Accounts System Integration

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Modern day Account Systems are brilliant at maintaining your accounts, keeping a track of your money, letting you see how your business is doing as well as preparing your statutory accounts and tax returns.

Many Account Systems, which can also include payroll, are now cloud-based and incorporate attractive dashboards giving a visual presentation of the key points of financial information.

However, Account Systems tend to concentrate on historic transactions whereas business these days require an insight into live or even future transactions and very often this is obtained not from the Accounts System but other systems which we will call Management Systems.

Businesses often have both types of systems (Accounts & Management) however very often there is little integration between them.

Management Systems outside the Accounts System are sometimes not the best tool for doing some of the other things important in your business such as:-

  • Processing orders,
  • Preparing jobs to go into the shop floor,
  • Producing complex invoices,
  • Monitoring project material and labour costs.

 

These more complicated applications need to be done either manually, via spreadsheets or with specialist software.

Very often this means that the data ends up in two places and unless it is integrated it may have to be either re-typed or manually exported/imported.

With one of our seamless integration solutions we can ensure:-

  • Invoices produced in one system get posted into the account system automatically.
  • Labour data from a time and attendance system automatically gets posted into a payroll.
  • Costs on supplier invoices get automatically posted into the job costing system.
  • Credit control checks occur automatically before goods are despatched.
  • Orders received from the e-commerce site are automatically posted into the accounts System.
  • The service department when raising a service request automatically obtains the customers contact details from the Account System.
  • A data warehouse containing a corporation’s databases from multiple sources automatically gets updated.
  • Quotes turn into orders/jobs automatically without being re-typed.
  • EPOS sales posted to accounts in real time.
  • The CRM automatically creates customer records in the Accounts System as orders are won.
  • As goods are received in the warehouse the PO is available for checking and verifying.
  • Invoices from a Repeat/Scheduled Invoice system posted straight into accounts.
  • Database Integration.

 

The good news is however, that cloud-based such as QuickBooks, Xero and Sage amongst others have an API (Application program interface). These are developer tools that allow developers such as us ourselves to push and pull data into the account system electronically. This well-developed and reliable form of data integration is available now to integrate your systems.

The possibilities are endless, it is now possible for you to create your dream integrated business system. Automating complex and repetitive work without any additional labour costs and in the most reliable way possible. Not only saving time but also eliminating errors. This in turn will maximise efficiency and improve your profitability.  Pushing you out and in front of your competition.

Talk to one of our integration experts today and discuss how we can create seamless integration between your systems.

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Simply SOP: All about Sales Order Processing

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Introduction

SOP is a system that controls the process between a customer placing an order and the product going out for delivery.  It can also be known as an Order Management System (OMS).

Most businesses that supply goods and services have an order processing system. Many are simple manual tasks some are highly sophisticated automated business process systems. If you have a manual or disconnected system would you benefit from automating some of these processes within your business?

There are many applications for a Sales Order Processing System from sending a simple pre-paid product(s) to a customer to much more complicated systems such as creating an order for a bespoke kitchen.  The latter that will involve many different assemblies and subassemblies.

Types of SOP systems

Some systems just deliver an order processing record for manual processing, others include all the processes required to dispatch and/or deliver the goods and services required.

  • Accounts system modules
  • Stand-alone SOP systems
  • 3rd party add ins to standard accounts systems
  • Integrated bespoke system

Standard sales order processing systems will rarely meet the requirements of the unique points within your business.

Data Sources

Data for a SOP system could come from one or more of the following sources

  • Manual data entry
  • e-Commerce website feed
  • Estimating/Job Costing System
  • Email
  • Disconnected database
  • Automated email

SOP Functions

SOP systems can have many functions each automating individual functions such as:-

  • Data Validation – check and resolve data issues
  • Pricing – multi layered pricing algorithms
  • Document Production – invoice & despatch notes including all cost and tax calculations
  • Repeat/Scheduled Orders – no need to enter the order data again
  • Delivery Scheduling – arranging deliveries convenient to the customer
  • Batching – similar orders for production batch processing
  • Cost Price Monitoring – protects against reduced profits when costs go up
  • Sales Analysis – detailed management reporting
  • Multi-Currency – export & import
  • Compliance – certification, customs documentation
  • Picking & Despatch Control – consolidating picking routes
  • Web Site Portal – allowing customers to pick preferred delivery times etc

SOP Integrations

Most SOP systems will have one or more of the following integrations.  Integrations ensure data is moved efficiently across multiple systems.

