Companies must increasingly look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs, especially as we enter periods of economic uncertainty.
One way to do this is to automate business processes.
All businesses operate using a series of defined business processes. These processes are often ad-hoc, poorly defined, and manual.
Spending the time to define, optimize and automate your processes will pay dividends.
What is Business Process Automation
Business Process Automation (BPA) is the use of technology to automate manual processes within an organization.
The benefits of Business Process Automation are many and include the following;
- Increased efficiency and accuracy: Automating repetitive, rules-based tasks eliminates manual errors and increases speed and accuracy.
- Reduced costs: Automation reduces labor costs associated with business processes.
- Improved customer experience: Automation allows organizations to provide better service by giving customers faster access to resources or answers to their queries.
- Access to data insights: Automation gives organizations real-time data for informed decision-making.
- More time for innovation: By automating mundane tasks, businesses can free up resources to invest in more innovative projects that can improve the customer experience or create new revenue streams.
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Business Process Automation Examples
Here are five of the most common use cases for Business Process Automation:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA is an automated system that can perform repetitive, manual tasks such as data entry or updating customer records. One example of RPA is the approval of a credit card based on information provided by an applicant.
- Workflow Automation: Workflow automation is one of the most common forms of process automation. Automation can streamline the flow of information between multiple systems and departments within an organization. A typical example is the approval of a purchase request. Workflow automation platforms support the creation of purchase requests, routing them for management approval based on cost or department, forwarding the request to legal for contract approval, and finally sending the request to finance, which issues the purchase order.
- Document Generation: Document generation is a process that uses software to generate documents automatically, such as policies and contracts, based on user input. Many sales departments use process automation to create quotes, generate contracts, route contracts for signature, then file the signed contracts in a repository.
- Customer Support: Chatbots are a type of process automation that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to provide automated customer service and support. Chatbots offer an engaging and efficient way for customers to access information or assistance, freeing up resources to focus on more complex customer issues. Chatbots can streamline processes even further when integrated with existing systems by providing users with a single entry point for their queries.
- Digital Transformation: Digital transformation is leveraging digital technologies to create new business models, methods, products, services, and experiences for customers and employees.
Business Process Automation Challenges
Adopting BPA can come with several challenges, including a lack of knowledge regarding automation capabilities, difficulty integrating existing systems and applications into a unified view, and a need for sufficient data to facilitate accurate analyses.
One of the most common problems is a need for more understanding about the process you want to automate. This lack of end-to-end knowledge is especially true in large organizations, where pieces of the process reside in different departments and "in the heads" of many stakeholders.
Additionally, there is often an associated cost with introducing automation solutions into an organization and potential ethical considerations regarding the implications for jobs replaced by robotic or automated processes.
Choosing the most effective and appropriate solutions requires careful consideration of these varying factors to implement BPA successfully.
What is the best Business Process Automation Approach?
Industry analysts estimate up to 50% of process automation projects fail to deliver benefits. Here are some tips to improve the success of your next BPA project.
- Identify areas that would benefit from automation. Look for quick wins, such as areas with many repetitive tasks.
- Conduct interviews and workshops with the key stakeholders to map their existing processes. Speak with as many people as possible, as the information may not exist in one place. Remember, you can't automate what you don't understand.
- Analyze the existing processes to find trends or opportunities for improvement. Automating a flawed process only lets you fail faster.
- Keep the automation platform (or your implementation partners) from driving the project. Always start with the business process.
- Additionally, organizations should employ Business Process Management (BBM) practices to ensure the processes are well governed and remain efficient and easily adaptable to changing conditions.
Organizations that optimize their business processes by employing these strategies can improve productivity and reduce costs.
A troubling economic forecast is driving many technology leaders to look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Business Process Automation is one way to achieve that; however, it comes with associated costs and potential risks. You can mitigate these risks by mapping and analyzing existing processes before attempting to automate them.