This is something most people forget about when they start an internet project. There are tens of processes behind each online business that need to be implemented by website’s team, either by administrators, moderators, support team, or editors. Imagine a website where you have posted a comments section – under a product, article, or something else. In the beginning you may think that the comments are scarce in number and you can personally delete those that are spam or contain obscene words. However, at a certain moment, the website grows more popular, or enters the lists of spam robots, and just in a few days it is awash with tens of thousands of comments. Some of them are spam – others are not. It is a really exhaustive task to filter them and when you finally manage to do it, you find out that another 10,000 new comments have appeared. This happens because you have neglected the automatic moderation, which can be integrated into the website. This is a relatively simple example. Websites selling products and services are a much more serious problem. If an employee is expected to issue an invoice and send it by mail for every single order, this means that they will have to spend a few minutes for each of them. When the number of orders increases, the time for this process will become highly insufficient and you will have to expand the team and, respectively, the expenses will increase, too. This procedure can be automated by setting automatic invoice issuance and sending. Thus, without human intervention everything will go smoothly and the employees will process more orders per unit of time.
There are many examples and I can hardly cover all possible scenarios. It is important to know that the automation of the process now may cost you a bit more money (either for its development by programmers or for the purchase of a ready-to-use module) but it can save you much more money in the future.
I have witnessed cases when a website is launched without automatic system for advertisements monitoring and management. This option was omitted because it would have required too much resource, while in the first stage it could have been done manually because there were not too many advertisements on the website. Four years later the website hardly managed to handle the number of advertisements and because of the high turnovers and the manual processing of each order, there was no time left for development of the automation system. The website was maintained by several full-time employees and with every passing day the transition to automation became more and more difficult because of the increasing number of positions and campaigns. On the fifth year, once the automation system was introduced – it channeled the process from advertisement orders, through the payment, payment verification, invoice issuance, and launching or suspending an advertisement without human intervention. This way the team of employees was now able to work on website’s further development instead of servicing clients in a conveyor belt manner.
Automating the process is something that will not only save you time but also decrease the number of mistakes, which sometimes cost you compensations, administrative actions, and many other troubles. Everything can be automated – the only problem is what the cost will be and whether you will be creative enough to detect the time-consuming process from the very beginning. I am not saying that you are unable to prosper the other way, too – by processing everything manually. This is the small stumbling block that can upset the apple cart just when your internet business has suddenly started working at full blast. If you are offering an online service and your few clients are very satisfied with it, what will happen if your business starts growing by leaps and bounds and you can no longer service so many clients properly? Many services “died” exactly because of this, neglecting the automation. It is logical to assume that you can hire more employees. But it is not that easy. People are a valuable resource, and often the increasing number of clients, and the work with them, does not result in the growth of profit. In these cases, the increase in clients will result in a loss for your business.
How to automate everything?
Make a list of all the duties you and your employees will perform. Do not neglect any of them. Describe everything – when you see it written, you will realize how many tasks really need to be done. If you use a ready-made solution, examine the product’s description, see what it is offering and whether any of its functionalities will automate some of your work processes. Look for applications that can replace some of the human activities. If you work with a programmer or a consultant, they can advise you where and what you can save from.
You should also consider optimizing processes, which are not automated. If, for instance, an employee has to add an article with a photo, there are many ways to do this task. Sometimes programmers use ready-made solutions used by other websites because it is easier. Indeed, it is easier but only for the programmers. In such cases, it may turn out that adding a simple article on the website will require clicking the “UPLOAD ARTICLE” button, adding the text, then going to the list of articles to select a category, and then going to a module of photos where after choosing the material in question among thousands of others, the employee should find the one they are looking for and add a photo to it. This is a process I have seen being used in a big media project, although it seems a little bit more complex than usual. All this can be done on one single page, and all separate elements can be positioned on concrete places, so when the employee finishes adding new information – the “SAVE” button to be close to them, instead of scrolling up and down. At first sight, these few seconds or minutes saved thanks to the good arrangement of the administration control panel, seem insignificant but at the end of the month you will have amassed a solid number of hours, this approach also averts wandering about back and forth, searching and waiting for something to be loaded…
Imagine 100,000 records that you wish to see in your database but the employees spend 1 minute more for each upload. This means that you will need 69 days more to upload the information. To show you how important this is, I will tell you that there are more than 5 million topics on TeenProblem.net. Imagine, if someone had to manage them manually, how much time do you think this would have taken? If the whole process was not optimized, of course?
There is another good thing about the automation – your website can “live” even when you are on a holiday. In the end, you are on the internet, where there are no set working hours. Anyway, sooner or later you will have to go on a holiday. For that purpose, you may set up a system that publishes the necessary products or articles at a specific date and hour. You may program the email bulletin to automatically send articles, news, and products at regular intervals of time so as not to have to take care of it, especially when you are on a holiday. These things have been a common practice for years and they are even integrated into the systems I listed. Why don’t you integrate them when developing your own systems, too? You should think several steps ahead! Make your business as independent from you as possible, so as to serve you well, and avoid been enslaved by it forever.