processForget the dress. The real question is, are your business processes automated or manual? (Hint: the answer may not be what it seems.)

Last week’s digital debate over the color of the dress (it was clearly blue and black!) served as a good reminder that perception is everything. In the online world and the real world, people will interpret their environment differently due to a number of factors, such as their past experiences, individual biases, and physical abilities or limitations. These variances in interpretation extend well beyond how we see colors, and it got us thinking about how perception plays a role in the business world. We wondered, do organizations, departments, and individuals within organizations and departments, interpret their status quo differently than others might? There is no grey-area here: the answer is an absolute “yes.”

Why there is no “white-or-blue” debate when it comes to business process automation

In many cases, a business process may appear to be “automated,” even when it is not. Some example of this are:

  • a homegrown Excel® template being touted as a budgeting tool,
  • a bare-boned Access® database being used as a contact management system, and
  • a Word® document being peddled as a 9-step talent management program.

Regardless of someone’s perception, a business process is either automated or it isn’t. Period. Even though it may be interpreted as automated, unless there is embedded logic and programmed workflow driving action without manual intervention – the process is still manual. Yes, even if it’s accessible on your intranet!

Why does this matter? There are many reasons why process automation should be an area of focus for organizations but if we had to pick the most vital , it would come down to the bottom… the bottom line, that is. The time, margin of error and overall lack of feasible analysis that is generated from manual, secular process management in ANY business or department equals missed opportunities, higher costs and ultimately, lower business results.

“Using the latest technology to better run your company is what gives many business owners a competitive edge while giving them more time back with their families,” said Jamie Sutherland, U.S. president of online accounting software provider Xero.

Obviously, organizations can’t jump to full-blown automation. There will always be some level of file management and manual administration; however, there are certain areas of the business where leaders should strive to exploit automated options for increased performance and success.

5 Areas of Business that Benefit Exponentially from Technology Automation:

Don’t get us wrong. Despite our keen eye on the B2B technology landscape, there is still no solution available that can completely match the cognitive power of the human brain (specifically, those minds that pack the one-two punch of experience and reasoning); however, there is no question that decision-making is significantly enhanced with the aid of solutions designed to collect, sort, send and process vital business data and deliver that information when and where it is needed.

The point here is simple – don’t let perception inhibit process change. When organizational leaders think about “How” things are getting done it’s important to also ask, “is this the best way, given any constraints, to accomplish this, and what would be the benefits of change?” Times change. Just as the telefax gave way to email, some organizations must reach past legacy systems and embrace today’s business technology.

Our challenge to you – ask some of your departmental leaders what automation they are using to improve operations and see what they say. Just keep in mind that perception is everything, and you might find some manual processes that are masquerading as “automated solutions.”