  • Sales Ledger – prevent re-supplying a client who is overdue on their account
  • Stock Control – ensure all goods are in stock
  • Purchase Ledger – ordering goods not in stock
  • Despatch Services – produce trackable mailing labels
  • Invoicing – automatically create and post invoices into the Sales Ledger
  • ERP – live data feeds with the production system
  • CRM – handing all communications on an orders progress via email and SMS
  • Quotes – populate order automatically from data in a quotation
  • Job Costing – factoring labour costs for supply and build order types.
  • Payment Processing – getting paid for pre-paid orders

The SOP Conveyor belt

When designing a bespoke SOP system, we analyse your complete business process. We create a virtual conveyor belt with the order rolling along the conveyor belt as in navigates the various stages of your business process. This conveyor belt will also have shunts and points to allow orders to be parked for any reason or pushed down a different conveyor belt route.

Benefits of Bespoke SOP system

Many businesses use spreadsheets to plug holes in their order processing process. Whilst this may help when the ‘hole’ is first discovered an increasing amount of time is wasted as time passes and the volume of orders increase. With a non-integrated process, errors can start to creep in resulting in a costly outcome.

The primary benefit of a bespoke system is that the system can de designed to meet your company requirements exactly.  No ‘holes’ to plug.

These days nearly every software system vendors provide API’s  (Application Program Interface) that allow software developers such as ourselves to push and pull data into their system.

When your systems start talking to each other the magic happens. Your business runs as a highly efficient and profitable enterprise.  Your business is then leaving your competitors who do not have an integrated SOP system behind as they struggle with day to day inefficiencies.  With an Integrated and automated SOP system your customers will appreciate a fast, efficient service with competitively priced goods.

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The Pros & Cons of using a Spreadsheet or a Database

When you need to store data, should you use a Spreadsheet or database?

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Spreadsheet

Pro’s

Easy to learn – minimal skillset required

Data is very visual and easy to understand

You can just start typing data straight away

Excellent for “What If” modelling

Con’s

When you have thousands of rows you will start to struggle.

You cannot share and distribute data easily

Minimal data integrity – anyone can change validation rules on the fly

Data is non-relational

Every user needs a licensed copy of the spreadsheet software

Data can be stolen via email or USB stick

Data can be lost if file becomes corrupted

Database

Pro’s

Built to handle large volumes of data at speed

High level of data integrity

Multi-user access, hundreds/thousands of users can update data in sync

User defined interfaces to guide users into correct data processing

Data is structured and can be linked into relationships

Data updates automated streamlined and if required batched

You can create a full Audit trail of all user actions

Data can be locked into a secure server and can’t be stolen at desktop level

Flexible connectivity options for querying, reporting and analyzing

Clients can update database from PC, Web Browser or App

Con’s

Specialist skillset required, or a lot of time invested for self-training

Structured data sets take time to set up

Common issues attributed to spreadsheet use.

Some formats have a row limitation of 65k rows, this came to light recently when the UK government tries to record COVID cases in a spreadsheet and got it drastically wrong.

As people can’t amend the same spreadsheet at the same time, clone copies are created and often confusion then ensues as one cannot tell where the latest data is or a master spreadsheet has been consolidated without error.

Sorting errors – it is very easy to sort a single column with our sorting the whole rows, this effectively mixes up data randomly.

As spreadsheets get bigger they also get slower and if you save your data and overwrite the same file you will lose your data if that save is interrupted for any reason.

Differences

People see Spreadsheets as Database alternatives as Spreadsheets contain tables and rows, with each column being a separate data field. However that is where the similarity ends. Databases normally have multiple tables all related together. The data is manipulated and controlled by the database client software where as spreadsheet data is manipulated simply by the users keyboard.

Databases are more common than most people realize. Nearly every system, even a company accounts system uses a database as its data engine.  Such systems use tables with relationships, for example items ordered belong to a master order record. Each order is then linked to a single customer record.

To set up such a structure of related data a database is required. This cannot be done robustly within the spreadsheet environment.

