How to Use Automation to Scale Your Business
The future of global trade depends on automation tools, and any company eyeing international expansion must invest in this technology. Artificial intelligence, in particular, is transforming international commerce, as companies use intelligent systems to identify ways to increase productivity and distinguish themselves in the market.
Increased productivity will drive economic growth in the nations that harness AI, and companies in these countries will be poised for massive boosts in profitability. Currently, however, productivity has slowed globally. The Brookings Institute attributes this in part to slow adoption of AI and automation tools. But this creates greater opportunity for the businesses that do leverage the power of these technologies.
Global Wins Require Automation Tools
The reluctance to embrace new technologies is understandable, particularly ones as disruptive as AI and automation. Business leaders might feel daunted by the prospect of purchasing and integrating new tools, which could cause them to take a wait-and-see approach while their competitors test the waters.
Understandable as that attitude might be, it’s a losing strategy. AI is already transforming the global landscape, shifting the balance toward service economies and eliminating the need for low-skill work, according to Brookings. The companies, and countries, that embrace productivity-enhancing technologies are the ones that will win on a global scale.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in China, where the government encourages and invests in the development of AI. China’s economy grows more digital by the day, as evidenced by its rapid move toward becoming a cashless society. It has become a world leader on payments innovation, and it is determined to lead on AI as well. These technologies will drive increased commerce and productivity for the nation, further enhancing its status as an economic power.
Living in the Future
Given the growing importance of AI and automation, businesses considering international expansion should be investing in these technologies. Smart, predictive analytics programs enable business leaders to assess market opportunities and forecast exactly how an expansion might play out.
Contrast this with a couple of decades ago, when leaders had very few insights into who the key industry players were. It was a bit like going on a blind date, except with potentially more detrimental consequences. Unless they had reliable people on the ground, they had few ways of knowing the global business and political landscapes.
Today, search systems can provide all of the information you need about foreign competitors, including how long they’ve been in business, how they’re performing, and any legal or financial troubles they’ve encountered. You can also learn who leads those businesses, giving you a better sense of who your industry peers will be in the new market.
Automation speeds up this research process significantly as well. In the past, you’d have to download and print reports and then scour the text to assess the opportunities and risks. Now, automated programs can pull all of the relevant data online instantly, allowing you to make faster, more informed strategic decisions.
This helps not only when deciding where to expand, but also when determining which companies to work with once that expansion occurs. A quick, thorough digital search will give you critical insights into a potential partner or vendor and whether it’s likely to be reliable.
For instance, you can quickly access data on a company’s financials, including its credit score, bill pay cycles and methods, and profits and revenues for the past 10 years. That information can powerfully inform whether to work with the new partners or clients you’re considering, as well as whether to extend credit to them or instead deepen relationships with trusted existing clients.
While it’s possible to conduct credit analyses manually, it’s also incredibly time-consuming and inefficient. My company recently worked with an international manufacturing corporation that was processing 400 new credit applications a week. Company leadership wanted to expand, which meant it needed to significantly increase capacity to process up to 1,000 applications per week.
Up to that point, the credit department had processed applications manually. A team member would print out a report on the applicant and review a complex set of criteria before deciding whether to approve the request. Each application took 20 minutes to process. This approach was a burden at 400 applications a week — at more than 1,000, it would be untenable.
My team helped the manufacturer transition to an automated program that processes applications almost instantly, including running analyses of the complex criteria needed to make credit decisions.
Automated systems are exponentially faster than taking a manual approach, and they reduce the risk of human error. Any time humans are responsible for data entry or need to copy information, there is a strong chance that they will make mistakes. Software that is programmed with the exact specifications and parameters for data — and that can automatically populate it — is much less likely to return inaccurate results.
Some are concerned that automating processes will lead to massive job losses. While automation will eliminate some jobs, it actually creates a better environment for the many employees who remain. As Duke Energy discovered when it automated its account reconciliation workflows, the technology enabled employees to focus on financial analytics and other more engaging work