AWS Smart Business Blog

Which Recurring Business Processes Can Small and Medium Businesses Automate?

What are the major challenges facing your company’s latest digitization project? Perhaps you’re operating on a patchwork of systems and software that pre-date your time. Maybe your teams are concerned that any updates might jeopardize the existing IT system and small inefficiencies are worth the price of not modernizing. The outdated, resource-intensive business procedures that leave little time for strategy or innovation do have a far bigger cost: growing your business.

Utilizing game-changing technologies to automate current company operations helps free up resources and improves efficiency. Automation is transforming industries globally, and it is bringing substantial benefits to businesses and economies worldwide. To realize automation’s full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand. These technologies can bring a range of benefits to small and medium businesses (SMBs) such as yours which have more growth ambition than existing IT can support.

According to Statista, 2023 global digital transformation spending is projected to touch $1.8T USD in just three years. Why? Because automation simplifies business processes by taking repetitive tasks and automating them for you, so you can focus on what truly matters.

What is business process automation and how can it help SMBs?

Business process automation (BPA) is simplifying and performing repetitive tasks through the use of advanced technology, with limited human intervention. BPA isn’t about replacing the human element from your business, it’s about enhancing it. The technology is great at various computational and daily tasks, but SMBs should free up their employees to use their talents to innovate in other areas of the business. SMBs are adapting to automation in various domains by replacing repetitive and rule-based processes associated with inventory management, employee management, customer engagement, sales, and marketing. If one of your business apps sends you scheduled reports, you’re already using a basic example of automation.

BPA can greatly benefit businesses by reducing the need for manual efforts and increase employee efficiency. With the surge in inflation and unpredictable market conditions, SMBs have to manage resources efficiently. Automating recurring tasks can help significantly to save operational cost as well as to improve productivity and accuracy resulting into extra ordinary customer experience. At Amazon Web Services, we know SMBs are so unique that we cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach for automation. The key is to improve efficiency periodically so that you can allocate resources to modernize step by step. Incremental improvement is a goal and should be celebrated as much as bigger milestones. With the variety of automation available, businesses can select what best suits their needs and goals. Here is what we specifically recommend for SMBs.

Benefits of Automation for SMBs

When you work for a small company, it’s common to have many roles. We’re hearing there are continued issues hiring qualified talent or difficulty providing growth opportunities for existing employees. Automation offers your company several helpful benefits:

  1. Improve productivity, accuracy, and efficiency by limiting the need for human intervention
  2. Improve end-to-end process visibility across teams
  3. Automation facilitates business growth by enabling delivery of seamless customer experience
  4. Scale business operations by assigning teammates to more strategic business initiatives
  5. Improve ability to respond to changes in the competitive market
  6. Streamline critical business processes to improve consistency and security
  7. Reduce operational costs

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Five business tasks SMBs can begin to automate

Marketing customization

Sheer creativity and other nuances are best left to humans. However, one of the major challenges in promoting products or services for SMBs is the ability to analyze huge amounts of customer data. SMBs have limited resources to interpret and use them for their own benefit, so AI can help them analyze huge data to make data-driven marketing decisions and create personalized promotions. Marketing automation can play a pivotal role in expanding business outside of the local markets and to extend the lifetime value of their customer base. AI services like Amazon Personalize can use your data to understand customers and provide curated recommendations.

Attendance tracking

SMBs, such as staffing companies and manufacturers, rely on people to generate revenue for products. Most of them rely on the paper-based time cards which are prone to mistakes, inaccuracies, and deliberate manipulation. AI-powered solutions, like biometric systems or facial recognition (powered by Amazon Rekognition), provide automated and reliable attendance tracking. BROJ is an SMB customer based in South Korea that develops fitness management solutions. During the height of COVID-19, BROJ developed “BROJ No Touch” a service for managing access control and attendance with Rekoginition.

Safety monitoring

Automation has given industrial businesses an essential tool to increasing productivity. However, safety risk is becoming a major interest when industries are advancing to push machines to test their potential. While pushing these boundaries to advance ourselves, safety should never be overlooked and always the foremost concern. We must remember that people are essential and must be protected. Innovation in technology is helping us to improve safety in our working environments so that productivity and quality do not deteriorate. Implementing safety measures in automated systems ensure that the potential risk for employees must be prevented. Using AWS, Solaris built a real-time monitoring application for oilfield equipment. Solaris automated and integrated data ingestion by using Amazon QuickSight and Amazon Timestream to create a safer, more efficient, and cost effective solution for customers.

