to the power of artificial intelligence and automation to complete routine tasks like invoicing or expense tracking that, while important, are likely preventing you from getting to that next stage of growth.
According to a recent report from Sage, the world’s business builders currently spend an average of 120 working days per year on administrative tasks, or about 5% of the total manpower for the average small to mid-sized business. This can have a major impact upon the bottom line. In Canada, an increase in productivity of 5% could lead to an increase in GDP of as much as $500 billion per year.
With that in mind, here are three ways that business owners can automate some of their processes, freeing up their employees’ time to focus on the work that really matters – growing their business.
- Look to the cloud to take the administrative burden out of accounting processes.
Repeatable tasks such as filing expenses, paying vendors, and ensuring accounting is up-to-date can definitely take a toll on businesses’ resources and staff hours. I recommend taking a vested interest in your company’s accounting processes (where it sits, how it’s managed and what it manages, etc.), as this can allow you to shift the burden of these routine tasks away from staff and onto technology. Specifically, by moving these processes to the cloud, businesses can free up employee time and allow teams to focus on high-growth activities like generating new leads, closing more deals with new clients, or taking on additional projects for existing clients.
Having a cloud accounting process in place can also be extremely helpful when it comes to collecting payments. By setting up an automated process for invoice collection, businesses can send their invoices on a regular basis, track any outstanding balances, and keep track of all of their transactions. This also allows managers to quickly and easily access any financial data they may need by instantly reviewing dashboards in their cloud accounting software, allowing them to get the real-time information they need to make better business decisions.
- Take advantage of artificial intelligence to simplify financial operations.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere right now, and for good reason. Defined as the creation of intelligent machines that think and learn the same way humans do, AI is currently powering some of the biggest innovations of our time. For example, every time users speak to virtual assistants like Google Now or Apple’s Siri on their smartphones, they are tapping into AI. On a larger scale, many industries such as healthcare, finance, and legal services are using AI to help keep track of their records or to help them identify fraudulent activities.
At Sage, we built Pegg, the world’s first accounting chatbot. Launched in June 2016, Pegg is a smart assistant that helps business owners keep track of their finances. Users can interact with Pegg through instant messaging apps they already use every day, like Facebook Messenger or Slack.
For example, a user can snap a photo of a receipt and then send it to Pegg. Pegg can then file it as an expense on the user’s behalf. Pegg can also provide brief snapshots of overall spending and revenue, which saves users from having to track down the data in spreadsheets or other financial documents.
- Make use of AI both inside and outside your business.
Beyond using AI for internal operations, businesses may also want to consider how they can leverage it for customer-facing use cases. For example, business owners that sell products or services online might consider setting up a chatbot that can interact with customers.
Chatbots can help customers quickly resolve some of their most common needs, such as making appointments or reservations, providing basic information on store locations and hours, or updating them on the status of their orders.
By automating the simplest, most common parts of the customer service process, IT/operations will be freed up to focus on other tasks, such as troubleshooting more complex issues or providing better service to their top clients.
Today’s businesses are required to be agile and responsive to their customers’ needs, as well as to changes in the market. By finding ways to automate routine, repeated tasks and interactions, companies will be empowered to focus on the activities that will ultimately lead to greater growth and success.