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When we think of automation in the context of business, it’s hard not to imagine a factory production line complete with a chain of hi tech robots and a seemingly endless network of conveyor belts, and chutes.

This is perhaps the quintessential idea of automation: a system of various operations and processes that lessens the need for menial human tasks, and ultimately saves a lot of time and energy in the process. By assigning repetitive tasks to automated machines, people can devote their focus to other, more important roles and responsibilities. In turn, this allows businesses to reach higher levels of productivity in the long-term.

This is all well and good, but we’re not here today to talk about the manufacturing industry. We’re here to talk about the modern workplace, and the ways in which automation has already started to revolutionise communication, collaboration and the way in which businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. In both cases, efficiency is the name of the game; but how exactly does automation play out in an office setting and how can the standard business benefit from it?

Let’s delve a little deeper…

The age of incredibly clever web apps

Where better place to start than the ever-evolving realm of web apps, built to synchronise across multiple devices, suit every conceivable collaborative need and store work automatically.

Google Drive is a prime example that springs to mind. Gone are the days when we were required to save the latest version of a file before sending it across to a colleague, hoping they had the right version of software installed, before sending it through to somebody else, and then somebody else… you get the picture.

There is a clear efficiency in allowing as many people as necessary to access and edit the same document simultaneously. Also, removing the save button entirely in favour of real-time saving is nothing short of a revolution for the modern workplace, particularly for those who have endured the pain of a power cut after a few hours of ‘save-less’ hard work. We’ve all been there.

Getting a better handle on people management

In the past few years there has been an increasing focus on streamlining key HR processes and bringing central elements, such as monitoring staff leave and managing absence online. This is particularly the case for smaller businesses who cannot afford to keep a dedicated in-house HR representative on their books.

Automation plays a pivotal role in the efficiency of such businesses. More often than not it is a business owner, or senior manager, who is tasked with taking on the responsibility of managing holiday and leave requests, in addition to their normal daily workload.

By utilising an intuitive online HR software like BrightHR, employees can log in to a secure system and make requests themselves. Each request is then subject to automated checks and calculations in lieu of the wider team calendar, which definitely eases some of the administrative burden for the employer.

This system also automatically creates a digital record of every employee request and sends an instant notification to any registered device – whether a laptop, tablet or mobile – so that managers can make quick and informed decisions about staffing needs wherever they are. The traditional paper files and request sheets will eventually become a relic of the past, most likely sooner rather than later.

Boosting the online presence of any business

The elements that go into getting your business noticed online are both many and varied; so much so that automation is now essential to maximise the reach and frequency of your primary marketing messages.

Take a basic software like Hootsuite, for instance, which can be a tremendous help when it comes to social media marketing. By pre-populating a weekly (or even monthly) schedule of automated posts across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or Instagram, to name a few, business can make sure they are consistently engaging with customers and potential customers and offering ongoing touch points while they are freed up to work on other areas of the business.

Planning ahead in this way can also be highly beneficial for the consistency and timing of their targeted messages across all social media platforms. The same concept applies with email marketing, where automation allows businesses to set up campaigns to be delivered automatically at a series of later dates. Or, let’s say you’ve included a free download in one of your emails. Wouldn’t it be cool if every time somebody downloaded the file you could send them a highly personalised email as an additional acknowledgement and call to action? With automation, that’s a piece of cake.

How can automation work for your business?

Whether you’re looking to ramp up your digital marketing activity, enhance your staff management capabilities or improve collaborative processes within a team, automation could greatly enhance the performance and productivity of your business in more ways than one.

While human control will always be the most important element within any modern workplace, taking the opportunity to automate that which is ‘automatable’ is an investment worth making. In the years to come, the decision to do so will undoubtedly become far less of an option, and much more a competitive necessity.

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