Digital Lipstick: Using minor forms of automation in your business but not wholly adopting and implementing it organisation-wide. e.g. using emails, texts etc but still going through manual processes that involve multiple human stakeholders.
I think of myself as a tinkerer and an innovator primarily and an employer much later. But the truth of entrepreneurial life is that I cannot ignore my role of an employer. While I love product and possibilities, I need to responsibly manage the intellectual, human and working capital around. Technology has consistently been the enabler in leveraging this need and business automation has been the key.
Today technology enables businesses to be more productive, achieve high-value-added work and be the most efficient version possible. This is not limited to startups and small businesses but even major enterprises today. Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS once interestingly quoted – “Incumbent players are wrestling with the challenges of how to transform themselves. In 2013, the DBS board, therefore, took the view that if we didn’t lead the charge, frankly, we might die. We really had to digitize completely, not just by putting on digital lipstick.”
What he said is a less discussed, widely understood yet brushed under the carpet fact. If in today’s time you are not keeping pace with your competitors and have legit growth plans, you might just go the Nokia or Kodak way! and do you want to? I don’t think so!
We as normal human beings are prone to inertia. We get so comfortable in what we already know that we can’t focus on what we can achieve if we push our boundaries. I understand that. Been there.
However, for centuries the business world has run a certain way. Digitalisation and democratization of technology brought in the first wave of automation with computers. Dreary ledgers gave way to spreadsheets and we suddenly were saving a gazillion hours of manual work on mundane stuff.
But now that first wave is the norm. The second wave of digital automation is upon us. There’s no hiding heads in the sand. It’s a time where things are faster, better and more efficient. Can your business afford to not be in the middle of this action?
In a survey conducted by McKinsey it was found that 90% of companies engaged in some form of digitization while only 16% said their companies responded with a scalable strategy. It was a bummer to me since I’d expected the numbers to be better than this. It’s almost like people aren’t still getting the value end-to-end automation brings in. For e.g. using an excel sheet to manage the sales pipeline and customer database is a laborious and non-scalable solution that’s a real blot on the company’s productivity. It’s the digital lipstick if I may say !! The same process, if automated end-to-end with a robust CRM which can prospect, self-populate and help you send your email DRIP campaigns would be a value-add to the business along with being scalable and increasing productivity.
Plenty of established enterprises today live under the false notion of feeling that they have enough time to digitise in the future. This is a fool’s fallacy and nothing could be further from the truth. Within the little time that the second Tech wave has begun, new digital entrants have already taken up 17% of the market share from bigger players across regions and industries. The key reason to this is that they’re better automated, agile and digital visionaries. Isn’t that something to not just take cognizance of but also take immediate action upon?
Today, companies need to treat end to end business automation as a necessity as important as breathing oxygen. Companies that do not focus on re-tooling and re-imagining their approach will be more prone to perishing and not likely to exist by 2030. The human consumer’s mindset has evolved to want things faster, better and more efficient. Call it the millennial wave or Gen Z stepping in or whatever, you cannot “not” ride the automation wave.
Here’s what I implore you to think upon about end-to-end automation in business:
1. Staying Relevant:
To be relevant, profitable and alive in 2030, you need to build an agile business. When the processes of a company are automated and agile, the chances of market and industry disruption decimating you, reduce considerably. Businesses – big and small will be able to ride every wave of disruption by shifting from the older technologies to new with the processes remaining the same if they’ve built their business models on agile frameworks. Businesses will succeed not just by facing disruptors head-on but also by disrupting existing revenue streams.
Also, core to this point is the fact that Digitization is a multidimensional notion. On one hand, business automation will help companies remain ahead of the new competition, and on the other hand, it will also help companies to overtake existing competitors and those seemingly ahead. It’s a no-brainer that the competitive dynamics created by startups and small businesses relying on business automation will steadily eat away the profits of established players.
It would also be great to have your head in the cloud – figuratively of course! Cloud computing and AI will continue to revolutionise business automation for the next decade or two. It will help businesses to become the proverbial lean mean fighting machines that are agile and productive. Honestly, if you look around, it’s begun in everyday life. You’re making payments with Paypal, your credit card or internet banking from just about anywhere, using blockchain to design frameworks, a whole new cryptocurrency exists and even product wise if you see, you’re listening to music at Home on your Alexa device. This convenience is what you are willing to pay for every single place. and its all technology enabled.