Customer support

All businesses value their customers and are committed to offer the best service and support possible. SMBs operate with limited technical resources which can result in delayed responses. These constraints can negatively impact business and customer satisfaction. Automation can help manage customer issues through self-service at lower cost compared to engaging customer service representatives. With Amazon Connect, you can set up a contact center in minutes that can easily scale up or down to meet customer demand. You can improve agent productivity and customer experience across voice and digital channels with the all-in-one, AI- and ML-powered contact center.

For example, chatbots are becoming popular in customer support. The chatbots on e-commerce websites can quickly and inexpensively engage with lower-tier customer queries, saving human service representatives for more complex problems.

Another example is ticket assignment. Regardless of the problem category, support tickets can be routed to the correct team promptly. This automation saves employees from having to sort through emails, messages, and chats to find and answer high-priority questions.

Reporting important business metrics

Automation can help businesses to increase efficiency by automating reporting on critical business metrics. Automated reports reduce data entry time and provide real-time data on all important key performance indicators (KPIs). Businesses can design automated reports with revenue data, marketing effectiveness, customer success rates, and more. Using real-time reporting allows tracking all KPIs effortlessly and can be especially helpful when it comes time for SMBs to prepare their annual reports.

In addition, automation of reports will allow SMB business to more easily make data-driven decisions about how they should optimize their product offerings, marketing campaigns to improve efficiency, and customer satisfaction moving forward. Amazon QuickSight powers data-driven organizations with unified business intelligence. All users can use a single source of truth through modern interactive dashboards, paginated reports, embedded analytics, and natural language queries.

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Best practices for implementing Business Process Automation

BPA isn’t about removing the human element from your business, it’s about enhancing it. When done correctly, BPA is more of a partnership. The machines get to do what they’re great at, freeing up your employees to use their talents to innovate in other areas of the business. One of the common misconceptions of BPA is that it takes weeks, or even months, to implement. Here are a few guiding principles to use as you embark on your BPA journey.

  • Understand the opportunity and plan ahead: Start taking advantage of automation and AI by assessing the opportunity, identifying the high-impact use cases, and laying out the capability (and governance) groundwork.
  • Identify short- and long-term automation goals: Identify quick tactical wins to automate activities with the highest potential and radiate out. In parallel, lay out a long-term vision.
  • Determine total cost of ownership (TCO): Review if TCO for the selected automation solution is justified against budget constraints. Evaluate the needs of business process outsourcing and service integration partners.
  • Redefine processes and manage organizational change: Reevaluating process and taking an end-to-end view are necessary to capture the value of automation.
  • Integrate technology into business functions: Integrate AI and other advanced technologies into the functional model to create transformative impact and long lasting value. Create a culture of collecting and analyzing data to make inform decisions and build the muscle for continuous improvement.

Next steps

The emerging technologies are transforming how SMB operate, enabling them to keep up with larger organizations while maintaining the agility that makes them unique. Businesses that embrace these technologies now will be well-placed for long-term success and growth. By leveraging automation with business intelligence and AI, SMBs will gain a competitive edge and secure their future in the global economy.

Connect with an AWS expert to figure out what you need to do to make BPA successful. Unlock innovation by discovering AWS Marketplace and AWS Partner Network (APN) to leverage trusted software vendors and AWS Certified partners who can help add automation solutions to your business.

Chintan Patel

Chintan Patel

Chintan Patel is a Solutions Architect at AWS with over 16 years of IT experience in various roles, including AI/ML Consultant, Software Developer Engineer, Technical Lead, and Project Manager. He has extensive experience working with customers from multiple domains to design and implement technical solutions that accelerate business growth. Chintan is based in Virginia (US).

Arindam Chatterji

Arindam Chatterji

Arindam Chatterji is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS. Before joining, he worked in technical roles at large corporations such as Wipro Limited and IBM. He is passionate about helping SMBs transform their companies in the cloud. Arindam is based in Georgia (US).

Pratik Kaneriya

Pratik Kaneriya

Pratik Kaneriya is an AWS Solutions Architect with over five years of database administration experience. He is driven by solving SMB challenges and committed to achieving best practices within a multifaceted environment. Before joining AWS, he was an Advanced Database Administrator at 3M. Pratik is based in Massachusetts (US).