With the emergence of automation and AI platforms like ChatGPT, businesses are using automation and all of its capabilities to save time, be more efficient, and supercharge their productivity.
And while we may already feel inundated and overwhelmed with automation articles, information, and tools, we also recognize that automation is not going anywhere. In fact, it is the key to hacking productivity.
Large enterprises typically have an advantage when it comes to emerging and innovative technologies. They are usually well-resourced and have access to budget, talent, and customized tech solutions that help them stay ahead.
Small and medium businesses (SMBs), on the other hand, tend to be resource-constrained and have a pressing need for purpose‑built tech solutions that are cost-effective and can be easily implemented.
More than ever, small businesses understand that they need to invest in automation to be able to compete successfully in today’s business environment.
What businesses are already using automation?
SMBs are largely invested in technology already. It’s impossible not to be in this digital age. Today, machines handle 34% of business-related tasks, while the remaining 66% are carried out by humans. The adoption of automation technology acts as a dynamic catalyst, shaping the strategies, growth trajectories, and competitive capabilities of small businesses against their larger peers.
Exploring the collected data, we can identify some of the trends that govern small business automation.
Quality over quantity
Rapid digitalization that happened during the pandemic has resulted in inflated tech stacks and significant increase in software spend.
Our recent survey revealed that half of respondents are using 10 or less apps across their organization, and only 5% are using more than 50 apps.
This looks promising given that larger companies continue to combat inflated tech stacks.
A recent SaaS Management Index Report suggests that an average SMB of up to 500 employees has approximately 172 apps in their tech stack — even in the face of app consolidation and budget constraints!
Streamlining an organization’s tech stack is the first step in becoming more productive, and that seems to be a priority for most SMBs. It’s all about investing in the best business technology solutions that will help you work smarter, not harder.
The untapped potential of low‑code/no‑code automation tools
When it comes to automation for small business, more low‑code/no‑code options are emerging as a way to give the workforce an autonomous and low-effort way to implement automation. However, more than half of SMBs have never used low‑code/no‑code document automation tools.
The impact of low‑code/no‑code tools on driving digital transformation among countless businesses is undeniable. However, amidst this progress, many SMB owners find themselves struggling with the question of how to kickstart their low‑code strategy.
There are two typical scenarios of low‑code adoption for businesses:
Often, low‑code initiatives are sparked by external partners, such as tech collaborators. These partners bring expertise and project outcomes, elevating the allure of low code. Success with pilot projects often paves the way for further engagement.
Existing employees utilizing low‑code/no‑code tools, known as citizen developers, can naturally champion low‑code adoption within the organization. Their in-depth knowledge of business processes promotes an almost ’organic’ integration.
Embracing electronic signatures has become the new norm
A previous airSlate survey conducted in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that almost half of the surveyed small businesses had concerns over digital signatures security and privacy.
However, our recent survey revealed a significant shift from using traditional wet signatures to digital signatures, with a remarkable 2/3 of respondents already utilizing digital signatures in their business operations.
What kind of business automation tools matter and why?
We see that SMBs are already experimenting with automation, but where do their priorities lie? Which departments are relying on automation for their success? And what is ultimately driving tech purchasing decisions?
“CRMification” of small businesses
SMBs can agree on one thing: business productivity solutions are most pressing to their tech needs. Any improvement in small business productivity would be a major gain, which is why document workflow automation and eSignature tools are so appealing.
We are also seeing the importance of customer relationship management solutions for small businesses increasing. Formerly, CRMs were considered predominantly enterprise solutions — a luxury reserved for those with abundant resources.
Overwhelmingly, SMBs believe that CRM systems are crucial for their company’s bottom line. In fact, almost 97% of respondents rank CRM solutions as important.
This sentiment finds support in another study, which reveals that a significant 91% of small businesses with 11 or more employees have adopted CRM solutions, driven by the potential for substantial growth.
Imagine having a document workflow automation tool seamlessly integrated with well-known CRM systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, Netsuite, or MS Dynamics. This integration has the potential to simplify the lives of sales professionals, enabling them to dedicate more time and energy to closing deals.
Take airSlate’s integration with Salesforce, for instance. With its help, sales teams gain the ability to create end-to-end, multi-step, and multi-branch workflows directly within the Salesforce platform. These workflows can be applied to automate a range of tasks such as invoice processing, data exporting, approval workflows, notifications, and secure storage. This level of integration empowers sales teams to work smarter, streamline processes, and ultimately boost their efficiency in pursuing successful deals.
Does your business need document automation?
