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Transforming small businesses through Automation

Embracing technology and the power of digital has been crucial for small businesses in weathering the pandemic and how it has impacted the way of working in India and across the world. Employing more than 11 crore people, the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) comprise around 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, more than half of these MSMEs are operating on legacy infrastructure and catering to the rural parts of the country. A key restraint that such small businesses face is the lack of resources, and therefore hires are often made based on their ability to wear different hats on the job. This means that all employees have core functionalities and partake in ad hoc tasks, like manually generating reports or invoicing, to keep the business running. While this helps keep hiring costs low, employees do too many things and cannot focus on their core roles.

As per the recent Global Office Workers survey by UiPath, 60% of Indian office workers said they are considering resigning from their jobs in the next six months due to increased pressure and lack of a work-life balance. Also, 70% of office workers – the highest in any region – are experiencing increased work pressure due to their colleagues resigning in the past year. About 96% of the respondents stated that they are exhausted at the end of a workday at least once a week and get frustrated by tasks like research to improve existing products and services (44%), drafting and responding to emails (43%), and creating new products and services (38%).

Although these are distressing statistics for Indian businesses, deploying an end-to-end automation solution within their business practices can help fill workforce gaps and improve the employee experience. In fact, 99% of employees feel that automating certain tasks can improve job performance by saving time, increasing productivity, and creating opportunities to focus on more important work. Therefore, we must change the way we work, and this is where digital automation steps in.

Digital automation systems like RPA (Robotic Process Automation) do not necessarily replace employees but rather augment them. RPA can perform tasks that would usually take several hours of manual work in much less time. The use of automation in business processes also reduces the scope for manual errors and makes the whole workforce more efficient. It also enables employees to perform more mentally stimulating tasks instead of keeping them busy with mundane and repetitive work. Since small businesses face the most pressure in terms of wages and maintaining budgets, automation helps maximize the output from both the staff and the technology. About 85% of the surveyed business leaders in the UiPath 2022 Executive Survey agreed that incorporating automation and automation training into their organization will help in retaining employees and attract new talent.

Here are some ways your small business can benefit from digital automation:


Workforce Efficiency

As stated above, employees in small businesses usually perform several tasks aside from their core tasks. The constantly shifting focus affects the output on both the manual and repetitive tasks often leading to poor quality of work overall and unsatisfied, overburdened employees. Automation shifts these repetitive tasks, freeing employees to perform their creative and strategic roles and improving output and productivity. This results in better employee engagement and retention with the organization. Around 73% of Indian employees believe that automation can improve their job performance, namely by saving time (62%), increasing productivity (61%), and creating opportunities to focus on more important work (59%).

Additionally, digitizing reduces hours of manual work, and the same or better results are achieved in less time, making the entire workforce (manual and digital) more efficient and the time to value much faster. It also removes the need for hiring staff across several departments, greatly reducing costs.


Leveraging Data

A lot of the manual work in small businesses never gets reported correctly and might not help evaluate the inefficiencies in the existing processes. It leads to age-old inefficiencies and errors being repeated over a long time. RPA, combined with digital automation can help report a lot of data with its processes.  Frequent evaluation helps catch operational inaccuracies early on and improves process implementation, ensuring a seamless, error-free workflow across processes in the long run.


Competitive edge

Many large organizations already have end-to-end automation systems in place, through which they can leverage the power of enhanced productivity. Small businesses lack this adoption and don’t have a level playing field with their competitors. In a market shaped by digital disruption, automation in small businesses can change the game by leveling the playing field with their competitors while keeping control of the overall cost of the business.

The workplace of today looks very different from the one that existed before. Organizations have moved to hybrid or permanent work-from-home structures, and communication between employees and departments is much more scattered. The scope for errors in such a scenario is much greater, owing to lapses in communication. Automation can help businesses be more agile, efficient, and profitable.  Digitisation comes with a cost, but if implemented correctly, it can save companies a lot of money in the long run. The key is to evaluate what processes can best benefit from automation and create an investment-adoption plan accordingly.

(The author is Mr. Jared Danaraj, Vice President, Sales Engineering and Customer Success, Asia Pacific & Japan at UiPath and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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