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4 Business Process Automation Examples to Learn From

4 Business Process Automation Examples to Learn From

Few business owners would argue with the idea that process automation is a key factor in driving a business’ growth and sustainability. Automation of repetitive tasks, requiring little to no human intervention, can decrease ongoing business costs significantly.

So, a business owner should realistically be striving to automate as much of their business as possible, while still ensuring that human intervention is only present where absolutely necessary.

In this article, we are going to discuss some examples of businesses that have set themselves up to operate partially or fully automated online.

These businesses can be broken up into different categories, depending on their size and the product or services they’re offering. Each business has managed to leverage online automation techniques that have kept their overheads low and has allowed them to thrive in their respective niches.

Basic automation – Wayfair

Wayfair is a company in the US that sells furniture, home décor and a lot more. Their journey has been a long but successful one.

Their business model is one of drop shipping. Drop shipping is the practice of setting up a store front to sell a particular set of products and then delivering the products directly from a supplier to the customer. This removes the need for the drop shipper to warehouse an inventory of products. In turn, the process significantly reduces overheads.

Although Wayfair is now a large company with over one billion in revenue, they started off small. And in the early days it was the process of setting up some basic order fulfilment automation that freed up the founders’ time to set up over 200 online store fronts. These were eventually rolled into one.

These days it’s relatively easy to set up this type of basic automation in a sales process. Online platforms, such as Shopify or WooCommerce, typically offer the ability to extend your store front to automatically send out purchase orders to each supplier.

Leveraging the plugins which facilitate this automation, although not free, will save you in the long run.  Because extra free time will allow you to more easily prioritize business growth.  

Bespoke automation – Swiftype

Our next example steps things up a notch. It does this by utilising online third-party services to establish a more complex automation pipeline.

Our example company, Swiftype, is an online search service that provides businesses with a more effective way to search their online content and the content of their team members.

Swiftype already made use of two third-party tools for managing their own operations – Help Scout and Salesforce. Unfortunately, these two tools were not able to communicate with each other. To solve this problem, Swiftype needed a bespoke automation system that could bridge this gap. They decided to use Zapier, an online service that facilitates integrations, or connections, between disconnected online systems.

Tools such as Zapier allow business owners with no coding skills to hook up the application programming interfaces (APIs) of various online platforms. (Don’t know what an API is? Check out this article.)

 This means that one platform can, via Zapier, trigger an event in another system. In the case of Swiftype – Help Scout and Salesforce.

Some other examples of online platforms that help to facilitate business automation include:

  1. Sendgrid – for sending transactional emails.
  2. Slack – a chat program with a rich selection of chatbots.
  3. Hootsuite – allows the automation of social media.
  4. Hubspot – a CRM to manage customer information.

There are many other tools out there, but the most flexible are those with an API that can be leveraged to allow integrations between third-party services, just like in our Zapier example.

Software as a Service (SaaS) automation

The example SaaS product we’re looking at next is DocuSign.

DocuSign provides its customers with the ability to digitally sign documents online. DocuSign no doubt has a large development team maintaining the product. But this dev team is maintaining one code-base only, also ensuring that everything it does is fully automated and hands-free for the DocuSign team.

What this means is that onboarding new clients doesn’t add any overheads, which keeps costs low and makes the product scalable.

If a new customer signs up, they are given their very own DocuSign instance, running on the same code-base as every other customer.

This is one of the key characteristics of a SaaS product – one standard product, that can be rolled out automatically to any number of new customers.

DocuSign started off small, like Swiftype, but as they grew, they no longer needed to rely on third-party services such as Help Scout and Salesforce. As they grew, they brought the functionality inhouse to reduce costs.

Building your own, bespoke software is initially expensive, but in the long run, it’s more customisable, flexible and cost effective.

A good strategy is to leverage as many third-party services as possible when you’re starting out. Then, as your business grows, replace those third-party integrations with your own. This means that, over time, you can stop paying third-party platforms and instead keep the costs inhouse.

Next level automation

The likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure and Google Cloud Services have taken business automation to a whole new playing field. In our final example, we focus on the largest provider at the time of writing – AWS.

AWS provides the infrastructure and networking capabilities to businesses that exist either completely or partially online. They have automated the process, end-to-end, for any development team to quickly and easily spin up a new server to host a website or SaaS product.

A cloud-hosting provider such as AWS is a great example of what can happen when you place process automation at the forefront of your business model. Having automated the entire customer experience from the beginning, AWS is able to scale rapidly.

And in a new and growing industry such as cloud hosting, a venture like this will make the owners a lot of money. Just look at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is now over 150 billion! A lot of which has come from the AWS division.

Conclusion

For a business to grow efficiently, process automation should always be at the forefront of a business owner’s mind. With significantly more automation services available today than ever before, it is easier to ensure that your online business is scalable.

Tools such as Zapier bring together disjointed online platforms relatively easily. This will save you time and money in the reduced overheads incurred by maintaining multiple systems.

So, keep these examples in mind and hopefully they will help you in your endeavours to automate, optimise, and stay ahead of the competition.

Daniel Boterhoven

Director and Lead Dev @ViewportTech. I create cool #tech for the web, mobile and desktop.

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