June 9, 2020

How to Automate Processes in a B2B Business

How problem solving paired with technology will make your B2B company more efficient.

It really pays off to be a problem solver. In a B2B business there are always things that could be faster, more efficient, or simply cost less. 

On one hand, developing processes is a tool most team managers and business owners use to maximize efficiencies and minimize risks. On the other hand, technology platforms often help in completing tasks or managing the backend for most companies.

The thing is, very few B2B businesses take the final leap. You see, as comfortable as we all are with processes and as much as we like technology, very few of us actually combine the two to develop automated processes for repeatable tasks.

A real-world B2B business example.

Here’s a real world example that we’ve been struggling with (as well as providing the inspiration for this post).

In our production process we use detailed work-back schedules to plan and schedule each and every step of the process from conception, through filming and editing, and all the way to final delivery.

The schedule is filled with action items, dates, and roles and responsibilities that our team and our clients have to meet to ensure the project stays on track.

But, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

In fact, they never go according to plan.

Action items get pushed or eliminated, new elements, needs and stakeholders are discovered mid-project and sometimes milestones are missed (not on our end of course).

So inevitably we have to make changes to this schedule throughout the process. And when our video producers make note of these changes they have to rework the whole schedule manually.

We need to automate the process.

What we need is an intelligent piece of software that can not only produce the original work-back schedule in an orderly manner, but also upon a change request, rework the dates, excluding weekends if applicable, while maintaining hard dates that cannot be changed (like a day of production that cannot be moved) if applicable, and produce a new schedule that can be exported to a branded PDF without wasting our producers time or involving the client.

This has been an ongoing challenge in our B2B marketing company.

Naturally, we look to see if there is a solution to this on the market and while some tools can do parts of what we’re hoping – we’ve yet to find a tool that meets our criteria (we have no need for an expensive, robust, all encompassing tool if we only need to do this one thing) in an efficient way.

So what does one do?

We reach out to a friend who owns an application development company and he tells me this is a really simple problem that technology can solve easily and relatively affordably. Off we go into this brave new world.

That's us, what about you?

Now, if automation is something you’ve already incorporated into your B2B business or if you happen to own an app development company you could be reading this, shocked and appalled that we’re only reaching this answer in 2020, you may think us incredibly basic.

For the rest of us, those who have yet to work through this process, here’s how we’re approaching it.

Step One:

Consider a challenge or frustration point within your business that you’ve attempted to solve through processes and human capitol.

Step Two:

Ask yourself if this is an ongoing or somewhat repeatable challenge? Does the challenge tend to have predicable outcomes?

Step Three:

Determine all of the steps, variable elements and possible outcomes within your process in detail. Write each step out and all variables associated it. For example, in the story we shared about our work-back schedules we want to exclude weekend dates from our automated rollover to avoid having our editors due dates land on a weekend.

Step Four:

Have someone who builds solutions for a living review your thoughts, plan and encourage input. Then work with them.

Step Five:

Watch everything work perfectly… and if it doesn’t then ensure you have support to address issues.

Technology is an extremely creative tool that can be put to work for your B2B business in order to help you build a business that's ready for growth.