While it is certainly true that every department in an organization can benefit from document workflow automation solutions, who is getting first dibs?
Currently, finance and sales teams are the two verticals that find document automation and eSignature solutions most important to their success.
Finance and sales teams tend to have repeatable processes that can be time-consuming and tedious. They also tend to deal with plenty of paperwork related to closing deals or approving budgets.
44.1% of finance and 41.2% of sales teams surveyed find document workflow automation and eSignature solutions important.
Finance professionals benefit from solutions that seamlessly integrate with their existing financial systems and provide a clear record for future reference and resolution.
- Develop reliable and secure processes for time-sensitive payments and transactions
- Generate error-free and audit-ready financial documents within deadlines
- Seamlessly connect with their current financial management systems and procedures, ensuring a comprehensive overview of financial activities
Sales professionals need automation solutions that not only help them seal deals quickly but also enable them to dedicate more time to generating revenue.
- Creating streamlined and efficient Audit Trails for smoother processes
- Gaining better visibility into the progress of deals, ensuring they’re always on track
- Freeing up valuable time by reducing paperwork management, so they can concentrate on what truly drives success
What drives — and hinders — automation tools’ purchasing decisions?
In most SMBs, business owners and IT leaders are making decisions about which tech solutions to adopt, and CEOs are in charge of approving those decisions. But what factors go into how a tech solution is chosen?
We know that small business productivity software is so important for SMBs. With so many options out there, how do purchasers narrow down?
Our recent survey revealed that SMBs rank ease of use and affordability as the top priorities when making technology purchase decisions.
Interestingly enough, more than a half of respondents (53.7%) surveyed have considered switching from the document automation solution they’re currently using. This correlates with a recent trend as 71% of global consumers switched tech brands at least once over the past year. Most were looking for a unique value proposition, a better deal, or a better quality product.
Often, decision-makers are faced with analysis paralysis given that the market is completely flooded with options. Coupled with the fact that many tools are quite expensive, it is a challenge for SMBs to embrace technology the way enterprises do so easily.
What do SMBs feel about automation tools: Are they truly ready?
While most can agree that automation has already changed the way we work and will continue to do so, many can’t help but wonder what, if any, the negative consequences will be. Questions arise, such as:
According to our survey, the majority of SMBs have an optimistic outlook when it comes to automation and its impacts.
As SMBs navigate the landscape of recovery, the rapid integration of automation and AI tools is becoming not just a trend but a necessity.
While 94% of those surveyed feel confident about seeking out and exploring new automation solutions, almost 90% would welcome training or guidance when it comes to implementation.
To unlock the potential of document workflow automation solutions, SMBs should extend their efforts beyond mere implementation. SMBs should take care to look for tech solutions that have robust features that meet their needs and that provide knowledge resources, great customer service, and additional support.
By offering automation training and certification programs, organizations can not only enhance operational efficiency but also increase their business value, retain top talent, and set their workforce up for success. As employees acquire new automation skills, their enthusiasm and dedication increase, leading to higher productivity, job satisfaction, and better retention.
More automation = more time
The goal with adopting automation tools is to hack productivity and optimize efficiency. What that ultimately means is that organizations will gain more time which they can refocus on revenue-generating activities and business improvements.
Allocating busywork to automation solutions can save organizations up to 10 hours per week.
- Increased employee productivity and morale
- Cost savings on operational expenses
- Enhanced recruitment and retention of talent
Seizing an important opportunity
While SMBs will continue to grapple with limited resources and hefty competition, making wise investment decisions will not only help them be profitable, but will also give their customers a great experience.
Choosing the right automation tools has benefits that go beyond the bottom line. There is a massive opportunity right now to upskill in a way that is not overwhelming and to develop professional skills.
Organizations need to adopt automation in order to move ahead, but employees need to as well. Knowing how to prompt AI solutions and use automation to optimize efficiency are skills that future recruiters will undoubtedly be seeking in their talent.
airSlate: The all-in-one partner in automation
airSlate enables anyone to automate their entire document workflow and integrate their tools easily into a single system.
It is a one‑stop‑shop for automation solutions and is a great option for those who want to enter the automation market without feeling completely overwhelmed or on their own.
This is a suite of no‑code products designed to make documents work for you and built to democratize access to automation.
A major benefit of choosing airSlate tools is gaining access to airSlate Academy — free courses that range from the basics of automation to expert certifications that provide the skills needed to digitally transform a business.
These resources ensure that guidance is always available and that the path to automation mastery remains attainable.
Many airSlate customers agree that their favorite part about investing in these solutions is the high-caliber customer support they get.