Outsource or Automate? How to Strategically Take Tasks Off Your Plate


Delegation is an essential leadership skill. However, leaders have to delegate correctly. The act of delegating a task doesn’t merely involve dumping the work off and never giving it a second thought. Here is the question, do you outsource or automate? How do you strategically take tasks off your plate?

Done right, delegating work should be carefully thought out with an eye toward the future. Will the person carrying out the task be able to deliver the expected results on time? Will he be able to help you focus on other things, or will you need to continue an unsavory micromanaging role?

Perhaps the question that haunts modern leaders most when it comes to delegating tasks is whether they should hand off a job to another human — or a machine. Below are a few easily delegated tasks, along with insights into whether they should be entrusted to a human or an automated process.

Invoice Data Entry

One of the most mind-numbing processes facing financial professionals is the daunting task of invoice data entry. Processing invoices is easy enough for a small business with a handful of financial interactions. When a company grows beyond that point, though, the volume of invoices can spike. That can make it nightmarish to keep up with inputting the data.

Do you outsource this to an accountant, who can spend her days punching in numbers for you? Or is there a viable automated solution? According to data extraction company Rossum, smart optical character recognition (OCR) invoice data entry is now easily automated.

Not only can the newest software scan a document and gather data from it, but through machine learning, it can also find the data in a variety of templates and formats. The data entry software can then enter the relevant data, turning it into usable information within your accounting system.

While you still want someone available to oversee the data collection process, you shouldn’t be afraid to automate invoice data entry.

Social Media Management

Social media can dramatically help companies in multiple areas, especially when it comes to marketing and customer service. However, the benefits of a good social media strategy can be overshadowed by the intimidating job of regularly creating and posting content for various social channels.

Fortunately, there are multiple options to help take this one off your plate. Best of all, they involve outsourcing and automation. To start with the latter, automate most of your social media efforts by utilizing applications to organize and schedule your social media calendar.

HubSpot and Sprout Social, for instance, are allow you to automatically post content at the correct times. In addition, software like Zapier can enable you to post content to one place, such as WordPress, and have it automatically spread across multiple social channels.

However, you can’t properly automate the actual creation of content — not yet. For that, consider outsourcing your efforts. Fortunately, millions of freelance writers, editors, graphic designers, and content managers are available for hire. Most cost pennies on the dollar compared to a full-time employee. Sites like Upwork and Fivver provide easy access for short-term jobs, while sites like Problogger.com source candidates for long-term freelance positions.

Customer Service

Customer service is more important than ever. There’s competition in nearly every industry, and online platforms empower customers to provide very public feedback. The way you treat your existing customer base has never been more essential to success.

However, customer service is a painstakingly time-consuming job that can soak up endless amounts of a leader’s time. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and SMB owners, who often put in much of the customer service legwork themselves.

Increasingly sophisticated chatbots utilize Natural Language Processing to understand and interact with humans. However, they’re still limited in the scope of their abilities. Therefore, unless your customer service needs are extremely simple, it’s likely better to outsource the job to another human being.

With that said, flesh out a proper transition process. Write out your expectations as you consider different call centers and customer service options. Don’t simply pass the baton without a thought — you could end up hurting more than helping.

Outsource or Automate?

Each situation warrants an “outsource or automate?” conversation. Leaders need to take the time to consider their tasks — what activities can be delegated to free up time? This allows them to avoid the time-sucking nature of repetitive tasks and the decline in productivity often accompanying them.

Delegate smaller or repetitive tasks to humans and machines alike. You’ll be able to focus on essential leadership activities without being distracted or hurting your bottom line.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.



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