To remain competitive, organizations must continuously innovate. Business Process Automation (BPA) automates repetitive and costly tasks, freeing up time and resources for innovation and setting the stage for an improved customer experience.
We will look at how your organization can automate business processes, including:
- What is Business Process Automation?
- How to Automate Business Processes
- Identifying Candidates for Process Automation
- Business Process Automation Examples
- Business Process Automation Software
- The Benefits of Business Process Automation
- The Challenges of Business Process Automation
- Business Process Automation vs Business Process Management
What is Business Process Automation?
Business Process Automation (BPA) harnesses the power of technology to streamline and automate manual tasks, enabling organizations to optimize efficiency while simultaneously cutting costs.
Business Process Automatin is a critical part of a Business Process Management program and works in conjunction with Process Discovery, Process Mapping, Process Execution, Process Governance, and Continual Process Improvement.
The primary goals of implementing business process automation (BPA) are to boost operational efficiency, drive cost savings, enhance precision and uniformity, foster collaboration, and streamline workflows.
Business Process Automation (BPA) can liberate employees, enabling them to concentrate on more advanced tasks that demand creativity and critical thinking, such as innovation and improving customer experience.
Automation is achieved through a range of cutting-edge platforms, such as robotics process automation (RPA), integrated workflow management solutions, and business intelligence (BI) software.
How to Automate Business Processes
Industry analysts estimate up to 50% of process automation projects fail to deliver benefits. Don't become a statistic. Here is a business process automation methodology that will improve the success of your next BPA project.
- Identify processes 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 be scattered. Remember, you can't automate what you don't understand.
- Create an As-Is process map and analyze it to find trends or opportunities for improvement. Automating a flawed process will create more significant problems down the road. Learn more about process mapping and how it assists in automation..
- Keep the automation platform (or your implementation partners) from driving the project. Always start with the business process.
- Once automated organizations should employ Business Process Management (BPM) practices. The practices will ensure the processes are well-governed, efficient, and adaptable to changing conditions.
Organizations that optimize their business processes by employing these strategies can improve productivity and reduce costs.
Identifying candidates for process automation.
Identifying a particular business process to automate starts with a keen understanding of your current business processes and systems.
Identifying suitable candidates for a business process automation solution will be easy if your company has a robust and adequately staffed Business Process Management program. That's part of their job!
If that is not the case, you must start by meeting with teams across the organization. You must identify where team members spend substantial time on low-value, repetitive processes.
You can do this through a series of workshops and brainstorming sessions. It's essential to have some key team members, not only managers, attend these sessions. These team members will have a much deeper understanding of the processes and potential areas for improvement.
Use the information collected to identify a short list of processes that could benefit from automation.
Learn more about process discovery and identification and how it can help you select the right candidates for automation.
Business Process Automation Examples
Business process automation through application software can drastically improve operational efficiency and reduce costs by automating repetitive tasks. Let's take a look at some of the problems business process automation can solve:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an automated system using software agents. It 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. A typical example is an employee onboarding request. The automation platform coordinates requests across departments such as facilities management, information technology, payroll, benefits administration, and human resources. It then tracks the request through to completion.
- Document Generation: Document generation uses software to generate documents automatically, such as policies and contracts, based on user input. Many sales departments use process automation to create quotes. They also use it to generate contracts, route contracts for signature, create purchase orders, and then file the signed agreements.
- Customer Support: Chatbots are a type of process automation. They leverage artificial intelligence and natural language processing technologies to automate customer service and support. Chatbots offer an engaging and efficient way for customers to access information or assistance. Automating basic tasks frees up resources to focus on more complex customer issues.
- ITSM and Network management. Process automation is not only limited to business processes. Various IT workflows, such as provisioning, can benefit from process automation to improve efficiency and reduce errors.
- 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 Software
The business process automation market is growing rapidly, and keeping pace with the changes is essential. Here are some of the software categories of BPA software you should look at when selecting a business process automation tool.
- Robotic Process Automation. Utilizes "bots" installed into your existing software to perform routine tasks. The bots execute workflows developed in a "codeless" drag-and-drop user interface or captured as a recording of employees' work. Here is a link to a list of RPA software reviews.
- Intelligent Automation Platforms. These are typically software suites that are the central hub for a company's automation efforts. They contain RPB, AI, and machine learning elements and can support very high volumes of transactions.
- Workflow Automation Platforms. These are the more traditional automation platforms typically intended to automate mission critical processes in a specific business domain. Examples include IT Service Management process automation platforms, Marketing Automation Platforms, or Sales Force automation platforms.
- Business Intelligence (BI) Software. Business intelligence (BI) software is intricately linked to process automation, as it provides the data-driven foundation for identifying, optimizing, and implementing automated solutions within business processes.
