Unlocking Efficiency: Time-Saving Strategies To Drive Value
Welcome back to the 3 Points Rising series on value propositions. Today we'll unpack a popular value: saving your customer's time. With over 250 billion man hours worked in the US each year, it’s no wonder everyone is trying to save time. Companies constantly seek ways to reduce man-hours worked per unit of output. In today's fast-paced competitive landscape, time is indeed money. Let’s unpack 4 broad ways to offer labor savings to your customers:
Workflow automation & efficiency
Visual and automated data collection
Data integration & analytics
Data entry, analysis & reporting
Keep in mind that if you save less than one full-time-equivalent (FTE) person, your client may not be able to realize the value of the time savings you provide. However, if you can find a way to eliminate the need to hire someone for a particular job, companies can get very interested, especially if it’s a position that’s difficult to hire for.
Companies spent $16 billion on workflow automation in 2021. Increasing productivity per employee is a constant effort, especially when labor markets are tight and salaries are rising. Removing manual steps from business processes through automation is a popular strategy using tools like optical character recognition (OCR) and robotic process automation (RPA). Transforming business processes to completely eliminate steps is more powerful yet. Players in the $21 billion business process reengineering market offer solutions that can result in entire teams being eliminated. Another compelling way to automate workflow for your customers is to outsource it completely. Companies in the $280 billion business process outsourcing (BPO) market. Clearly customers like it when you “just take care of everything” instead of offering point solutions out of context. That said, a new trend in data collection is to make your users do it. Witness the growth of self-checkout in retail and chatbots in online customer support, both of which reduce staff needs for their users. New technologies have so many ways to reduce effort in corporate workflows through efficiency, reduction in steps or full-on business process transformation.
Automated Data Collection
Customers spend over $10 billion per year on business process automation, over half on the popular robotic program automation (RPA) market. Automating data that's collected manually or collecting entirely new data sets have the potential to unlock dramatic value for their users. Mechanical counters were invented in the 1870's and we haven't stopped inventing ways to count things automatically since. The internet of things (IoT) and a dazzling array of sensors makes counting and analyzing anything automatically possible, easier and far more accurate than the historical methods. New trends are putting the sensors in motion on vehicles, using cameras with AI video analytics and applying AI at the edge to be able to process orders of magnitude more data without using more network bandwidth. The challenge with data is there's so much of it and unless you have an alorithm that generates insights for a decision-maker, you are likely just increasing costs for little return. The cost of deployment and operation is often an obstacle as well. New methods of using cheap cameras and analyzing video to generate data signals can bring dramatic savings in some cases. It's important to identify the insights that your champions and decision makers will value. Use design thinking to highlight what data they believe you should be collecting and why. From there, it's up to your innovative proprietary solutions to go find the right data and present it effectively whether that be on an executive dashboard or an API.
Data Integration & Analytics
Forward-thinking companies are already using hundreds or thousands of data sources to learn about and keep track of what’s going on. New sources of information come up constantly and each of those data sources needs to be integrated into a holistic message for key decision makers. Integrating new data into the business can bring huge value and is often done by sharing CSV files and loading data from spreadsheets. By eliminating manual data copying and processing data automatically customers can save substantial amounts of labor. Data copying, transformation, cleaning and loading make up the $3 billion ETL market for automating data exchange. Putting together clean and effective data sets for clients is highly valuable. Data exchanges are one of the fastest growing areas of the IT industry and just passed $1 billion in revenue. Many already have a database with every person and company in it. If you can fill in one valuable column consistently for an interesting group, you can exchange data with other vendors who share their data with you to create better data sets for each. Finding new data to integrate and getting it into the systems it needs to be in is a complex web of opportunity for those with new data or new analytics to process it.
While it’s beneficial to automate systems as much as possible, we’ll never want to completely exclude humans from the decision making process. Besides reducing the risk of runaway AI coming for us all, keeping humans in the loop makes for better results and a more popular tool. Engaging people is best done visually as more than 50% (half!) our brain is dedicated to visual processing. This makes the process of transforming data of all sorts into visual communications and rich media extremely valuable. Mapping the exact right data sets to engaging visuals for the right people at the right time can be critical and possibly life saving. If you can put data together so it’s easier to understand and act upon, you may have some raving fans in senior management! Any way you can enable a team to get visual information in a more timely fashion may be of value to your customers. Good dashboards allow a broader array of stakeholders to access and understand the data. Sharing data more widely has value all it’s own but often it requires a new dashboard to help people get it easily.
Saving your customers time can be very compelling. Even if your primary message is not time savings, finding ways that you *do* save your client time can make your offering more compelling. Focus on activities that take substantial time from multiple people in an organization and you’ll find opportunities to save them time. If they have better things to do, they will appreciate it!
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