Using applications to automate routine tasks is more efficient than using manual tools. Yet most companies rely on manual tools, according to a ServiceNow survey. Eighty percent of the 915 surveyed managers reported that their companies still use manual tools and that those tools cause significant delays. On average, the managers said they spend two days every week using them to perform routine administrative tasks instead of pursuing their companies’ strategic goals. This drain on productivity is not limited to managers. It also affects other employees who use manual tools.

Automation can solve this problem by streamlining the way you do business. Here are five areas in which automation can save you and your employees some time:

1. Document Management

Using forms, policies, contracts, and other types of documents is a mainstay in business. Manually tracking, updating, and storing documents can be time-consuming, though. Plus, if you need to update a document that is in a file cabinet in a different office, getting the document can be a hassle.

To save time and hassle, you can use a document management solution to get all your documents into digital format and automate the processes you use to manage them. For example, if your staff often needs to update documents, you can have the document management software track all changes and send the updated documents through an approval process.

2. Appointment Scheduling

Setting up meetings might seem like a trivial task, but it eats away at your productivity a few minutes at a time. Appointment scheduling software can help you track and schedule meetings with colleagues and customers. Many of these programs synchronize with programs such as Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook.

More advanced appointment scheduling solutions offer additional functionality. For example, some provide online forms that customers can use to request or cancel appointments.

3. Fixed Asset Management

A common way to manage fixed assets is to use spreadsheets. For instance, business owners sometimes enter computer serial numbers, software license numbers, and other details about IT assets in spreadsheets. Manually tracking and updating assets is a tedious job that is often postponed or overlooked.

To make sure it gets done, you can use asset management software. These applications often use barcodes to track assets and automatically update their details. They can also notify you about upcoming events such as a software license that is about to expire or equipment that needs maintenance.

4. Human Resource Management

Small business owners can spend as much as 25 percent of their time handling employee-related paperwork, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration study. You can spend less time if you take advantage of human resource automation.

Employee self-service applications are an important part of automating human resource management. With a self-service application, your employees can update phone numbers, addresses, and other personal information on their own. Depending on the application, they might also be able to perform other tasks such as submitting vacation requests and changing benefit options.

A human resource automation solution can free up your time in other ways as well. For instance, you can use it to streamline your recruitment, hiring, and performance evaluation processes.

5. Inventory Management

Every business has inventory it needs to manage. Even service providers have office supplies they need to track.

Inventory management programs automatically track when inventory is received, used, transferred, and sold. Most programs also provide other time-saving tools, such as tools that create purchase orders, issue work orders, and manage shipping processes.

Besides saving you time, inventory management software can help you reduce costs. You will be better able to determine how much inventory you need to carry and when you need to reorder it. With this information, you can keep only the inventory you need in stock.

The Bottom Line

These five areas are only some of the automation possibilities. In many cases, taking advantage of automation tools does not require a large capital investment. There are many free tools. Plus, some automation solutions cover more than one area. For instance, solutions that automate human resource management often include an appointment scheduling tool. Your IT partner can help you find the best automated tools for your business.