How to Grow Your Business With Intelligent Automation

Staying relevant and cutting edge in the business world is a struggle for businesses in any industry. Technology, including intelligent automation, is continually evolving. Businesses must change with it in order to be competitive and successful in our current macroeconomic world. The use of intelligent automation tools can help grow your business and improve how your business operates, reducing your operating costs while improving your production time.

Reducing Human Error

One of the most important benefits that intelligent automation brings to any business is the reduction of human error in the work place. People are naturally affected by their daily lives and outside influences. If a worker, for example, came into work tired or unwell, his or her job performance will likely suffer, the risk of human error becoming greater. Automation software cannot be affected by time of day, mood, lack of sleep, etc., allowing it to be completely consistent in performing the task it was programmed to do.

Additionally, humans need to be taught new tasks and require practice in order to master them, robotic process automation can be updated and perform the tasks instantly.

In terms of business benefits, utilizing intelligent automation tools ensures performance consistency that will ultimately improve the overall quality of work, also allowing human workers to focus on higher priority and more important issues that require critical thinking.

Keeping Jobs Local

Employers have often ventured overseas to hire workers in other countries who can then perform basic tasks at a reduced wage, when compared to local employees. The bottom line can be better for these employers in the short-term, though working with outsourced employees means sending money overseas and trying to manage workers on another continent. Typically, over the long-term businesses that outsource overseas can experience unforeseen issues and costs due to the complications with depending on a foreign workforce.

With outsourced jobs being performed by intelligent automation tools businesses can focus on hiring skilled workers from the local market for the upper levels of the workforce.

Return on Investment

Perhaps the most intimidating factor in implementing intelligent automation within your business is the upfront cost. Putting money into something new is not a leap everyone wants to make. Intelligent automation, however, is not a gamble. Research shows that companies who use are able to automate around half of their tasks, increasing process time by fifty percent. Completing tasks more quickly means companies can take on more tasks without spending additional time on them. Depending on the industry, having jobs done quickly can mean increased revenue.

If performing redundant tasks quickly and accurately will not improve your company’s revenue, just simply utilizing automation tools certainly will. Such tools do not need pay, employee benefits, and can work overtime, the return of investment becomes apparent when considering all the expenses intelligent automation does not require.

Intelligent automation tools offer businesses unparalleled levels of productivity, efficiency, and value. Companies will want to avoid the risk of falling behind by adapting with the modern technology, the advantages of utilizing intelligent automation tools can lead companies to developing new business strategies they could have never even possibly conceived of previously.

 

5 Ways to Harness App Development For Your Business

According to worldwide research conducted by Accenture Mobility in 2015, the majority of top executives in all the key industries found apps to be critical to their business-especially in light of the digital eco-sphere that many corporations are building around customer experience and engagement.

Of course, today, app technology is commonly baked into the entire customer experience from significant product innovators like Tesla to everyday service providers such as utility companies. For many of us, app tech has been part of our daily lives going past ten years now. Most importantly, apps are often the way many customers prefer to engage today.

The Cost of App Development

Because it is so widespread, it is typical to make the mistake of thinking app technology is easy-which is pure fantasy-at least for enterprise applications that are making a difference in customer experience and engagement.

For example, the real cost of an app lies in the custom engineering required to make it do all those wonderful things that appear real-time on our screens. Many potential app buyers are shocked to learn that the average cost of a mobile app is $270,000, according to a recent survey, and development can take from seven months to more than a year.

But I have good news for SMBs. If you are determined to deliver a better customer experience, don’t let the high cost of typical app development faze you! If you are a small business enterprise, many useful apps can be developed for under $50K.

5 App Development Applications for SMBs

Here are some important points that your business needs to consider before discounting mobile app technology as a waste of capital. According to Mehul Rajput, CEO of Mindinventory, these are the 5 top mobile applications that SMBs can use internally and externally to enhance both customer and employee experience, convenience, loyalty, profitability, and productivity. Let’s see if you can identify with any of them.

1. Customer Engagement (it’s about instant access to what’s important)

Mobile apps let customers (and employees) get access to needed and often secured information at their fingertips when and where they want it. As a result of reaching your customer anytime, anywhere, and on their terms, you build goodwill right into the experience. This kind of positive experience with your brand often leads to peer-to-peer recommendations and possibly a positive review. Since peer review and recommendation is the number one source for gaining a loyal customer across all demographics, this might be a more significant benefit than you had ever imagined. Most of all, app engagement doesn’t have to be flashy to be valued. Even more mundane tasks like account management or remote management of various assets can score big with clients.

