There are two types of technology for business growth that every business can tap into—automation and analytics technology. Together, these two technologies have the potential to unleash growth in sales and, particularly, productivity and profits.
Here’s why they are so important.
Automation technology is finally meeting its promise
We are entering the golden age of automation technology.
For 50 years, government and business leaders have been cheerleading for automation. But for too long the promise was better than reality.
In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute published a paper outlining factors holding back adoption of automation. These included technical feasibility and the costs of deploying automation solutions.
But things are changing fast. Automation technology went from being complex to implement and out of reach for small business budgets, to out-of-the-box easy and affordable while delivering almost immediate gains—even for tiny startups.
In short, we’re at now at the point where the promise of automation is a reality.
Automation in action
Just think about some of the things that we can do in our businesses with automation:
- With a customer record management (CRM) system we can automatically capture and track leads and initiate follow-up more reliably.
- With manufacturing systems automation, we can execute our production processes with fewer errors, at a lower cost, and in a timelier manner.
- By using payment and collections automation in accounting systems, we’re able to better manage our cash flow and profits.
- With a help desk system, we can deliver higher quality, more consistent customer service.
For small businesses, automation levels the playing field and delivers the power to compete effectively. It’s the key to scaling a business to grow without adding complexity, extra staff, or unrecoverable expenses.
Automation lets you move faster while keeping your costs in check. You also can deliver more throughput with fewer errors. The added volume doesn’t cause processes to break down simply because staff can get overwhelmed.
In my business, we’ve experienced these exact benefits of automation and it really propelled our growth.
Automation frees you to enjoy work and achieve more
For entrepreneurs and employees in small businesses, automation is personally liberating. Historically, workers feared automation was eliminating their jobs. In practice, automation does not replace most jobs. Instead, it replaces tasks—boring tasks.
Automation frees workers from the drudgery of repetitive activities that tether them to their desks. With automation, we can be more mobile, more creative, and have a better quality of life.
For example, we entrepreneurs can now attend a conference and continue honing our skills, and our business doesn’t come to a standstill. Our staff can balance work and family commitments better. This makes teams more effective and more satisfied.
One thing I’ve learned is: happy employees grease the wheels of growth; frustrated employees are a drag on growth.
Analytics technology is another untapped potential
The second piece of growth empowerment is the explosion in analytics and business intelligence software. Aided by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), we now have access to huge amounts of data.
But most importantly, small businesses are able to unlock that data and use it.
Twenty years ago the term “big data” was hardly known. The origins of the term are somewhat in question, but one of the earliest references to “big data” was in an academic paper in the year 2000, according to Steve Lohr in the New York Times.
Unlocking the potential of big data
Fast forward to today, and even small businesses are harnessing big data.
For example, in my business, one of our vendors provides a set of analytics called “Big Data Analytics” about our website—and it really is BIG data gathered with the aid of machine learning. Just five years ago, I could not have imagined getting the level of data that we get with the ability to analyze it in such detail. It has caused us to see our business in completely different ways. Most importantly, it has unlocked hidden revenue opportunities and profitability leading to faster growth.
To demonstrate, we now have earnings data down to each page on our website—in real-time! This is information we could only approximate previously, and only after hours of laborious manual data manipulation. Now, we know it exactly, and it’s collected effortlessly for us. It helps our team make smarter decisions.
Not only is that data available, but we’ve also integrated it with an advanced business intelligence and reporting program that gives us even greater insights, after marrying it up with other sources of data. The dashboards and reports we have are nothing short of stunning in their insights.
As an illustration, one insight we learned is the power of website comments. On content with good comment strings, the engagement signals are off the charts! Those pages have “engaged time on page” that is three to five times longer than average.
Comments draw readers in deeper because they want to see what other people find interesting. And those pages earn more ad revenue. While we suspected this was the case, we never had proof before. Advanced analytics allowed us to compare page level detail and run charts and reports. As a result, we now do more to notify authors of comments and encourage them to respond in detail to questions and comments—because we know it pays off.
More data, more possibilities
Of course, big data is not limited to website data. There’s data everywhere in your business. You just need to extract it and harness it.
A few years ago, much less was possible on a small business budget. Today, we’ve finally reached the point where smaller organizations have the kinds of analytical capabilities that were previously only available to large enterprises.
Tapping into untapped potential
This is not to say you won’t have to put effort into finding the right technology and deploying it. Of course, you will.
But if you want to grow your business, and it somehow seems harder than expected, automation and analytics technology may be the untapped potential you need.
With costs as affordable as they are, and the ease of use improving all the time, whatever we invest in exploring solutions and improving processes can now finally pay off. The potential is within our grasp.