- Business Process Modeling Tools: While not specifically an automation platform, business process modeling tools are crucial for any organization that wants to achieve success with Business Process Automation. They help in visualizing, analyzing, and designing business processes, providing a clear understanding of how things work before automating them. Check out our guide to selecting a business process modeling tools.
Remember that these tools are not a "silver bullet." You still need to identify and map the processes you wish to automate. You also need to monitor the process, ensuring they continue to deliver value. The more power the platform you adopt, the more critical it is that you have a robust Business Process Management program.
The Benefits of Business Process Automation
Why automate business processes? The benefits of Business Process Automation include the following:
- Increased efficiency and accuracy: Automating repetitive, rules-based tasks eliminates manual errors and increases speed and accuracy.
- 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 to make informed decisions.
- More time for innovation: Automating tasks frees up resources for more innovative projects. These projects could be improving the customer experience or driving more revenue.
- Reduced costs: How does business process automation reduce costs? It is actually a combination of all of the above points. Less waste due to errors, improved customer retention, and improved data to improve efficiency and innovation. Combine this with reduced labor costs through automated processes, and BPA provides a tremendous opportunity for savings.
Check out this related article on the Benefits of Business Process Management.
The Challenges of Business Process Automation
Implementing BPA can present a variety of challenges, including:
- Limited knowledge of automation capabilities
- Difficulties in integrating disparate systems and applications into a cohesive view
- The lack of comprehensive data to enable accurate analyses.
One of the most prevalent hurdles when automating business processes is gaining a clear understanding of the end-to-end process.
This obstacle is particularly pronounced in large organizations where different departments hold different pieces of the process, and crucial information may reside solely in the minds of various stakeholders.
Consequently, investing time in mapping the existing process is essential before embarking on automation. Check out our guide to selecting a business process mapping tool.
Implementing automation solutions in an organization does come with some costs. These costs encompass the investment in technology, expenses related to implementation, and the potential need to hire or train business process automation staff. However, the gains in productivity that can be achieved through automation will ultimately outweigh these costs.
Furthermore, it is crucial to consider the ethical implications of replacing jobs with automated processes. Organizations must assume responsibility for assessing the impact on their staff and proceed in an ethical manner, prioritizing the well-being and livelihoods of their employees.
Business Process Automation Vs. Business Process Management.
People often interchange the terms Business Process Automation (BPA) and Business Process Management (BPM).
Ideally, BPA is an outcome of a robust BPM program. In fact, a robust BPM program is essenial for a successful Digital Transformation initiative.
BPA uses technology to automate routine business processes and standard operating procedures. The focus is on automating existing business processes and making them more efficient using robotics process automation (RPA) or workflow automation technologies.
On the other hand, Business Process Management (BPM) is a holistic approach to managing all aspects of a company's processes. It optimizes operations by identifying waste, streamlining business processes, collaborating between departments, and implementing controls to ensure accuracy and quality.
The main activities of BPM include:
- Process Discovery: This is the first step in your business process management (BPM) initiative. The goal is to fully understand the in-scope processes. This includes identifying what tasks are being performed, who is responsible for each task, and how these tasks are being carried out. Understanding how things are done today helps identify gaps and make improvements. Discovery can be done through interviews, workshops and by using automated business process capture, process discovery and process intelligence software. Learn more about process discovery.
- Process Mapping: Once you've discovered your processes, it is essential to document them clearly and consistently. This involves making visual representations of your processes through flowcharting, swimlanes or other business process mapping techniques. It is also important to capture goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities, metrics, policies and governance. Check out this introduction to process mapping article for some ideas to get you started.
- Process Automation: This involves automating a set of activities or business rules in BPM or workflow management software. The key to successful business process automation is well-defined processes and precise requirements.
- Process Execution: Ensuring your processes deliver value is an important management activity for today's digital businesses. Management requires that process metrics and controls defined as part of process modeling are measured and managed. This responsibility falls upon the process owner and the process manager.
- Process Governance: The activity of aligning business processes with organizational goals and regulatory requirements through establishment and enforcement of policies, procedures, and controls.
- Process Optimization and Improvement: Service improvement is at the core of companies' transformational journeys. You should review every process regularly with an eye on improving efficiency, reducing cost, and reducing waste.
Organizations that practice BPM will be more successful at automating their business processes. These organizations have a much better understanding of their current business processes and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about the benefits of Business Process Management.
They also tend to have a more structured approach towards automation, improving their chances of success.
Remember, Process Automation is a subset of an overall Business Process Management program.
Leverage Business Process Automation to improve efficiency, optimize workflows, reduce costs, and free up your team's time and energy to innovate and enhance customer experience.