2. Promoting Products, Services & Discounts

With the use of a mobile app specific to your business, you can provide customers with accurate information about products or services, discount offers, etc., or entice them with personalized promotions that increase relevancy. If you are a retailer, an app installed on a smartphone opens the door to another possibility, too. It makes it possible to take advantage of in-store beacons that can trigger on-the-spot specials, announce events or contests, or maybe just as important, provide more personalization to the shopping or visitor experience.

3. Facilitate Sales

You can also promote business sales by integrating a mobile shopping cart. If you already sell your products and services online, then a mobile app is likely your next best step to increasing sales, particularly as it provides your customers the flexibility and convenience to do things they would have otherwise done sitting at their desks. Undoubtedly this benefits retail, but B2B buyers also have similar needs when away from the office at a remote job location or wherever.

4. Customer Service

Mobile applications provide customers a simple yet efficient way to get in touch with your business as you can include detailed information about your company, products & services, hours and direct contact through texting, phone, or email. Even more, request feedback and suggestions from your customers by merely inserting polls and surveys.

5. Enhanced Customer Experience

Businesses can make the best use of apps like never before by personalizing some functions such as messaging, photo sharing, loyalty programs and push notifications that connect us to things we want or need to know.

Of course, there are many factors that can disrupt thriving businesses-even well established one with celebrated business models. However, most are not that relevant to small business concerns. Nevertheless, small businesses aren’t immune to disruption.

We considered a top disruptive technology that is the most important for SMBs to consider now and in the near future. Mobile apps can be a significant business tool for all kinds of reasons, and you may have an idea even now that can set your business apart. If so, share it with a trusted app developer who can give a “ballpark” estimate to turn your idea into reality. Then you can weigh its benefits to projected cost to see if it’s worth pursuing.

The big guys like Amazon cannot easily disrupt your business if your business is local and offers more than a shippable commodity. And when you combine your local business with the omnipresence of an app and all of the convenience that it provides customers, your business can give the best in customer service just like the big guys.

Maybe it’s time to brainstorm some ideas with a developer? An app unique to your brand could be just the edge you need to equalize the competition and propel your business forward.

 

Businesses Pursuing New Product Development

With the aftermath of globalization, companies are carefully thinking about the best ways to extend their product and service offering. Thus, product development strategy is critical for their success. Yet, many companies are in defensive mode and merely want to maintain the position in the market place.

However, staying in a holding position is a definite way for companies to be left behind. Innovative thinking that allows for product/service growth is a too sure way for sustainable success. In today’s discussion, we will explore the importance of product development for the growth of businesses, especially in a competitive market.

Launching into new product offerings is not easy. According to one market research, approximately 75% of consumer-packaged goods and retail products fail to earn even $7.5 million during their first year. Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton Christensen, who is the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation, suggests that the failure rate of new products may actually be as high as 95%. Product failure rates relate to the number of products that are launched commercially but fail.

Geoffrey A. Moore, the author of Crossing the Chasm, maintains the challenges of product deployment: “… the less successful product is often arguably superior. No content to slink off the stage without some revenge, this sullen and resentful crew casts about among themselves to find a scapegoat, and whom do they light upon? With unfailing consistency and unerring accuracy, all fingers point to-the vice president of marketing. It is marketing’s fault!” Thus, new product development is a risky proposition to senior executives making these critical positions as well as the organization as a whole.

Businesses that want sustainable growth must develop new product and services often and consistently. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, “In an economy of rapid change, continuous innovation is a necessity. Highly innovative firms are able to identify and quickly seize new market opportunities.”

In taking any actions on new product development, businesses should think strategically about their product development. Alexander Chernev, the author of Strategic Marketing Management, further argues that managing growth is the most preferred route to profitability compared to just cutting cost.

He outlines four key issues in managing growth, which include: (a) gaining and defending a market position, (b) managing sales growth, (c) new product development, and (d) product-line management. Chernev maintains, “New products and services are the keys to sustainable growth; they enable companies to gain and sustain their market position by taking advantage of the changes in the market to create superior customer value.”

With that said, new product development meaning having the ability to take a product or service idea and convert it into a tangible offering that customers want. The following are the steps that more products undergo for market consumption: (a) idea generation, (b) concept development, (c) business analysis, (d) product development, (e) market testing, and (f) business deployment.

The Ansoff Matrix is a strategic tool for product development, consisting of market penetration, market development, product development, and diversification. In market penetration strategy, organizations seek to grow using its existing product offerings in existing markets. With this strategy in mind, organizations try to increase market share. In a market development strategy, companies try to expand into new markets like new buyers using their existing offerings. In product development strategy, businesses seek to create new products and services targeted at its existing buyers.