Spreadsheets can be easily set up for low volume casual datasets. However, these are single user (two people can’t change the same dataset easily at the same time) datasets and are only suitable for several hundred records.  If you need to store thousands of records and share them with simultaneous users, a database is recommended.

Conclusion

If you have thousands of records and/or the data is critical to your business use a database.

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The Repair Shop

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About 20 years ago one of our local councils created a fantastic job, time and project management system using Microsoft Access 97

At the time this was state of the art and connected to a SQL Server backend database and several third-party add-ins to provide functionality that was at the time not natively available in Microsoft Access it performed wonderfully.

This included functionality for creating PDF files emailing documents creating Excel spreadsheets and Word documents as well as sophisticated screen handling.

The system provided unparalleled facilities for the council to monitor costs at multiple levels across many different cost codes and across various geographical areas.  Additionally, the labour timesheets met all the needs of the council’s unique flexitime rules.

Another developer created the system and with Microsoft Access 97 the system ran well on Microsoft XP and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. At the time this was the best option available as packages to provide this detailed level of functionality simply did not exist.

After a number of years, the council had to upgrade the operating system and also the SQL Server database platform and this caused a number of issues. In addition, the third-party add-ins became unsupported and unable to run in the newer technology.

Other things were happening as well such as a gradual change in the way we name our files,  the system was built to accommodate short folder names and short simple file names.  There was now a need to use URLs on both network servers and the cloud to reference documents.  Additionally, the system screens were designed to use the small low resolution monitors of the day (1024 x 768) and now the system sits in a small cramped window cramped in a large desktop of available spare screen real estate

The system was successfully upgraded by the council sometime ago to access 2007 and this provided many more new years of life to the system.  However, when they introduced the Windows 7 operating systems, and 64 bit technologies as well as thin clients it was required to update the system to at least Microsoft Access 2010. This caused a specific problem as that version of Access no longer supported of the use of Microsoft SQL server Stored Procedures using the data providers built into the System.

Furthermore, as the system was originally built the “On Error Resume” setting the system would simply pass over runtime errors.  Skipping critical process points and providing variable results.

With the system becoming less reliable the council started creating spreadsheets to replace some of the functions and reports. This resulted in more staff time being wasted having to make up for the shortfalls in the system.

Just like the popular program The Repair Shop on the BBC we were called in to see what we could do to renovate this old system. We carefully worked through every screen and report and replaced all the original third-party routines with native functionality now available in the latest version of Microsoft Access.

We replaced the calls to all the store procedures using the views and hardcoded SQL. We updated the connectivity. We embedded libraries of the current Microsoft Office suite So we could automate Microsoft Office methods to create process and manipulate both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents.  We also re-wrote all the file handling subroutines so they could adapt to new file naming conventions.

To improve general performance and reliability we provided additional error-checking to ensure simple things like before you for going to open a file let’s see if it exists first and if it doesn’t let’s put out a sensible meaningful error message rather than just doing nothing.

Just like in the BBC TV programme The Repair Shop, we came to the point where we showed our clients the newly renovated system. They were absolutely delighted with it and thrilled to see a faster, fresher looking system with smarter screens virtually everything working first time and for the first time in many years reports coming out of the system automatically without the need to create spreadsheets saving a lot of time and stress.

After showing the clients the renovated legacy system that day I sat down at home and watched the an expert in The Repair Shop renovate an old penny arcade game taking it all to bits applying a lot of love and care to every single part and then rebuilding it all bit by bit.  It’s at that point I realised we just did that in software :-)

PS we also create new state of the art database systems for running on PC’s, mobile devices and browsers.

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Why you can’t rely on Spreadsheets

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News broke on the weekend of 16,000 COVID-19 cases being missed due to an IT glitch, pretty serious right? As I’m sure many of you are aware, IT glitches are part and parcel of working in an industry that relies so heavily on data input. Anything from updates to network dropouts, these are all pretty common glitches that we all face on a weekly/monthly basis. Losing a couple of files may not be as important as 16,000 Coronavirus cases being missed but it’s still pretty annoying.

