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Automation is one of the most talked-about topics in the printing industry, and many PSPs already automate many processes. But what is the potential? And how do you identify where it makes sense to automate? 

By Morten B. Reitoft

As with any other investment, you should only automate if it makes sense. To make sense in a business, an investment must solve a problem, eliminate bottlenecks, improve a process, minimize errors, or have a positive (typically) financial impact on your business. This is, for most people, common sense, but how do you identify what processes to automate? 

Some years ago, I developed the following model to help identify automation potentials, so let's dig into it!

What is value?

'Value' is different from company to company, so the following are examples but covers most peoples perception of value:

- Increased profit
- Increased revenue
- Better customer experience/service
- Repetitive orders
- Fewer errors

The five examples above are, as mentioned, just examples, and I suggest that you do spend time on defining 'value' for you and your company.

When you have defined 'value,' it's time to determine the entire process from unknown potential, prospect, customer, pitch, offer, production, invoicing, and every step that defines the whole process in your company.

As you will soon realize, this often assembles a selling cycle and identifies management potentials.

Example: Prospect -> Customer -> Offer -> Production -> Administration

Turning prospects into customers is a marketing management challenge. Offers are a combination of sales- and production management. Production is production management and top management.

Administration is financial- and top management. Of course, the above is highly simplified, but I hope you get the idea?

But back to automation!
The entire process from Prospect to Administration is way more detailed than a selling cycle. Still, each of the segments above can lead to MANY different processes that can be evaluated!

Phone calls - meeting confirmations - delivery of files - proofing of files - invoicing - payment - registration of payment - etc.

The more detailed you define the processes, the more precise you understand your business and where it makes sense to automate.

The process line is now defined, and now you identify whether a process should be automated or kept manual to the values specified above. The height of the bar in either direction indicates how vital each process is. 

Be sure to evaluate each process to the defined value. Too many times, you experience automation that goes against the defined values. I understand that voice response systems can be smart from a cost-efficient perspective, but do you think customers find endless options valuable? Could the risk be that you lose customers because of voice response solutions? 

I find it necessary to define what value is - since most only think of value as the money saved, but there is more to it!

When finished identifying this, you should have a list of topics that you believe could be valuable to automate - and now the big job identifying the cost of achieving the automation starts.

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