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Creating a Goal-Oriented Plan for Your Sales
Order Automation Process

“What’s measured gets managed” Peter Drucker’s business management adage seems more relevant today than ever before

June 27, 2017

An abundance of unorganized data is every manager's nightmare. With consumer data and key performance indicators multiplying across the Internet, it is no surprise the success of your business relies heavily on keeping track of markets and trends to determine the best next move. The downside to the constant influx of information is that the organizational work needed to stay on top of it is rising, meaning too much labor is going into tasks like updating spreadsheets and filling out sales order forms, which is putting your workforce's creative juices to waste.

Fortunately, technology and automation solutions have become more cost-effective and more comfortable to implement. But how can you know what is best to measure, and how can you best manage the information you discover?

The Immediate Relevance of Sales Order Automation

If you have been used to processing and documenting your sales orders manually, you know exactly how much time and energy can go into it. Whether you’ve been the one to input the data, or if you manage those who do, chances are you could save time and benefit significantly from automating sales order processing with batch technology.

And you're not alone. ServiceNow released a report in 2017 after surveying the workload of more than 1,850 corporate leaders in seven countries with the intention of comparing organizational automation and financial performance. The survey's findings may not sound all that surprising:

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  • Nine out of 10 skilled workers spend too much time on manual tasks that could be automated with today's technology.

  • Business leaders themselves spend an average of 16 hours a week, the equivalent of two full workdays, on the same manual tasks.

  • Forty-six percent of companies reported 2018 would be their breaking point if their workload continued to escalate at current rates.

While these numbers may seem scary for industry leaders who need to manage their accelerating volume of work, 94 percent of those surveyed agreed that implementing automated processes would accelerate their productivity.

Even before they have it in place for themselves, business leaders today are sensing that setting up automation is among the first steps to improving sales order processes. And that is precisely where the glimmer of hope lies.

What Are the Benefits of Using Sales Order Automation Software?

You may already have experience with automation improving your workflow process. In fact, it is very likely your company already has an enterprise resource planning system, or ERP, in place to monitor inventory, handle basic accounting and track your shipments. However, most distributors continue to process sales orders by hand, which can be perhaps the most prominent time-consumer of them all.

More and more, companies are implementing sales order process systems to retrieve, store and sort their sales data. Fascinatingly, letting the computer take over these tedious tasks ends up improving overall company efficiency in the majority of cases.

In March 2017, The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) performed several surveys on businesses with high transactional volumes. The APQC compared the measurable results sales order process automation systems offered these businesses, and the percentage of users who saw benefits was startling.

Before the surveys, the top three anticipated benefits of sales order automation were improved order accuracy, operational efficiency and workforce efficiency — all drivers of reduced costs. The results of the survey found improvements in each of the following areas.

  • Data capture: More than 90 percent of participating companies claimed they saw improved data capture for analytics purposes by automating their sales order processes.

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  • Operational time and cost efficiency: Automated sales order processes were found to be much faster, reducing cycle time from when the order was placed to when the warehouse was notified by more than 46 percent. Additionally, when using an automated sales order process, the cost of managing the orders was only 67 percent of the cost it incurred without automation.

  • Overall customer satisfaction: Automation improved the quality of customer service and customer experience. Once again, more than 90 percent of participants reported an improvement in both categories.

Automating your sales order process can offer substantial benefits as far as allowing for better analytics, a more significant return on investment and an improved experience for your customers. Whether directly or indirectly, these benefits will increase your revenue, so why not plunge into the automated world of the future?

Just like any significant change in workflow management, shifting from employees performing certain processes to automated systems performing them can take time and adjustment. Fortunately, we have some tips to help you develop a streamlined strategy to suit your business.

There are three phases to the transition from manual sales order entry to an automated process: planning your automized procedure, eliminating your manual procedure and choosing sales order automation software that will suit your needs and accomplish your goals.

The Initial Phase: Planning Your Sales Order Automation

All good strategies begin with a solid plan. Part of the planning of automation is dissecting your everyday processes in a way you may never have done before.

Implementing automated sales orders involves identifying and mapping out the step-by-step operations involved in your current sales order process, which can be intimidating for process owners. It can feel like creating this map of the process is equivalent to starting it from scratch.

Not only can it be challenging to visualize the process in its entirety, but verbally explaining the existing process to others involved in the automating process is a hurdle of its own. You find yourself needing to break the sales order process down and lay it out in clear enough detail that anyone unfamiliar with the procedure can understand it. Here is where it helps to gather input from every stakeholder in the process, because even the smallest of tasks in the sales order procedure can involve several steps you or another process manager may not be aware of.

Initiating any type of business automation project comes with similar challenges because it involves looking and talking about standard procedures in a more nuanced way. But it is well worth the effort, because determining the specific workflow actions helps your automated system to do its best work in the end.

To help get you started on illuminating the steps related to your sales order process, here are some typical steps you will want to consider mapping:

  1. Receiving and routing an order as your client places it

  2. Extracting and pulling data to add into your ERP system

  3. Verifying data and detecting exceptions

  4. Managing errors detected and approving exceptions

  5. Archiving or integrating sales order data

  6. Analyzing and rolling the data into metrics

  7. Providing access to order status and contacts once the sale is completed

Here are a few additional getting-started tips for sales order automation.

  • Identify every exception: When it comes to process automation, the details that fall outside the lines add the most substantial value to your new system, no matter how small and rare the exception may be.

  • Create a visual: Whether you rely on sophisticated process mapping tools, basic flowchart tools like Visio or even simple Post-it notes, document your process in a way that is effortless to visualize and easy to modify as the need arises.