Some of you reading this may be wondering “well what has the government losing 16,000 cases got to do with spreadsheet reliability?” The answer: – the positive results are kept in a spreadsheet meaning those 16,000 positive cases were missed because an Excel spreadsheet had reached its maximum capacity and had not updated. According to the Daily Mail, the reason behind 16,000 people not knowing they’d tested positive for COVID-19 and potentially passing the virus on to many others, is because the lab in question is still using spreadsheets to house their data. Again, pretty serious.

Surely the Government have now realised the need for a more secure way of tracking and tracing positive COVID-19 tests? You’d like to think so, but no. In the same Daily Mail article, they quote “The technical issue has now been resolved by splitting the Excel files into batches”. This opens up a whole new worry as not only is the data STILL being stored in an unreliable spreadsheet, there are now batches of spreadsheets that again could easily become a victim of an unsuspected “IT Glitch”!

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Where do paper forms stand in 2020?

I just had to complete a long paper form in handwriting for an insurance
claim. Not only does this seem old fashioned, I realised how much has my handwriting deteriorated nophoto-1521791055366-0d553872125fw that everything is electronic.

I was so embarrassed about my handwriting, I had to put a post-it note on the
form with my phone number asking them to call me if they couldn’t read
anything.

Would it not have been so much simpler if this company would’ve just been
able to email me a link to fill the form in electronically via a web
browser? I could’ve easily corrected any errors, double checked it, printed
a copy for my own purposes and sent it off.

The form would then arrive electronically in the offices instantly with no
need for the information to be re-entered manually. The form could also
ensure that simple errors are correct it prior to the form being sent back.

Are you still asking your clients/suppliers to fill-in paper forms?

If so contact us directly to find out how cost-effective and straight-forward it is
to collect data electronically and put it straight into a company database!

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How Workplace Automation Can Change Your Business

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Machines and revolutionary computer programs are changing the future of work for the better. Workplace automation is allowing companies to operate more productively and efficiently, creating more time for staff members to work on other tasks.

Businesses that don’t use digital means for data management are starting to notice that they are falling behind. In this article, we will try to inspire you to implement these solutions into your existing business processes.

What is Workplace Automation?

Workplace automation is essentially a large network of systems which work together in order to create automated workflows. These systems can then be used to make repetitive tasks happen without the need for a physical person to be present.

Data is collected within these workflows, then processed and stored in order to share with the rest of a team. If you’re a business owner who still needs to hire staff to run mundane tasks, you aren’t achieving the best work efficiency possible. The right Automated System saves time and money, as it performs tasks without the need for any human intervention.

Staff Accessibility

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The smartest automation systems can prevent your staff from having to dig through massive amounts of data to find the important information you need.

Automated Data Processing systems are a breath of fresh air for those who seek to break down limitations found in older database systems. Our database systems, for example, can be made to run on one or a combination of platforms:

  • PC Desktop
  • MAC
  • Mobile Devices
  • Web Browsers

This allows for a more accessible approach to data processing, as managing these systems could be done from anywhere at any given time. This helps to reduce possible downtime and gives your employees more time for other things, minimising any wasted time.

Improving Team Spirit

All of the most productive workforces in the world achieve success by securing a positive atmosphere. If you can maintain high staff retention by removing tasks like data inputting, people will feel more engaged and motivated.

You must make sure that you can balance out automated tasks, however. Automating the wrong areas could cause your team to feel like their job roles are at risk (see more in our blog Automation will not destroy jobs). Employee productivity should always be at the forefront for both employers and staff. Improving efficiency can help to keep workers performing at their best in deadlines, which is why automation is a useful tool for any company.

HR Automation

HR team in meeting discussing automated systems for business efficiency

Your Human Resources department is a good example of an area which deals with huge amounts of administrative tasks. These tasks are where automated systems can thrive in improving business efficiency and accuracy. Some of these processes might include:

  • Timesheets
  • Holiday Records
  • Employee Data Management
  • Payrolls

Removing as much repetitive administration as possible can give Human Resources the time to focus on providing proper training and measuring staff production. Automation tools can help to relieve this.

Feeling Inspired?

The possibilities that workplace automation offers are endless – hopefully we’ve managed to inspire you to start using automated processes. Remember that software automation can be a working process. Software developers around the world are constantly creating unique ways to use these systems, changing business models for the better.

Contact us or Enquire to schedule a free of charge consultation. We’re here to help to improve business efficiency and ensure that your business is effective as you move forward.

