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22 September 2012 Posted by 

Can automation software give your business an edge?

By Kate Hill

Partner, Deloitte Private

HOW can a private business with limited administrative staff improve the provision of quality, flexible business critical information without completely overhauling its existing operating and reporting model?


Large public companies partially resolve this issue through the purchase or development of a large data warehouse system or by outsourcing the work to a lower cost environment.
This option is rarely open to smaller, private businesses. Data warehouse software and development can be capital intensive and requires significant ongoing maintenance to remain effective and relevant.
Additional staff are required; existing staff need to develop new skills and the interim solution still requires further configuration to provide meaningful data and reports.
A cost effective alternative is to automate existing processes, in order to help existing staff become more effective at using familiar tools they already employ, such as a spreadsheet.
A great example is the automation of reports that are produced for management, clients or government and regulatory bodies and then enhancing the report output to communicate key messages and business trends.
To be more useful, the reports that are produced need to be forward-looking, draw out information on trends and present that information in a readily consumed fashion.
This may include the production of a single page showing key performance indicators and highlighting numbers that have moved out of predetermined ranges — or more impressively in a graphical format, in recognition of Frederick R. Barnard’s adage that a “picture is worth a thousand words”.
The automation of reporting processes can be accomplished in a few ways. One method is to develop macros within spreadsheet software that automates the work normally undertaken in a manual fashion.
However, macros can quickly become complex and difficult to understand and maintain. Many spreadsheet users do not have the skills to develop macros or maintain them and if they do the business quickly develops a dependency on these individuals.
An alternative approach is to use one of the newer technologies that have recently emerged to provide automation of spreadsheet-based and other processes in a simpler and more easily understood manner.
Such tools include innovative web-based process automation systems, such as Solvexia. These solutions are offered on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis with a monthly per user fee.
Such tools enable users to build their processes in a graphical fashion – almost like creating an information production line using pre-built data manipulation robots.
Such SaaS based tools have the added advantages of not requiring programming skills, automatically documenting processes, enabling communication via email and SMS and the ability to control access rights.
They also provide a complete audit trail of all changes made to the process and the underlying data files. The days of agonising over specifications for a lengthy, uncertain capital project will be over.
These web-based process automated systems typically set up automated processes in a few days. Once established, the process can be run as frequently as required and normally only takes a few minutes to complete, thereby cutting hours or even days from the traditional series of manual tasks.
The technology can also utilise and combine data from multiple data sources such as extracts from a general ledger, SQL databases, Excel workbooks and text files. No core systems within the company need to be replaced.
Using the latest automation software not only saves time and money but can also give your business a considerable competitive advantage by highlighting the fundamental metrics behind the results, in ways that would previously not have been possible without considerable investment.
Contact Kate Hill at 02 9840 7049 or email khill@deloitte.com.au


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.