In a diversification strategy, an organization tries to grow its market share by introducing new product offerings while at the same time entering a new market. Diversification is the most-risky approach due to simultaneous making new changes (new product, new market). Kotler and Keller further maintain the difficulty of sustainable product success: “It is increasingly difficult to identify blockbuster products that will transform a market, but continuous innovation can force competitors to play catch-up.” The concept sounds easy. However, it is riddled with problems.

Without a doubt, many companies know that product development is a risky business. Although many consumers will proudly proclaim the success of many innovative products like Apple and Google, these same buyers are not aware of the numerous product launch failures in this country. In our discussion, I demonstrated the importance of product development for the growth of businesses, especially in a competitive market. Failures often lead to innovation.

American great inventor, Thomas Edison, had his own share of failures, but learned how to innovate because of them: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Likewise, today’s businesses can also achieve success if they understand how to deploy their products and services to the marketplace strategically. Although there is enormous danger in failure, there is also the opportunity of unforeseen growth. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

Business Intelligence

1. Companies are aggressively moving to computerized support of their organizations. Can you list at least 2 of the factors driving this move?

• Speed and efficiency.
• Legibility and accuracy.
• Self-sufficiency.
• Cheaper research and development.

2. The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) is:

BI is an umbrella term that combines architecture, tools, databases, analytical tools, applications and methodologies.

What does “umbrella” term mean?

The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) encompasses various software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. The discipline entails many related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting

3. Sometime we say that the term Business Intelligence (BI) is “context free”. What does this mean?

The term business intelligence is “context free” in the sense that the expression means different things to different people. For this reason, we have seen researchers advancing different definitions for business intelligence.

4. Describe what a data warehouse is and how it might differ from a traditional database used for transaction processing.

A data warehouse is a central repository for corporate data and information that an organization derives transaction data, operational systems and external data sources. Although these two may look like they are similar, they exhibit several differences with regard to usage pattern, architecture as well as technology. A traditional database is based on operational processing while a data warehouse is based on informational processing.

A data warehouse focuses on storage, filtering, retrieval and analysis of voluminous information.

A traditional database is used for day to day operations while a data warehouse is used for long-term informational requirements.

5. What is the difference between a data warehouse and a data mart?

A data mart is a subset of a data warehouse that relates to specific business line. Data marts are managed by a specific department within an organization. On the other hand, a data warehouse involves multiple subject areas and assembles detailed information from multiple source systems.

6. What is meant by “Big Data”?

Big data refers to a huge volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data from which viable information can be extracted. This kind of data is so voluminous that it cannot be processed using outmoded database and software techniques. Big data helps organizations to improve their operations and be in a position to make quick and smart decisions.

7. Data mining methods are divided into supervised and unsupervised methods. What are these and how are they different?

Supervised data mining method has to do with the presentation of fully labeled data to a machine learning algorithm. On the other hand, unsupervised data mining methods conduct clustering. Data instances are divided into a number of groups.

Unsupervised data mining methods do not put emphasis on predetermined attributes. Moreover, it does not predict a target value. Instead, unsupervised data mining finds hidden structure and relation among data.

Supervised data mining methods are appropriate when there is a specific target value that I to be used to predict about data. The targets can have two or more possible outcomes, or even be a continuous numeric value.

Supervised data mining methods the classes are known in advance while in the other the groups or classes are not known in advance. In supervised data mining methods, data is assigned to be known before computation but in unsupervised learning Datasets are assigned to segments, without the clusters being known.

8. When we consider KPI’s (key performance indicators) we distinguish between driver KPI’s and outcome KPI’s. What is the difference between the two (give a couple of examples of each)

Key performance indicators provide a framework on which organizations can value their progress. Outcome KPIs which are also referred to as lagging indicators measure the output of previous activities. On the other hand, driver KPIs/leading indicators measure the activities that have a significant on outcome KPIs. Driver KPIs have a significant effect on outcome KPIs, but the reverse is not necessarily true.

9. A BSC (balanced scorecard) approach for BPM (business process management) is well-know and widely-used. Describe the strengths of a BSC approach.

BPM entails activities

BPM involves activities like automation, remodeling, monitoring, and analyzing and improving business processes.

Cost efficiency

This is one of the most palpable benefits of BPM approach. It cuts down on costs and increases revenue. BPM adds crucial value in the long run by allowing businesses to compete globally. BPM technology equips a business to switch gears and respond to changing business environment appropriately.

Agility

Change is inevitable in business and a business must be ready to undergo sudden changes at any time. BPM accords a business the flexibility of making changes at minimal costs.

