How automation aided the survival of Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) through the pandemic
Whilst it is indeed true that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up a plethora of challenges to organisations worldwide, pushed several firms to the edge and even forced several out of business, it has undoubtedly also been the primary catalyst for change: forcing innovations to allow for the digital transformation of our global industries to aid their survival.
In this regard, a recent study from US-based web application automator firm Zapier found that 63% of small businesses believed that it was, in fact, task automation that allowed their firm to survive the pandemic. It is rather ironic that this should be the case, given that this data flies straight into the face of those who believed that automation would take over human jobs and lead to a rise in unemployment. The pandemic showed that the future of automation is not about how the technology will replace humans, but more about how it will support them instead — holding especially true for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).
Automation = Productivity
It was through the year 2020 that most SMBs were forced to adopt various tools and technologies that allowed them to go digital, bringing a majority of their goods and services online. Zapier’s business automation report showed the major explosion in automation as the primary tool in this regard, as SMBs worldwide adopted technologies to connect their software, increase productivity and create automated systems which were both scalable and efficient. Given that almost two-thirds of small businesses now believe automation to be crucial to the running of their businesses in the new normal, understanding why this is the case could prove to be of much prudence.
Almost 94% of the interviewed SMB employees believed that their work involved carrying out repetitive and time-consuming tasks which, if automated, could help boost productivity greatly. Automation not only allows SMBs to eliminate mundane and repetitive tasks, almost 88% believe it allows them to compete with larger firms as well, allowing them to “move faster, close leads quickly, spend less time on busywork, reduce errors, and offer better customer service.”
According to tech conglomerate VentureBeat, “SMBs rely on software to perform specific functions, like capturing leads from Facebook Lead Ads. Rather than spend time manually sending data from one place to another, SMBs use automation to connect different software and create scalable systems and processes.” The primary strategy, in this regard, is to quickly identify the manual tasks and processes that can be automated, thereby leaving the workforce with greater time to work on more strategic and creative tasks instead. In fact, 70% SMB employees claimed automation helped to boost their productivity as well.
Source: Zapier Business Automation Report, 2021
Speaking in numbers, some of the most common automated workflows for SMBs include 38% of firms reducing manual data entry methods, 30% enhancing lead management, 32% streamlining document creation and organisation and about 27% in managing distribution and inventory-related processes. Apart from this, workers also reported they felt happier and were hence, more productive as well.
The Zapier report concludes: “For many small and medium-sized businesses, the future of automation is already here. Many SMBs are using automation to increase worker productivity and happiness, create efficient and scalable systems, and compete with larger businesses. A robot revolution isn’t coming anytime soon, but automation is creating a more productive workforce.”
Anyone interested can access the full report at:https://zapier.com/blog/state-of-business-automation-2021/