 

Growing your business: Efficiency vs Effectiveness

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In our minds, a business is moving in one of two directions; either forwards or backwards.

The urge to grow a business helps to ensure increased strength and protection against events beyond the control of company leaders. In theory, the more diverse and evolved an organisation is, the greater likelihood is that it will not just survive any number of unforeseen events, but will thrive ‘no matter what’.

To develop a strong business, we’ll consider efficiency, and effectiveness.

By efficiency, we simply mean to do things in the best possible way to ensure consistent and quick results.

By effectiveness, we mean executing actions that will deliver the results you want.

Efficiency is vital when it comes to the overall profitability of a business. Effectiveness is vital to ensure growth. As business owners, we’re always searching for ways to increase profitability. Best practice dictates that we document all processes and systems, and work closely with teams to come up with new ideas. For years, businesses have worked with us to do exactly that.

Computerisation acts as the additional support team to implement new systems and ways of working that will drive your business forward.

Often, we encounter businesses that have built a good level of efficiency around a process that actually should have been removed altogether. You want a plan to help improve how your people work together on the same information set on excel? We say, stop working with excel wherever possible and move activity onto a shared custom database.

HOW WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU WORK TO ENSURE EFFICIENCY:

A great way to ensure maximum efficiency is to evaluate all processes and systems. Employees can be a great help with this. Engage your team to start to document, measure, and evaluate every critical process in your organisation. As you become more efficient you will discover new capacity for production and profitability.

Remember that a truly efficient employee is one that is supported with proper automation so they’re free to dedicate brain power where it will really pay off. Proper process management will help to ensure that anything that can be improved is clear to see. Inefficient processes will have nowhere to hide when a business shows proper commitment to identifying them.

HOW TO IMPROVE BUSINESS EFFECTIVENESS

The best way to improve effectiveness is for company leaders to consistently take the time to evaluate, plan, and focus the wider team on the overall goals of the business. An effective employee is one that has a clear understanding of the wider goals of a business, and understands their place to support those goals.

How efficient or effective is your business?

What are you doing to improve efficiency? What are you doing to improve effectiveness? By freeing up resources through automation, you can put more minds to work on achieving your company’s goals.

Contact us to schedule a no-obligation consultation help improve business efficiency to ensure that your business is effective as you move forward.

No, Automation Will Not Destroy Jobs.

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Automation is happening in nearly every area of industry. For many, this creates concern that there will be a massive reduction in employment as machines and automated processes take over.

What people often forget is that automation of manual tasks has been carried out for centuries, and as companies reach a ‘new normal’ of efficiency, business leaders choose to invest in people to take their product or service delivery to a new level.

Certainly over the last 150 years, many have predicted that automation is going to cause massive unemployment and render humans obsolete. We see claims by CEOs of major companies that the impact of AI and widespread automation will lead to the removal of people from the equation.

The key question is this: who are these processes being carried out for?

No matter how evolved AI becomes, the work done by it will be valued by how it drives revenue from consumers. If EVERY company has worked with a business like ours to automate as much as possible – then the competitive edge will still need to be found. This edge comes from the redeployment of people in new and innovative ways. Delivering a more attentive and personal level of service for example.

For the most part, automation in the last few hundred years took routine, monotonous, and physically dangerous or demanding tasks away from people. Despite the fact that a large amount of manufacturing was becoming automated, the number of workers grew, because the increase in productivity led to a decrease in the cost of cloth, making it more affordable for people to own several pieces of clothing, which then led to more demand and the need for… more workers.

So automation seems to have created more wealth and opportunity by increasing the productivity of humans. In the farming industry, farms produce more in less time due to automation – and there is still phenomenal demand for people in farming; demand that first world countries still struggle to meet.

Cash machines, word processors, auto cad software, self checkout machines and countless other innovations were all thought to be the harbinger of mass unemployment. The truth is that you refine automation and innovate to strengthen your company and reduce cost. This efficiency gives you the opportunity for people to do what they do best; give you the edge when working to build and grow.

To learn how automation can help your business, get in touch for a no-obligation consultation.

7 Important Reasons to Automate Business Processes

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7 Important Reasons to Automate Business Processes

We believe that great people make for a great business. Especially when they work hard, are easy to deal with and are efficient at what they do. Automated data can be the key to success in an increasingly competitive business world.

