Tired of Repeating Yourself? Automate it!
Everybody has their own threshold for repetition and sometimes it even varies depending on what is or needs to be repeated. It could be a song on the radio, a daily chore like dishes, or a data entry assignment at work. Luckily, there is an ever-expanding multitude of ways to avoid tedious occurrences. We could utilize a music app that offers fewer repeats, buy a dishwasher, or set up a tool that manages business processes. Not only are we liberated from boredom, but we can go on to different, more exciting areas! Sometimes, we just need to know what options are available.
Most software offers ways to avoid long processes. Windows, for example, gives you the fundamental shortcut: the desktop shortcut, which allows you to eliminate time-consuming folder navigation. A search engine is another example of a generic, widely-used shortcut. Both of those shortcuts are common and each is related to their own simple concept. They’ve become so familiar to us that we use them without really acknowledging the way they work or the time they truly save. On the other hand, the more specific the software is, the more specific the shortcut sometimes needs to be or can be.
Epicor ERP, for instance, allows its users to create both typical shortcuts, such as searches and favorites, and also slightly more specific shortcuts that allow users to mimic their everyday tasks. Specific shortcuts like these aim to streamline processes and improve customer responsiveness. And a company with that sort of organization and systematic multitasking will more easily achieve growth and profitability. How could a business that consistently automates long, monotonous procedures not improve? And even if you don’t use Epicor ERP, it is likely that whatever software you do use also has some capabilities similar to the four discussed below.
One common request from customers is to (1) set default values in fields. This is the perfect example of letting the software do the work. All it requires is a consistent plan; just specify which fields get set, what values they need, and when they need them. When the form opens, the system sees the settings for the default fields and fills them in for you quickly and seemingly effortlessly. The values can even be dependent on other fields. If customer ‘A’ orders 10 boxes of toner on the first of every month, set the order form to recognize the date and fill out the qty based on the customer name.
Another helpful idea is to let the program (2) prevent user entry errors by validating data, raising system exceptions, placing a hold, and/or displaying an informational message. If someone enters an excessive discount percent, the software can validate the data and then if needed, alert them. The alert could be configured to show in several different ways. It could change the background color of the field, disable the next field or fields, show them a message box, or even prevent them from saving the record. And just like the default values, the maximum discount percent could vary based on different factors. Different customers might have different maximum discounts. Beyond that, the size of the order could also affect the value of the maximum discount. Your software could take any of these details into account.
A lengthier task that can be pre-programmed is to automatically (3) send an email. A common requirement of any business activity is to inform others of certain benchmarks. You may need to routinely send a request to a vendor or update a client on the status of their requisition. Rather than open your email provider and type all of the information by hand, you could simply click a button that does it all for you. The button could be programmed to know who to send it to, what information to include, what subject heading to use, and who is sending it. You may even want the email to be sent by default, thereby even eliminating the time needed to click the button.
Similar to email, you may want your system to (4) automatically generate reports so that you can save the time it normally takes to view and/or print. Again, you would set some instructions in your software such as which report to use and when it would need to execute. For instance, you may want to automatically show the Job Traveler report when the user has marked the Job as ‘Traveler Ready to Print’. Or, if you know that the preview will not be necessary, it could skip that step and be sent to the printer by the one click it takes to mark it as ‘Traveler Ready to Print’.
Epicor ERP handles these automated tasks in an area of their software that they aptly call ‘Business Process Management (BPM)’. Each client who uses the software has different business requirements and therefore expects different behaviors from the software. BPM enables its users to modify the behavior of individual business objects and add human workflow elements such as email, tasks, and so on, to their software application. The moments spent establishing these business processes are returned to the user in abundance as the system activities are triggered exponentially. Again, if you do not use Epicor ERP, it would still be beneficial to explore the options for automation that your software does happen to provide.
Ultimately, as software is updated and enhanced, more and more of these automated processes will tend to become available. Keeping yourself flexible to the new possibilities will continue to make your day to day processes faster and faster. If you watch for tools that provide these capabilities and grab them when you can, you will soon be streamlining your tasks, experiencing the growth and profitability of an increasingly hands-free system, and enjoying the relief of swift, gloriously uncomplicated endeavors.
Kira Porter is a consultant with Meaden and Moore’s Business Solutions Group. She primarily works with clients in the manufacturing industry, assisting them with business process evaluation, and providing application training and implementation services of Enterprise Resource Planning Software Systems.