I look at business process automation (BPA) as the implementation of software or a systemised method to remove steps in necessary routine tasks. These steps are often manual admin, considered tedious and not value-adding to a company.
If there is a viable alternative to these processes where there is a clear improvement in efficiency, then I would tend to agree.
WHERE ARE THE BENEFITS TO A DEALER?
A reduction in manual admin on these tasks is obviously a clear improvement, and the cost associated with these tasks is in turn reduced.
Quality and consistency are major benefits of introducing automation to a process. Manual intervention of any form is prone to error, whereas automation dictates that a process will be performed in an identical way every time.
One thing I certainly see as a regular barrier to customers using automation facilities, is an element of job preservation “if the system is doing all these tasks, what is left for me to do?”. I see automation as almost the opposite in this regard. Yes, there are cost savings to be made through automating processes, but those staff will then be available to focus their time on value-adding services such as enhancing the customer service experience, retention and also new business opportunities.
SO, LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT THE INDUSTRY IS ALREADY AUTOMATING
Data distribution through companies such as FusionPLUS is ensuring that there is a pipeline of rich content routinely distributed to the software houses.
EDI Trading is getting stronger in the industry with more and more suppliers understand that this functionality has to be part of their offering if serious about competing in the market.
This also includes the availability of regular Cost price updates sent directly to a dealer’s back office system.
We are certainly seeing the rapid emergence of automated CRM services through both dealers using back office system software as well as integration with third party applications through Dealer Group services to improve marketing activity.
Third party eCommerce-to-back office integration is generally common throughout dealers trading online.
HOW THIS RELATES TO PRIMA
For me, the most obvious area in which any dealer can achieve an immediate efficiency gain through EDI Trading. I believe any opportunity to engage in EDI trading with industry suppliers is a must, and I struggle to understand why any business would choose not to use it. There are currently 13 EDI suppliers available, with various levels of integration from purchasing, terms through to the invoicing.
The data catalogues which are released to our customers can also be dropped in to Prima, and you can choose from a list of operations for the system to carry out once the file has been imported in to the system.
A recent update introduced the fantastic facility for Automated Reporting, whereby you schedule the system to email or print custom reports. Great for publishing regular internal or customer analysis.
There is the Automated Sales and Purchasing facilities which can be customised to suit your business process. All the way from taking an order from your PrimaGO store, dropping in to the back office, then authorising the order and the system automatically processing the purchase orders, right down to just using the BacktoBack facility in Sales Order. This automation is totally customisable, and really needs some consultation time to establish the detail in which you choose to use it. Get it right, and it offers some excellent efficiency gains, as already used to great effect by many customers.
Invoicing through Prima Cloud offers further automation opportunities. By default I would encourage all customer invoices to be distributed by email. Prima Cloud can be set to invoice in the individual customer’s preferred layout automatically once the status of changes to Posted.
Although another topic(or several topics) in its own right, a standardised pricing structure can be considered an important level of automation, providing both clarity and consistency for the sales admin staff.
The Administration application is the default hub for setting up the majority of the automation set up options, so users responsible for making certain changes may need to take some training to get any functions set.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE USING AUTOMATION
It is fair to say that not every automated process available will suit each individual business, due to varying factors such as number of staff, wholesaler purchase agreements, ecommerce solution, reporting requirements etc.
Understanding business gains to any process change, should be measurable versus your current methods, so look to analyse what you are doing now against a review period once your automated processes are established in the business.
There will no doubt be a training element for the staff involved in the new processes, which may have a cost associated. I would strongly suggest speaking to us to establish first of all if an automation process is right for your business model, and a potential project plan for implementation.
It’s very important that the right people make the decisions on whether to use automation or not. Decisions on efficiency gains and redeployment of staff resource for the benefit of the business should be made by senior management.