How scaling businesses can leverage automation successfully

How scaling businesses can leverage automation successfully

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Want to invest in automation but not sure where to start?

As small and medium enterprises sector-wide look to scale and grow, they are rarely without a myriad of challenges. In 2024, with cash flow and digitisation two topics at the forefront of SME business owners’ minds, it’s safe to say that embracing automation – a logical solution on paper – may be more difficult than ever.

Signable is no stranger to helping businesses overcome automation difficulties, whether it’s finding a user-friendly integration that aligns document management processes or an organisation-wide solution that streamlines increased workloads. The path towards successful and sustainable growth is heavily reliant on the strategic implementation of automation and technology. However, even for savvy business owners who understand the premise and value proposition, the outcome needs to be tangible, often before they make such an investment.

The key to discovering the value and benefits of automation involves assessing how automation solutions can solve both short and long-term problems. This guide breaks those down for you, highlighting what automation can offer your business and customers, strategies for successful, incremental adoption, and how to get started.

Why SMEs need to embrace automation

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMEs were forced to rapidly adapt and embrace new technologies to keep operations afloat and maintain their competitive edge. A recent report by Xerox found that 80% of SME leaders saw automating tasks and processes as critical to their survival, with 82% emphasising the importance of digitising paperwork. 

At the time, the turbulent economy and collective uncertainty meant that embracing automation in places was more hasty than strategic. However, now that national lockdowns are (hopefully permanent) relics of years gone by, businesses can afford to be more methodical in their adaptation of automation solutions. The need for greater flexibility, efficiency, and scalability has become an evolving challenge for businesses navigating a complex and changing landscape. Given that they must balance other factors such as increased remote and hybrid working demands of workers and the emergence of AI, business owners face a tough road ahead. 

Nonetheless, automation presents a powerful solution that allows SMEs to streamline repetitive tasks, allow employees to dedicate time and resources to more strategic, purposeful work, and maintain competitive agility. If entrepreneurs want to unlock greater business growth opportunities, automation, coupled with strategic task delegation to virtual assistants (a market poised for 33% CAGR growth, to the tune of £5.9 billion by 2028) along with their teams, can give scaling businesses a much-needed sense of stability and control.

What are the main challenges of automation?

While the benefits of automation are well-documented, the path to successful sector-wide implementation for businesses is not straightforward.

SMEs across a range of industries often encounter hurdles ranging from IT alignment to insufficient demand. Integrating new automation tools and technologies with incumbent systems can be complex and time-consuming. SMEs need to validate and test a prospective new solution if they are to reap all the benefits of its influence. Deploying new technologies also risks altering established workflows which can cause operational backlogs as well as employee resistance. SMEs must therefore ensure a change management strategy is firmly in place to address any concerns and cultivate collective buy-in.

Fundamentally, however, as the persistent technology skills gap illustrates, many SMEs lack the in-house expertise to identify the best possible automation opportunities, much less implement them effectively. Partnering with the right vendors and industry partners is a proactive workaround to this problem, however, it’s no wonder why this barrier prevents them from scaling as quickly. On top of that, selecting the type of automation solution that can scale alongside the business and adapt to changing needs and workflows is also difficult to do. However, it’s pivotal to sustaining long-term business success.

Strategies for successful automation implementation

In order for SMEs to overcome the challenges and discover the true tangible potential of automation, they need to adopt a strategic mindset. Certain organisations will have more regulatory and statutory hoops to jump through, proverbially speaking, but every firm regardless of sector will have pain points that automation can address and alleviate. This could be in terms of process efficiency, team productivity, excessive external influence, siloed operations, inconsistent data, poor integration, and many other challenges.

To best prepare their infrastructure for marginal and eventual large-scale automation, SMEs should consider the following strategies as a guide.

The first step is to conduct a thorough, conclusive audit of all business processes to identify the most suitable areas for automation. Gradual, incremental adoption of automation software and tools for the most repetitive or time-intensive tasks (and the ones most prone to human error) is inevitably a good start. Doing this as opposed to deploying top-level solutions allows you to assess the positive effect that automation has on other activities, and refine the solution accordingly.

Testing and validation pre-deployment is crucial to ensure that an automation solution integrates seamlessly with your existing IT infrastructure. If your operations rely on national or global connectivity, it’s imperative to test an automation solution thoroughly and get multiple perspectives on its effectiveness.

Consider partnering with automation experts or vendors that can offer round-the-clock bespoke guidance and tailored implementation advice to suit your specific business needs. An off-the-shelf solution can achieve many short-term wins, but the real value lies in investing in automation software and tools that provide true long-term value. When selecting tools and platforms, prioritise those that can scale alongside your growing business, as you will continue to reap their benefits as your organisation expands healthily and sustainably. Consult with multiple vendors to trial software in test or beta modes to give you a deeper look into how it could work in your current business infrastructure.

Harnessing the power of eSignatures

As part of your automation strategy, consider incorporating enterprise-grade eSignature solutions like Signable’s highly rated and widely used platform. By digitising manual signature processes, you can streamline document workflows, reduce administrative overheads, and ensure compliance with industry regulations. 

Our solution integrates with a range of popular applications like Google Drive and Dropbox, and is connected with middleware tools Zapier and Make, allowing for endless integration opportunities, no coding required.

Get started with Sigable

eSignatures and automation go firmly hand-in-hand. Discover how much time you can save simply by automating the signing and approval of contracts, agreements and other critical documents. Begin your 14-day free trial today.

Author Bio

Dakota Murphey is a Brighton-based, established freelance writer with experience in business growth and a strong interest in all things digital. Aside from her love of writing, she loves good times with family and friends and admits to being a bit of a film buff.