Great people, however are not, and will never be as quick, accurate or cost effective as an automated process. Having a great and effective workforce is still crucial to nearly all manufacturers for example, but when it comes to some of the more dangerous or lightning-fast processes… it’s a good idea for the machines and computers to take over.

In order to help your people do great things, we believe that you should bring in automation wherever it is practical to do so.

But why? What are the tangible business benefits of automation?

Businesses are increasingly required to carry out complex and labour-intensive tasks. We believe that by delivering automation, companies will gain a competitive edge and significant cost-reduction by automating as many manual processes as they can.

Below, we go into detail about what we believe are the seven key reasons for automation:

1. CONSISTENCY & QUALITY:

For your business to thrive, everything you deliver or create should be of the highest standard. Delivering high quality products and the best possible customer service results in happier, long-term customers.

Consistency:

If you automate customer service follow-up processes for example, customers will all receive the same level of service from your business in this area no matter when they join or who they’ve dealt with. This allows you to set an optimal process in place, and have peace of mind that the delivery of this experience is not at risk of someone having an ‘off day’ or subject to human error.

Quality:

Automation ensures that every action is performed identically – resulting in high quality, reliable results. Think about a key area of your business, and consider the wider benefit to you or your customers if you could guarantee uniform performance day in, day out.

A guarantee of quality and consistency coupled with time and efficiency savings allows you to innovate in other areas, building higher quality and more feature-filled products or services with minimal increase in production time or other costs.

2. TIME SAVING

Manual processes have to be performed in a consistent and linear way by humans – who can be prone to errors or are sometimes unable to consistently perform to an exact standard in the same way that a machine could. Time is money – so it’s wise to save time wherever possible by removing human intervention.

Automation tools could vastly reduce the number of tasks that would normally need to be carried out manually. The free time that you create can be used to do work that creates genuine value to your company. It really can’t be understated that removing menial or repetitive tasks can provide a giant boost to colleague morale, energy and motivation.

3. QUICK AND EASY VISIBILITY OF KEY METRICS

Continual success in business is dependant on building and implementing a superior strategy – based wherever possible on ‘data driven’ decision making.

Once you have an advantage, it’s crucial that you effectively monitor, evaluate and modify your strategy in real time – all of which requires you to act based on timely and accurate business data.

Automated systems are managed by workflows as you define them – which are consistently operated in an accurate way, and within your defined timeline.

Automation provides a wide range of benefits over manual systems that will give you the edge.

Whether you’ve opted to automate financial, billing, collections, sales or other data, all required key metrics can be recorded and reported on to provide you with the information you need as often as you need it.

4. A BOOST TO OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY

Efficiency by definition describes the extent to which time, effort and cost is effectively applied for the intended task or purpose.

Process automation reduces the time it takes to achieve a task, the effort required to undertake it and the cost of completing it successfully.

Automation not only ensures systems run smoothly and efficiently, but that errors are eliminated and that your best practices are constantly leveraged.

We obviously respect that people need to take time off for various reasons. It’s a great feeling to know that no matter who’s in the office, your automated tasks will continue to run and support your business. No sick leave or holidays required.

5. GOVERNANCE & RELIABILITY

The consistency of automated processes gives peace of mind that your business processes are operating effectively and that you can offer real reliability to your customers and maintain a competitive advantage.

The reliability of workflow automation ensures that processes essential for corporate governance are accurately carried out 100% of the time in accordance with set requirements.

6. IMPROVED TURNAROUND TIMES

Workflow automation allows companies to define and streamline their business processes. Eliminate unnecessary tasks and realign process steps to optimise the flow of information throughout your production, service, billing and collection departments.

This adjustment of processes distils operational performance and reduces the turnaround times for both staff and external customers. Reduced data entry will help you to deliver projects or tasks much more quickly. Time spent inputting data can be dedicated to more mentally challenging work.

7. COST REDUCTION

Manual tasks, given that they are performed one-at-a-time and at a slower rate than an automated task, will cost more. Automation allows you to accomplish more by utilising fewer resources. The advantages of automation are clear. It’s time to get in touch to discuss how we can help to automate key areas of your business.