  • Identify the manual processing costs: To establish a business case for change and calculate return on investment for a sales order automation initiative, you will need to have a sense of costs before changing your system. Using established industry metrics for sales order processes, for example, will help you benchmark current costs while setting realistic goals for improvement.

  • Consider hidden costs: The APCQ survey, for example, addressed an improved customer experience with automated systems, as opposed to manual sales order processes.

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While identifying the steps required for your current sales order process, you will also benefit significantly from determining costs related to each step. Doing so will help you lay the foundation for establishing quantifiable, metric-driven goals as you strive for optimized improvement through the automating process.

Visualizing SMART Goals to Help You Plan

Of course, sales order automation software is an excellent tool, one that is most effective when you align it with your well-defined goals. Consider the commitment the project of implementing sales order automation will require of you. Everything from time and money to excellent attention to detail goes into executing a transition like this one successfully, which can be strenuous to manage without solid vision and goals. That's why your objectives need to be well-defined.

Management expert Peter Drucker popularized the setting of SMART goals in the 1950s, and his method is still relevant today, just like his business management adage: "What's measured gets managed." With the proper planning and strategizing, taking steps toward realizing your company's goals becomes much more manageable, offering you a much higher return on your commitment.

Setting SMART goals is also beneficial in preparing the company to optimize processes in the midst of automating, because of how measurable your return on investment becomes.

The essential five components of SMART goals, and how they can help your sales order automation process, are as follows.

  • S - Specific: Setting specific goals when it comes to any large-scale change is essential to keeping you on track. The specificity of your goal can entail, for example, the exact financial return you expect to see from your new automated sales order process system. This step is where the metrics detailing the expenses associated with manual sales order management can become significant. Other common SMART goal qualities beginning with the letter S are significant and stretching. You want your goals to make a difference for you and your company, and, considering the change of mindset automating requires, even just the goal of having an automated system will stretch you.

  • M - Measurable: Can you quantify your success in the area of automating sales processes? Of course you can! Take a look at the survey percentages from ServiceNow. As you automate the different steps of your processes, you can measure the amount of time you now spend on perhaps more meaningful work than the previous busywork. Another possible meaning for the M in SMART is motivational.

  • A - Agreed-upon: Because of the number of people affected by a change in automation, it will be important to make sure all goals have the approval of all decision-makers involved. Goals should always enhance cooperation. You also want to create goals that are attainable, achievable and acceptable. Set yourself and your expectations up for success by establishing small steps worth celebrating throughout the automating process. Another useful phrase beginning with the letter A is action-oriented. You want your goals to spur yourself and others to act more, perhaps in using newfound, freed-up time for creative or analytic pursuits in company growth.

  • R - Realistic: Set goals for your process mapping that address realistic expectations for the actions of everyone whose work involves the sales order system. Everyone who is a stakeholder in the success of your new sales order process should be able to see how your goals are relevant to their specific responsibilities and reasonable for the group at large to achieve. Consider how rewarding your goals will be once the automation process is realized. Be results-oriented in your goals to keep everyone focused on the prize.

  • T - Time-based: See how much time you can incorporate back into the productive workflow, and use it to your advantage. When you set time-bound goals, you are much more likely to realize them because of the sense of urgency they offer. The final letter in the SMART criteria also stands for tangible and trackable, as it is important for wise goals to bring value that is easy to see and to measure. It is also a good idea to have a way to visualize your collective goals on a regular basis.

By keeping your SMART goals in mind and imagining your more efficient future, your team can begin the process of mapping out your sales order automation journey from the error-prone and time-consuming way things used to be to the streamlined way they will be from now on. You can also do so with the confidence that automating is not only the way of the future, but offers your company the benefits of extra time and revenue to help you achieve your mission.

Choosing the Right Sales Order Automation Software

While Sales Order Automation projects have become more cost effective and easy to implement, they still require an investment and a commitment of time, money and attention to execute successfully. Measuring return on investment and demonstrating measurable success can not only ensure an ongoing commitment to the initiative, but it can impact how ready the company might be to continue to optimize other processes through automation.

For software that offers greater visibility over sales orders and drives greater cost-savings and insights into your customers' specific behavior patterns, choose OrderAction as a strategic component of your supply chain management system. Here are some unique features OrderAction offers.

  • Maintaining clear audit trails: Helping you monitor checks and validations.

  • Reducing errors: Increased efficiency using intelligent capture technology reduces manual data entry and validates data found in business records.

  • Seamless ERP system integration: Creating actionable data from your documents, routing invoices and instantly creating ERP transactions.

  • Lowering transaction costs: Process automation reduces invoice processing costs, granting you a quicker ROI.

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Go beyond merely filling orders and offer a fully automated order experience, providing the highest satisfaction to your customer and transforming your level of insight into your customer's behaviors. Contact Artsyl today to give our demo version a trial run and see just how streamlined your order processing can become.

Helping you map out your sales order automation journey is something we take very seriously at Artsyl. We want you to identify opportunities for process improvement and for achieving the most efficient automation for your business. For more information, contact your Artsyl Technologies representative.

Take the pain out of your sales order processes by automating the even the most inefficient tasks. Artsyl can help you effortlessly automate document handling and data entry while drastically reducing errors. By relying on Artsyl’s docAlpha business digitization platform and OrderAction application, customer service teams can transform scanned paper and digital orders into actionable information that is automatically entered into their ERP system.

The result? Shorter cycle times, fewer errors, better process control - and dramatically improved customer experience.

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