Business Automation 101: What Is Automation and How Does It Work?

Business Automation 101: What Is Automation and How Does It Work?
Here’s what you need to know about business automation, including its common uses, benefits, and how to leverage automation in your own business.
by Mackenzie Born May 12, 2023 — 4 min read
Business Automation 101: What Is Automation and How Does It Work?

The topic of automation is hard to avoid — no matter your industry, discussion of automation has likely crossed your radar. From machines taking on human tasks to intelligent automation running entire businesses, futuristic ideas about automation are popular and often misunderstood.

The truth about automation is that it’s far less complex (and usually has nothing to do with machines or robots). Businesses of any size can leverage automation to save money, free up time, and grow, and many businesses are already using automation tools every day, some without realizing it. 

Here’s what businesses need to know about automation, including how business automation works, its many benefits, and how it can be leveraged in all business types.

What is business automation?

Put simply, business automation is the process of using tools to automate everyday, repetitive tasks. Whether that means automating staff scheduling and payroll or setting up automated marketing campaigns, business automation tools can be used across a wide range of functions to help save time, create more efficient workflows, and make employees’ jobs easier.

The 2023 Square Future of Commerce report found that 38% of restaurateurs plan to automate operations to maximize staff efficiencies, especially as hiring is a challenge and consumer expectations continue to rise. On the consumer side, 73% reported that they’d prefer automation over live staff members in at least one area of a business, particularly for operational aspects, like finding product information, ordering or checkout, or arranging for pickup and delivery.

What business automation is not

A common misconception of business automation is that it means eliminating staff or losing a customer-centric approach. However, automation tools actually help do the opposite: Automation helps free up staff from spending their time on mundane, repetitive tasks so they can focus on more engaging or growth-focused areas of the business, like marketing, customer service, or expansion.

Business owners who’ve considered automation agree: Square Future of Commerce data found that a full 99% of restaurateurs whose businesses drive $1 million or more in revenue per year said that automating back-of-house operations would allow staff to focus on more important parts of the business.

Common uses and examples of business automation

The use of automation tools in business is a lot more common than often realized. Some businesses have already automated aspects of their operations — whether they think of it as automation or not — and others are manually completing tasks they could easily be automating instead.

Here are some examples of the most common use cases of automation in business:

Business Automation 101

Benefits of business automation

The biggest benefits of incorporating automation tools into your business is efficiency and time-savings. Hours spent on manual tasks, like inventory-tracking, can be dedicated instead to growth and innovation, increasing productivity and output from your team.

Besides saving time, here are some of the benefits of business automation:

How to leverage automation in your business

The first step to leveraging automation tools in your business is considering the tasks or areas that would most benefit from automating. What takes the most time out of your day or your staff’s day? What causes the biggest headache or has led to avoidable errors? It’s possible that it’s an area that can be automated entirely, or perhaps there are individual components within the task that could be automated as a start. 

As a next step, consider what successful business automation would look like for you. ROI, cost savings, revenue growth, or even more satisfied customers may be your ideal outcome from automation tools, but it’s helpful to assess the areas where automation would be most impactful in your business and help your bottom line. 

When you’re ready to explore automation tools in action, learn more about the easiest ways to start embracing automation at your business

Mackenzie Born
Mackenzie Born is an editor at Square covering all things commerce, from starting and running a business to leveraging technology that helps it grow.


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