A woman sits at a table in a narrow workshop space or storage room. The woman has one hand on the keyboard of her laptop, and she is wearing ripped jeans and a blue-and-white striped button-up shirt over a light pink T-shirt. The walls in the room are lined with shelves that hold cardboard boxes and rolls of paper.
Digital platforms and software can automate processes from accounting tasks to sales workflows to customer management. — Getty Images/SrdjanPav

Every small business owner could use a few more minutes (or hours) in their day. With business automation, you can free up hours while improving customer and employee experiences. These tools don’t require specialized knowledge or coding experience. Most offer drag-and-drop editors for custom workflows or automate basic activities, from recurring invoices to weekly progress reports. Use this guide to find applications to support your staff and reclaim your time.

Financial and cash flow automations

An American Express survey found that 68% of small business owners want “to spend less time managing their business’ cash flow.” Financial management and accounting programs automate many processes, from reconciling bank statements to sending reports. You can streamline invoice, expense, and payroll workflows by automating approval processes, pre-populating form data, and automatically matching submissions to receipts.

Consider accounting software, such as:

  • QuickBooks Online: Automatically invoice customers, process credit card payments, or send reminders with QuickBooks Online.
  • Zoho Books: Use Zoho Books to filter and categorize transactions or automate payment reminders.
  • Xero: Automatically code bank transactions or remind customers of upcoming payments with Xero.

[Read more: CO— Strategy Studio: Managing Your Cash Flow]

Small business operations and project management

Create custom workflows with workforce and project management software solutions. You can schedule recurring alerts to ensure projects stay on track or automatically route time sheets to payroll. These platforms work well for portfolio, resource, and project management.

A design agency could set up content approval workflows. Each time a team member completes a task, the system notifies the next person and assigns them a task and deadline. The software automatically updates managers and clients or alerts employees of upcoming deadlines or overdue tasks. Likewise, a small business owner with remote employees may use project management software for workload capacity planning, collaboration, and scheduling.

Automate your business with platforms like:

  • Monday.com: Initiate calendar events, emails, or follow-up tasks with Monday.com. The Standard plan includes 250 automated actions monthly.
  • Trello: Streamline workflows with automated approval workflows, Slack posts, or help desk ticket creation. No-code automation comes with free and paid Trello plans.
  • Smartsheet: Use pre-built workflow templates to set due date reminders or status requests. Smartsheet provides 100 automations on its free plan.
  • Clickup: Choose from over 100 automations or create custom workflows with Clickup. The free version supports 100 actions and 50 rules.

Stay on top of your sales and marketing activities with automated email sequences, lead assignments, and updates.

Customer success and support services

Help desk software enables small businesses to respond to customer requests sooner, route tickets to the correct employees, and remind agents to follow up. It eliminates bottlenecks and improves customer experiences. These tools can integrate with your business phone system and customer relationship management (CRM) programs, reducing repetitive data entry.

Check out the following software options:

  • Freshdesk: Leverage AI-powered automations in Freshdesk to auto-assign tickets, manage dependencies, and update customers.
  • Zendesk: Establish up to 500 active automations with Zendesk. Alert agents about unassigned or unresolved tickets or automatically find abandoned requests.
  • Zoho Desk: With Zoho Desk, companies can automatically assign tickets, filter according to customer sentiment, and request feedback.
  • Intercom: Use Intercom’s visual automation builder and pre-built templates to customize booking and return processes.

Human resources workflows

HR teams benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) and automation in hiring, onboarding, time and attendance, and payroll workflows. For instance, HR can automate many parts of the onboarding process, from welcome emails to software provisioning. After an employee e-signs new hire forms, your payroll software reports their status to government agencies. Workflow automation tools can introduce the new team member to your Slack channel and assign training tasks.

Simplify HR workflows with automation tools like:

  • BambooHR: Create paid time off (PTO), compensation, and expense approval workflows with BambooHR. It’s an all-in-one platform for automating hiring, onboarding, and payroll.
  • Rippling: Update internal and third-party systems with Rippling. It supports one-step or daisy-chained workflows for your entire organization.
  • Gusto: You can put payroll on autopilot with Gusto. In addition, Gusto will automatically remit employment taxes and sync payroll to holiday pay and PTO.

[Read more: 8 HR Technology Trends for Innovation in 2023]

Sales and marketing processes

Stay on top of your sales and marketing activities with automated email sequences, lead assignments, and updates. With fewer administrative tasks, your staff can focus on core duties, like interacting with prospects and deepening relationships. Aside from automation, most CRMs offer AI tools to collect data and enhance campaigns.

Automate sales and marketing with these small business CRM tools:

  • HubSpot: Build relationships with customers even when your office is closed. Use HubSpot to configure automated email responses to form submissions and send anonymous visitor data to your contacts database
  • Freshsales: Help your sales team manage outreach with automated outbound campaigns by Freshsales. It supports touchpoints like phone calls, emails, and text messaging.
  • Zoho CRM: Send personalized text notifications to confirm orders, schedule sales tasks, automate emails, and update contact fields with Zoho CRM.
  • Monday Sales CRM: No-code automations can notify sales reps when a lead opens an email or converts to a customer. Monday Sales CRM helps small businesses automate the entire sales pipeline.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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