The Secret to Survival in this Economic Downturn

Could automation be the answer to business survival in an economy slowed by the coronavirus pandemic? As the world has adjusted to the health threat of the novel coronavirus during 2020, we’re seeing far-reaching consequences. From stay-at-home orders resulting in a surge in remote workers to the rising mental health crisis resulting from isolation and restricted activities, we’re all facing a different day-to-day experience than we expected at the year’s outset.

Adding to our anxieties, the government shutdown of various businesses and industries combined with our decreased consumption has created a tenuous economic climate in which many businesses are struggling to stay viable. In difficult economies, business leaders must find new ways to generate revenues and reduce costs in order to protect their bottom line. As an information management reseller, you are uniquely positioned to protect your opportunity while also helping your customers to add value to their businesses as well through the automation of business processes. Even before COVID-19, analysts across the spectrum included process automation as a top business priority, and it remains a critical strategy for 2020.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is significant

The International Monetary Fund estimates the global economy will shrink 3% this year, representing the worst decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted U.S. unemployment above 11% in June. Though the outlook for recovery is strong (IMF expects 5.8% growth in 2021), companies that don’t survive the next six to eight months won’t be here to see it.

During a tough economy, businesses must look inward for ways to increase efficiencies that will reduce costs. These strategies can include redesigning jobs to optimize workforce costs, reducing spend on supplies, and streamlining business processes to eliminate wasted time. Additional financial strength can be found by exploring new sources of revenue, such as expanding product lines or finding new target markets. When combined, a more efficient business that also protects revenue has a better chance of maintaining a healthy balance sheet during seasons of decline.

What does this mean for you? Business processes are getting squeezed from both sides as a need to reduce costs juxtaposes an expectation of improved information security and faster results. In a BPO Media survey conducted after the COVID-19 crisis began, VARs who saw process improvement as the top priority among their customers had moved from 18% pre-pandemic to 43% post. According to your reseller peers, automation has become the number one priority for customers. This means businesses will continue to buy process automation technologies, despite economic concerns. It’s good news for you if you’re adding workflow or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to the scanning and document management services you already provide.

Process automation makes businesses more efficient and reduces their cost of doing business, so it’ll be an important strategy for business survival over the next year or so.Click To Tweet

Find new ways to add value for customers

Business inefficiencies have been highlighted by the rapid transition to remote work. In an office, documents are frequently passed hand-to-hand or desk-to-desk, which is easy because we’re physically close to one another. When so many offices emptied due to COVID-19 this spring, employees could no longer pass documents back and forth, resulting in a need to automate their transmission. Some organizations turned to email to share documents. Though commonly used, email can proliferate document versions, and it poses security risks for sensitive information. Here’s where you can step in with workflow and RPA technologies to assist companies with post-pandemic priorities such as designing a contactless customer experience and building digital sales interactions in place of activities that used to require person-to-person interaction.

Process automation makes businesses more efficient and reduces their cost of doing business, so it’ll be an important strategy for business survival over the next year or so. Companies are interested, because difficulty accessing information securely—especially when workers are not in the office—is a significant problem. IDC explains that the average knowledge worker spends about 25% of their time managing information, yet we only find what we need 56% of the time. More than 90% of workers believe quick access to up-to-date documents would improve their productivity.

Thanks to the recent spotlight on process inefficiencies, the market for process automation technologies is expected to demonstrate strong ongoing growth. MarketsandMarkets estimates it to grow from $6.8 billion in 2018 to $12.6 billion by 2023.

To get you thinking about how process automation might help your business or customers, let’s take a look at two examples.

1. Cooperative Educational Services (CES) is a cooperative purchasing agency in New Mexico. A few years ago, during a digitization process for their records, they realized the flexibility that automating document flow through purchasing and billing processes would offer them. This conversion to automated processes allowed CES to shift workers home overnight when the New Mexico governor imposed a stay-at-home order in response to COVID-19. Remote access and automation simplify approvals and customer service for CES employees, allowing them to keep $5-8 million of goods flowing from vendors to educational institutions during the pandemic.

2. Real Property Management Vancouver (RPMV) is a property management company that oversees both residential and commercial properties. Electronic forms and process automation enabled them to convert to digital owner packets. Now owners complete forms online and information flows through processes electronically to setup and complete property rentals. Overall, it’s reduced operational costs for RPMV and boosted customer satisfaction for property owners and renters.

Ensure your success

As you’re helping customers reduce process inefficiencies and streamline business costs, you can open new markets for your own business boosting your opportunities to thrive during this economic season. Adding workflow and RPA technologies to your product lineup allows you to compete effectively for larger, more complex deals. Often the solution to a business process problem includes the imaging, information storage and retrieval, and collaboration technologies you’re familiar with in addition to workflow, RPA, and forms processing technologies that may be new to you. To shorten your learning curve, focus on common business processes such as hiring and onboarding new employees for human resources and invoice processing for accounts payable.

The following examples of resellers who added process optimization to their product lineup should give you a framework for doing the same at your business.

1. Document Imaging of the Southwest (DISW) is a reseller based in New Mexico with more than 15 years of experience delivering scanning services and document management. They have seen increased interest from their customer base in automating common manual tasks such as data entry and invoice processing. Since adding these technologies to their offerings, they’ve seen larger deals that close more quickly, because the customer expects higher ROI from their projects. It’s helping their business and customer base stay strong despite the pandemic.

2. When Bruce Randall purchased DocuDriven in 2015, he recognized that the best chance for the company to continue to grow would be to make the shift from just digitization to the process automation that customers were demanding. They’ve developed expertise in numerous common business processes, allowing them to customize solutions to more unique process concerns. Since adding automation to their core competencies, they’ve expanded their customer base and seen strong business growth.

Though financial gurus expect the economy to recover in 2021, navigating the next several months could be confusing. Your prospects are turning to process automation as a key strategy to improve their efficiencies and reduce costs. Plus, automation technologies and sales are closely related to the digitization and document management solutions you already offer. Take advantage of the process automation boom to stabilize your own business and increase the value you’re bringing your customers during this difficult economy. 

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Christina Robbins

Christina Robbins

Christina Robbins is marketing manager at Digitech Systems LLC, which enables businesses of any size to more effectively and securely manage, retrieve and store corporate information of any kind using either PaperVision Enterprise content management (ECM) software or the world’s most trusted cloud-based ECM service, ImageSilo.