Improved productivity

BPM automates several elements within regular workflows. Process improvements such as eliminations of drawbacks, elimination of redundant steps, and introduction of parallel processing are achieved through BPM. These process improvements allow employees to focus on other important activities of their business since the core support functions would have been handled.

Better visibility

Basically, BPM uses advanced software programs to facilitate the automation process. These programs enable process owners to keep abreast of their performance. Apart from guaranteeing transparency, BPM keep track of how processes work without the need of monitoring techniques and extensive labor.

 

Pushing Past the Fear in Business

Burning the ships

Have you ever been told to “burn the ships”? Probably not. However you would have heard the saying to “take the plunge” or “take a leap of faith”. To “burn the ships” is not new but I believe it resonates more today than ever before.

So where did ‘burning the ships’ come from?

In 1519 Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz (what we now know as Mexico) to overthrow the Aztecs and take hold of the vast treasures of Gold and Silver if they won. Cortes landed with only 600 men and they reportedly didn’t have any amour unlike their Aztec counterparts. Cortes demanded the ships be burnt. I imagine an army up in arms on the shores of Mexico looking at each other thinking their leader had turned into a madman. The idea was simple, creative, thought provoking and most of all – it worked. Cortes army had no way to retreat. No way to get back home if things didn’t go their way. This army was either going to be successful or go down fighting. There was no turning back here. The idea of having no other option spurred the army into a “grit” mindset that was so motivating that it was almost genius. The troops wanted to get home to their family and the only way that would happen would be from winning every battle they faced over the next two years. They won and now it is used as a great example of how people can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it and get rid of the exit strategy.

Fears in business…

Too often we get scared when the going gets tough. Too often we have a get out of jail free card. The “we could just leave/end it/not start it at all” mindset is the first of our doubts that come creeping in. Within no time some people have listened to their doubts and fears and the great conquest at hand becomes a project that never gets off the ground. In business CEO’s make decisions to change direction for financial and strategic reasons. That doesn’t mean they have taken the easy path to get back on those ships. It sometimes means that the consumer has spoken and the market for the product isn’t viable. I can think of many products that didn’t last long due to this. What about the products that were great that didn’t make it as it was “too hard” or the going got “tough”. Those products more than likely were replicated and then created by a business who didn’t listen to fears and had determination to succeed. Barriers and obstacles in business appear every day and it is those businesses that let go of fear and navigate through the obstacles, rather than turning back are the ones that should endure the test of time. Yes there are other external factors but the big one is grit and determination. How determined are you to make the business succeed?

Let’s talk about exit strategy…

Exit strategy – what is yours? How could you get out of this quite easily, what fears and doubts are you holding onto? If you have something that you want to work then I would suggest getting rid of the exit strategies, the plan B’s and anything that you can fall back on because until you do your mind will more than likely stop you from achieving the dreams you have. If there is no other way than to move forward, then and only then will your mind be free to ensure success.

Next time you take on a new project or a change in direction, have a think about what will stop you. Will you block out the fears and have the determination to burn the ships?

 

Innovation for Your Business

Disruptive innovation is term created by Clayton Christensen- a new invention or product that alters its market. It typically refers to technological advances that result in changes on the macro-scale, such as the digital camera that left Kodak’s traditional film cameras in the dust or the mass-produced automobile that completed revolutionized the transportation industry.

With each innovation, there is risk taken on by the company and disruption faced by the users. The companies promoting this new product do not know if it will succeed. They are challenging previously set norms and values and introducing an alternative way method that they hope will benefit the public. However, if it catches on, the users have to adjust to these developments and accept the new.

But not all innovation has to be on this large-scale. It could be small changes that you choose to implement within your company in order to become more efficient.

For your business, consider making changes to your business process. The business process is all the small parts that come together to accomplish the company’s goal. Therefore, think in terms of the options that you have or new combinations that would work well to enhance this overall chain.

What is the current order of steps? What areas are working well? What areas could work better? What areas could benefit from a change? If you have not analyzed this process in a while, it is important to take the time and do so now.

It could be time for a change because there may be new technology available or certain machinery that is no longer needed at all. There could be changes in your staff that need to be addressed as well.

This is not an exhaustive list but examples of innovation and change include:

  • Changing the order of steps
  • Including a new step
  • Deleting a step
  • Upgrading the technology

As with any innovative step though, the employees and employers will see a disruption on their side. The company is taking a risk and changing what has been working for a while and the employees may be unsure of how the changes will impact them. They will need time to become accustomed to these changes but do not let employee apprehension deter you away from change.

If you are planning to incorporate improvement in your business and you are not sure how you can get it off the ground with support from your employees, hiring a business consultant may help.