COVID-19 and Small Business Productivity

How Automation Can Remove Uncertainty During Times of Crisis

Written by Denise Langenegger

The pandemic has taught us so much about how we should be doing business but there’s a lot that is still uncertain. It’s not so much that we’ve been doing things wrong, it’s more about the fact that the way we do business pretty much changed overnight. We’re likely unable to go back to the way things were before but some of the automation tech that can help us adapt is already here. Many of us probably envisaged a more gradual adoption but the pandemic has changed that too.

Adopting automation technologies before the pandemic

Planning is a great thing but it can often veer into unproductive overthinking. Automation could be one of the technologies we’ve been guilty of overthinking until very recently. With most computer and communication technologies, there are early adopters and then there are people who hop on board after improvements have been made. An early user of automation is Houseace, the renovation company. Founder Jonny Sommers has made the usually lengthy renovation quoting process available in a few clicks with automatic estimated renovation calculations.

However, things have proved slightly different with tech that promises to reduce the need for manual human labour. There have been concerns regarding AI, robots and automation before the technology even existed. Machines that could be programmed to take over the world make great fodder for horror and sci-fi writers. Fortunately, automation doesn’t seem to be going down that path.

Predict the future, or adapt?

In reality, much of the reluctance concerning automation didn’t arise from a fear of some dystopian future ruled by robots it had more to do with a perception that machines might take away jobs and leave workers without.  Australian business Converga recently explained how they effectively used robotics to help redeploy Canon staff from manual, repetitive tasks to proactive integration with banking tasks.

Throughout history, new technologies have always disrupted the jobs market, usually for the better. New innovations have transformed existing roles and freed us up for more creative work and less grunt work.

There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of invention and that might just extend to adopting new technologies as well. COVID-19 has created a need to find ways of dealing with a largely unknowable future but do we try and predict that future or should we get ready to change quickly as the new normal unfolds?

Predicting the new normal with automation

Predicting the future reduces uncertainty. The better you get at prediction, the more successful you’re going to be in uncertain times. Work out what opportunities are likely to present themselves and get ready to exploit them.  Try to identify potential bumps in the road as well.

Automation can help with this approach by helping you gather and analyse large amounts of data from multiple sources. History isn’t really telling us much at the moment, so for analysis to work, you need to be able to work out what information means in real time. You need to forecast outcomes and trends. Companies don’t have the luxury of leisure when it comes to forecasting computers and automation tools generate forecasts instantly.

Adapting to the new normal with automation

You can try to cope with a changing environment by being the first to experiment and take advantage of new opportunities. You need to be quick to grab yourself a significant market share. In 2020, we seem headed for a new type of ordinary. We’ve seen many businesses pivot to an online model during lockdowns. This pivot hasn’t just come about due to gathering data on a global scale. It’s been more a case of keeping an eye on the neighbourhood and listening and talking to customers.

We’ve seen cafes and bars selling milk and groceries, restaurants switching to take-out menus, estate agents going virtual with viewings and speech therapists moving to online speech therapy. Various large and small companies have been busy converting from store-based operations to delivery models.

Businesses trying to cope with a changing environment can employ automation to improve order fulfilment and communications. Automation can even help you monitor and deal with online complaints and negative feedback. Worldwide lockdowns have pushed many small businesses to utilise the full reach of social media. Many businesses thriving during this pandemic are using WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms. They’re reassuring customers that they still have offerings and they’re maintaining their online visibility.

Automation and the post-pandemic normal

When conquering uncertainty, the more you can forget about the nuts and bolts, the better. The new normal means being ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Companies have to quickly outwit or copy the competition. The good news is that the tools we need to thrive are already here.

Is your business using automated processes? Share your experience, tips and best practices in the comments below.

 

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About the author

Denise Langenegger

Denise Langenegger is part of the team at Instasize – a content creating tool kit for anyone editing photos and online content on mobile.

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