2. Being Productive:
Business automation helps you fractionalize the amount of time you spend on a task. It could be anything from adding data into a spreadsheet to posting on social media or even making a hotel booking. Everything’s being done at a speed that was unimaginable just 5 years ago!
It’s freeing up more time for businesses to focus their energy and talent into accomplishing more complex goals and explore newer options. Cost and Time are reducing while the quality and quantity of output is increasing. Business automation is also helping minimize the chances of human error and reducing the training time and cost which boosts productivity.
I’d like to mention how the finance industry has taken the charge in a stellar way in turning technology into an everyday affair. Mobile payments have seeped into everyday life like never before. This as an image I received some months back that I had to share!
This is a great example of the democratization of a service if it is simplified enough by technology.
Another massive productivity boost that business automation has brought in is the quick decision making. Companies which use automation in everyday processes generally have tech-savvy workforce making quick decisions. Imagine this – Is it easier to get consensus on an idea over email with ten stakeholders or over a quick slack or WhatsApp group chat? A thing that could earlier take 2 days to decide (depending on how quick people were checking emails) gets decided and ready to execute in 10 minutes.
3. A well-aligned workforce:
Business automation has also ushered in the gig economy and remote work culture. You’re no longer limited to the talent pool available in the city you live in. For e.g. my development team is currently based out of four-time zones and yet we work seamlessly without a hitch. Our head of marketing works out of 5 cities depending upon her travel plans and yet I’ve never faced issues because of her not being in office. With technology powered agile processes in place, we entrepreneurs and managers can today access the right people from a global talent pool proving the modern adage – Talent trumps location!
4. Compete in the Knowledge economy:
“It is only in respect to knowledge that a business can be distinct, can, therefore, produce something that has a value in the marketplace.” – Peter Drucker
Your knowledge is integral to your perceived value in the industry.
The value you provide is the sum of the data you collect and what you infer and interpret out of it to change, align or affect the ecosystem around you. Harnessing the knowledge economy is a three-step process:
1) Acquire the knowledge and information
2) Differentiate the signal from the noise
3) Infer the business effects of your analysis to make a plan of action.
and all this when you’re faster and smarter than your existing and future competition in all three steps. E.g. Pull in all the data from your CRM (to target the people), Create a Facebook audience, Push content from WordPress, Use Google analytics (to track engagement) and then use a tool like Databox to see advanced analytics across the web.
Business automation shoulders diversification. e.g. a decade ago global retail depended heavily on brick and mortar stores where as now we have most brands going omnichannel. Famous fashion brand Zara’s parent company Inditex’s annual report for 2017 mentioned how 10% of its annual revenue came from online sales. That’s a whopping number when the annual revenue was $25 Billion. Now if Inditex had decided to not diversify beyond brick and mortar sales, it would have meant a loss of $2.5 Billion USD.
Every business, irrespective of its size will be able to better diversify when it uses business automation as an enabler. It will be able to consistently develop new customer segments rather than solely focus on protecting existing business lines through cost-cutting or excessive marketing etc.
An automated business will forever be a transparent business. A manager or founder will always be able to quickly spot the inefficiency and control damage in its infancy.
To summarise I’d like to talk about why organisations that will adopt end to end business automation quicker will triple their chances of success and stepping into a glorious 2030.
1) Automated organisations built in agile frameworks will be stable and dynamic to adapt to changing technology and industry trends.
2) Technology reliant teams will take quicker decisions. Consequently they will be faster with implementation. Successfully handling disruption and competition will depend on how quickly businesses assess change in stimuli and respond.
3) There will be greater access to top talent. With the rise of remote working and the Gig economy talent shall trump location when processes are standardised and highly automated.
4) Businesses will diversify. As a result of higher productivity achieved in current processes, a business will hold a better chance tackling threats posed by new competition and existing.
5) Transparency – An automated business will have the most transparent processes and results. It will help managers make unbiased decisions and business inferences to alter course of action.