How to Avoid Common Small Business Automation Pitfalls

PublisherSol Minion Developmenthttps: Small Business automationstrategyplanning'

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) benefit greatly from automation when it’s done right. You can relieve a lot of pressure by choosing tools to streamline processes that devour your team’s time and energy. Strategic automation can reduce your long-term costs and transform how you handle vital processes, such as:

Strategies to Ensure Automation Success

Set Realistic Expectations and Pace Yourself

Automation always requires some expertise to integrate and manage, especially if you use artificial intelligence (AI). It’s not something you can just forget about after setup or expect to run effectively without human oversight and flexibility.

In her Forbes article on the topic, Infobrandz founder Kelly Richardson advises starting gradually and embracing a culture of learning to help your team scale with automation. “Instead of a complete overhaul, I started by automating our client feedback process. This allowed our team to get comfortable with the technology,” she says. 

Underestimating the time, effort, and maintenance successful automation requires is a sure way to end up frustrated and overwhelmed. With a systematic approach, however, you’ll set yourself up for success before taking the plunge.

Try starting with something repetitive and time-consuming, but simple. For example, adding a chatbot to automatically answer frequently asked questions can help you handle more requests in less time. This can improve customer service by providing faster responses to simple questions, freeing up your team to focus on more relevant and urgent tasks.

Leveraging a CRM to track customer interactions and organize data is another good option to start with. It can help you group leads and customers and filter them based on specific criteria, such as age group or purchase history. While relatively simple to set up, it can help you build more personalized email campaigns and generate better engagement.

Do Your Research 

Business owners often get in over their heads by either choosing a solution that’s more complex than they need or by choosing one that is simple and cost-effective but won’t scale as they grow.

When you look at reviews, pay attention to the type and size of organizations using a particular tool. How do these companies compare with yours? Are they businesses with similar needs and challenges? Get clear about your priorities and define how you’ll measure the success of the tools you choose. Be specific. 

It’s also important to consider the systems and information you already have in place. Is the automation solution you’re looking at designed to integrate with software you already use? Do you have sufficient, accurate data to use it effectively? Lack of complete and accurate data will become a major issue for tools designed to make predictions and analysis.

Consider how easily you can find resources to troubleshoot your automation tools. If you can’t locate clear developer instructions or access customer support on the tool’s website, that’s a red flag. 

Plan Ahead and Test Everything

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Automation is an investment, and cutting corners up front can end up being more costly later. If you have a small or nonexistent IT team, you will most likely need some professional support to train your team, integrate software, and test your system’s performance on a regular basis. 

When you’ve settled on a new solution, take plenty of time to run tests and train your team on using the new system. As you learn how to use and troubleshoot it, make sure someone is creating clear documentation with step-by-step instructions your team can reference. This can improve new tool adoption rates. Keep documentation in an accessible location and update it when there are changes to the software or when new issues arise.

Prioritize Data Security

Adopting Secure by Design (SbD) practices is the best way you can protect the investment you’re making in automation. Start with the basics, and consider how your new automation tools fit into your larger Cybersecurity Plan:

Establish Monitoring and Maintenance Protocols

Every software-based system requires routine maintenance and monitoring to run efficiently, and automation tools are no exception. Keep tabs on routine updates, and put a plan in place for who will monitor and troubleshoot your system to make sure everything is working as expected.

Don’t have IT professionals on board? Partnering with a DevOps team to help develop and integrate automation tools might be a good fit. This approach ensures you have expert insight and support before, during, and after integrating new systems.

Do you need help automating complex workflows?