By: markroshon

Data Automation Opportunities

Listen or read below.

Business Advantages with Custom Software Podcast ā€“ Episode 002

Carlee – Hi everybody. This is Carlee and you’re listening to the Business Advantages with Custom Software podcast, the show that helps businesses achieve more with software. I’m here with the president of Tornado Technologies, Mark Roshon, and the general manager, Tom Loya. Today’s topic is data automation opportunities. Mark, is this a specific type of data you’re referring to?

Mark – No Carlee, it’s just business data in general. And data is just so vital to all businesses. You use it when you’re placing an order or perhaps it’s the specs for a product that you’re manufacturing or data needed for a process or a service order. Maybe you’re using data to track something. Maybe it’s an accounting entry or a KPI which is a key performance indicator. There’s data all over the place business and usually you’re going from point A to point B with this data and there could be a lot of inefficiencies in doing that. And today what I want to do is just share with you three areas that you can look at to help spot or identify a process or a step that can easily be automated and thus help reduce these inefficiencies. So I’ll start in with number one which is human to machine. And by machine I mean a computer or a system or maybe an actual machine. But it’s human to machine. This is the most common and this would be things we’re all familiar with such as perhaps you have an employee that’s entering data into a computer. They’re placing an order with a vendor or maybe they’re making a reporting financial information to a government agency.

Mark – They’re entering this information. It’s manual data entry into some other system, let’s say. I want to say that there’s time spent with that. Obviously it does take time. But another component of automation is quality as well. For example, we had a client that every week they had someone would enter data for reporting obligation and they would enter this data taking several hours each week to enter it. But every once in a while there was a typo and there was a mistake. And although there was a lot of time spent just to get the data in, that mistake was actually probably more important. And Automating is very good at repetitive and doing it without errors. Another example of this human to machine would be instead of an employee, maybe it’s a customer and the customer is entering some form and then someone’s just going to have to turn around and enter that form into the computer where you could bypass that step, give the customer a portal so it goes directly into the system. An example of where you’re entering perhaps a form we’ve all seen this. Perhaps you’re at a doctor’s office and you’re entering a form only to have somebody else hand enter that into the system.

Mark – When you could have scanned a driver’s license or scanned something and had that information go right in and people might say, yeah, I know there’s systems out there. Someday we’ll buy that system. And that’s not your only option. There are things out there that are more automated, but you can perhaps automate your current systems. Automation is something where you can just take one part of it and just kind of add that to your existing software. Number two is just the opposite. It’s machine to human. Tom, we see this quite a bit with analytics, don’t we?

Tom – Yeah, we see it all the time with analytics where somebody’s trying to get information from an existing system to help them make better decisions. Those decisions might be made due to information that is on a dashboard somewhere or maybe some kind of KPI that’s calculated. People will often have to go to different systems to gather this KPI information. It takes a lot of time for them to maybe get this value and then let everybody know, hey, we just hit 30 sales for yesterday, as an example. It takes time to do that, when really the real benefit of a computer is that the computer could do that calculation and they could send the email to everybody. Maybe instead of an email, maybe it’s a toaster pop up on the bottom. Like if we get a new email, something comes up and says, you get a new email. Or maybe it’s a dashboard that has a list of scrolling orders, and it lets you know, what is the status of any specific order? Is it in shipping, or is it currently in progress, is it on hold? And it lets people be able to see on the fly.

Tom – Do I have to make a decision with this data? And the machine is able to tell that to the human instantly? Another example that I could think of is generating reports. How much of a pain in the butt is it for somebody to go to their system, maybe export data to a CSV file or Excel file? Then they have to go to another system, get all this information, try to assemble it into a nice looking report or file, and then they end up formatting it, printing it as a PDF, and then they distribute it. That’s a lot of work. That can really be made easier with a computer doing that. If you leverage the power of the computer, they could take care of these mundane human tasks, and instead, you let the computer get this Excel file or get the CSV file. You let the computer get the data from a different system. You let the computer put it all into one report, and then you let the computer email it to everybody. Your person ends up being a lot more productive because they’re not spending their time doing this. They let the computer do it, and everybody gets their information automatically.

Mark – Yeah, that’s a great example. Tom it’s amazing how many times we do see people spend a lot of time with a report that perhaps has to be done even daily, or certainly weekly that it takes so long to just get that periodic report out. The third item is then machine to machine. So one way of looking at is going from one business system to another. Businesses have many systems, perhaps like an accounting system, operating system, a CRM system, inventory, many different systems and they might have to go from one to the other. And this could take a lot of time if it’s not fully automated. For example, you might be placing an order in one system but then you need to have that order recorded in your accounting system so it could get properly invoiced. If you’re not doing this integrated from one to the other you’re almost certainly doing some form of double entry to try to get it from one to the other. And that can take a lot of time. And again, chance of mistakes.

Tom – I have a great example of that happening, Mark. We had a client who their office personnel was creating a report and they would enter in the data for the report, they would print it out and then they would give it to this person on the manufacturing floor. The person on the manufacturing floor would take that report and they would key in the information on that report into this machine. And the machine, what it did was cut pieces into a certain length. You can see there’s a lot of opportunity, there’s a lot of human touching there. One is when the person is taking the data, putting it into the report, there’s a lot of place for a human to type something wrong. And then the person who’s actually running the machine what we were able to do was instead of the humans entering that data at all we were able to make the computer create a file that has all that information in it so that the user didn’t have to generate that file at all. It happened automatically. And then at the machine, we made that machine be able to read that file. Now all of a sudden we had this automatic process going from that order all the way down to the machine.

Tom – And the only thing that needed to be done by the human was to give it its authorization, to give it its blessing that it could start actually cutting the file, cutting the information in that machine. This really eliminated any kind of human error that was in the entire process. Not only that, it also cut down on labor costs quite a bit because it used to take two people to run that machine. Now all of a sudden it only took one person. Because that one person didn’t have to spend all that time entering the data. They were able to just deal with the pieces and parts that that machine was generating.

Mark – Another great example. Tom. So those are our three areas to look at for improved efficiency with data automation. That would be human to machine, machine to human and machine to machine.

Carlee – Thanks, Mark. And Tom. Mark, do you have anything else you would like to share?

Mark – Yes Carlee, I have one final thought I just wanted to leave our listeners and that would be that you don’t have to be a software programmer or an engineer to spot these automations. You know your business processes and you’re going to know the inefficiencies. You’ll know where you can improve. It shouldn’t be a question “Can this be done?” but rather “When can we do it?” Ok Carlee, that should do it for today.

Carlee – Awesome, Mark! Well, thank you for listening to Business Advantages with Custom Software podcast. With your hosts, Mark Roshon and Tom Loya. We hope you enjoyed our insights on data automation opportunities. If you’re keen to learning more about custom software, join us next time when we’ll be talking about What if my programmer wins the lotto? As always you can head over to tornadosoft.com to learn more. That’s all for this episode, see you next time!

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app development, business, custom software, data, data automation, tornado technologies


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