Imagine you’re a business enjoying significant and rapid growth. 

On paper, that’s great. Growth means you’re doing something right, acquiring either new customers or a greater share of their wallet (or, indeed, both). You’ve got a product or service that meets a genuine need, and people are queuing up to buy off you. 

But growth is not all good. In fact, many businesses struggle when they start to expand rapidly. No matter what you’re selling when you grow you need to sell more of it. Everything that’s got you to that point has to scale: operations, services, supply, and people. 

Growing pains

This is where many come unstuck. They can’t scale quickly enough, or, if they do, it’s not at the same quality as before. They might take on lots of new people, but the need to get them operational means training is accelerated, perhaps not as efficient, and the level of service they provide dips. Growth becomes growing pains, as you struggle to meet increased demand for your offer. 

That’s assuming you can acquire the resources that allow you to scale. Take people, for example. Talent acquisition has always been hard, but between skills shortages and the Great Resignation, building teams is as challenging as it’s ever been. For a business positioned to grow, not having the right skills in place can hamper, if not outright derail, expansion plans. 

How do you overcome that? Depending on the skills you’re looking for, you may be able to automate. 

Filling gaps that can’t be closed

A caveat: this is not about employing robots to replace humans, but about filling gaps in your workforce that can’t be easily closed and augmenting those already in place. 

For example, if you’ve got a team of five highly trained specialists, finding additional members of staff is going to be challenging. You know that 20% of their time is spent on administration and fairly basic work that doesn’t call on any of their hard-earned skills but needs to be done accurately. 

So, you automate that 20%. Suddenly, you’ve freed up your team to spend more time on work that makes use of their talents and experience, without compromising the accuracy (improving it) of the administrative tasks. Basic maths suggests that you’ve effectively gained another member of the team, without needing to hire anyone. 

It’s fantastic in theory; does it work in reality? Yes, if implemented in a manner that suits the specific needs of the business in question. There are currently a lot of preconceptions about automation technologies such as robotic process automation, not all of them entirely false. 

Some of that thinking is becoming outdated, however: for example, that implementing intelligent automation requires significant upfront investment, or that you need to work with one of the Big Four or a major IT consultancy. 

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Challenging preconceptions

That’s not the case. More automation tools are being offered on an as-a-service basis, allowing companies to access the technology without having to put forward significant capital expenditure. 

This also means that they don’t need to dive into an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to automation; particularly for organisations with less resources, taking strategic small steps allow them to automate certain tools, realise the value, and then use the results to sell the benefits back to the business, increasing buy-in.  

It’s an approach that certainly appeals to sustainability certification and Net Zero programme Planet Mark. It helps businesses to achieve their sustainability goals by measuring continuous progress, engaging a business’s stakeholders and communicating their achievements externally. 

Given the current climate, it has unsurprisingly enjoyed significant growth. While this was great from a performance perspective, it did also threaten to put a strain on key parts of the business, such as the analyst team.

This high-performing, experienced group of individuals performed some of Planet Mark’s most complex tasks, but they also had a proportion of manual administration that took up time. To fix this, the business has decided to automate where possible. It undertook a discovery phase to work out the best approach for its team. 

In doing so, it found that its preconceived notions (that significant CAPEX was needed, it would have to engage a huge consultancy partner) have been challenged; so much so that it has led the company to undertake a review of its overall strategy to see how automating more of the business can be transformed, and accelerate its progress towards achieving its goals. 

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Continued progression

Planet Mark may only be at the beginning of its automation journey, but its experiences highlight how simply investigating automation in the right way can have an impact on the organisation. The learning is clear: don’t let preconceptions hold you back from unlocking the potential benefits of new innovation. 

Many organisations are looking to unlock growth. If they aren’t careful, they may regret what they wished for, so to overcome growing pains, they need to think differently. Technologies like automation could be the difference between failing to meet heightened expectations and scaling effectively to access continued progression.