Different businesses are comprised of different components – different teams, departments, schedules, deliverables – but one common thread that runs through all facets of business is process. From the most mundane to the most complex, processes are the backbone of day-to-day business operations and, often, they can be automated.
Simple enough, right? However, as a strategy, business process automation (BPA) is often misunderstood. In this article, we discuss what BPA is and how, without it, your business may be falling behind.
Key Concepts of Business Process Automation
Simply put, business process automation means putting technology to work for your company to automate repeatable, manual tasks. Depending on the process, the means of automation may be simple or more complex, but, broken down into its most key concepts, BPA means:
- Identifying the processes that form the backbone of the organization.
- Leveraging various technologies, including workflow software, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Machine Learning (ML) tools, and determining which of those processes can be automated.
- Seamlessly integrating those technologies with the existing systems and integrations the business has in place.
Benefits of Business Process Automation
Given that we’re talking about business processes, perhaps the most pertinent question to ask is how does BPA benefit a business? Let’s talk about that.
- Increased Efficiency – By improving the efficiency with which various individual systems work, BPA helps to increase the efficiency of the business as a whole.
- Cost Reduction – By reducing the potential for mistakes, increasing system efficiency, and reducing the need for manual work (in certain regards), BPA reduces costs.
- Improved Accuracy and Reduced Errors – A well-implemented BPA system will help to reduce errors and improve the accuracy of your system. This is mainly because it eliminates manual inputs, reducing the opportunity for error.
- Enhanced Scalability – by standardizing and automating the components of a process, the complexities of scaling those processes are then removed from the equation.
- Optimized Resource Utilization – BPA can help to avoid overinvestment of resources by assigning exactly the right amount of resources for the service in question.
- Faster and Consistent Processes – Because BPA systems automatically complete tasks (under the conditions they’ve been programmed to react to), it can help facilitate faster processes. For example, a BPA system can help ensure that clients receive invoices and receipts directly after placing an order or making a payment.
- Enhanced Customer Experience – A well-planned BPA can help enhance customer experience by ensuring that processes occur in a timely fashion.
- Data Insights and Analytics – Many BPA systems can take the information that goes through them and use it to provide insights and data analytics.
- Flexibility and Adaptability – Most BPA systems are highly flexible. They can be scaled and adapted to suit a wide range of different uses.
- Competitive Advantage – When used appropriately, your BPA system can give you a marked advantage over competitors by reducing costs, improving efficiency, and enhancing customer experience.
Common Use Cases of Business Process Automation
Business Process Automation is a useful tool implemented across many different industries and in many distinct types of businesses. Some of the industries and companies where you may expect to see BPA may use the system as follows:
- Finance and Accounting
- Processing Invoices – A BPA can be valuable for automating the extraction of data from invoices, as well as the validation of information.
- Expense Management – A BPA can be used to automate the reimbursement process for employee expenses, all the way from submission to reimbursement.
- Human Resources Management
- Onboarding and Offboarding Employees – A BPA can be used to automate paperwork, documentation, and training processes when onboarding new employees. It can do the same thing for the exit process of new employees.
- Managing Leave and Attendance – BPAs can automatically manage attendance records and track and approve leave requests.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Managing Leads – Using a BPA, you can automate the process for capturing and qualifying leads and assign them to an appropriate sales representative.
- Onboarding Clients – From account setup to documentation and initial interactions, a BPA can streamline the process of onboarding new clients.
- Supply Chain and Logistics
- Processing Orders – A BPA can automate order fulfillment, all the way from order receipt to shipment, and helps to reduce processing times and errors.
- Managing Inventory – You can use your BPA to automate inventory tracking, reorder processes, and notify you of stock shortages.
- Compliance and Regulatory Processes
- Managing Audit Trails – With a BPA, you can automate the creation and maintenance of audit trails.
- Monitoring Policy Compliance – A BPA allows you to automate the monitoring of employee adherence to company policies.
- Marketing and Sales
- Nurturing and Scoring Leads – If you choose the right BPA, it can help to automatically nurture leads through targeted communications. It can help score their readiness for sales as well.
- Email Marketing Campaigns – Automated email campaigns are yet another way that BPAs can assist. The campaigns are usually based on the customer’s behavior and preference.
- IT Operations and Support
- Incident Management – These systems can automate the logging, categorization, and logging of IT incidents.
- Software Deployment – A well-designed system can automate the deployment of software updates and patches.
- Customer Support and Service
- Ticketing and Case Management – BPA systems allow automated creation, assignment, and tracking of customer support services and service cases.
- Chatbots for Customer Queries – AI-driven chatbots can merge seamlessly with your system to automate responses to common questions.
- Healthcare Processes
- Scheduling Appointments – In the healthcare industry, a good BPA system can automatically schedule appointments – especially those that recur.
- Processing Claims – This kind of system can be used to automate the processing of health insurance claims.
Challenges and Considerations in Implementing BPA
Any type of change typically has some kind of corresponding challenge. Below, we’ll discuss some of the challenges you may encounter when implementing business process automation. We’ll also discuss some of the considerations related to each challenge.
- Initial Costs and Investment – While business process automation tools can help cut costs significantly, initial setup can be costly. Consider having a cost analysis to ensure that the investment will be worth the required effort.
- Integration with Existing Systems – At first, it can be difficult to integrate a BPA with your existing apps and systems. In some cases, you may need to change certain aspects to make the system work as it should.
- Data Security and Privacy Concerns – if your processes involve sensitive data, automation can raise concerns about data security.
- Employee Resistance and Change Management – When you’re making changes to business systems and protocols, there may be some resistance from employees. This is largely because there’s a misconception that automated processes may lead to job loss.
- Continuous Monitoring and Improvement – Initially, once implemented, BPA systems require consistent monitoring and improvement to ensure smooth operation.
- Selecting the Right Processes for Automation – In the foundation stages, it can be difficult to determine which of the many business processes should be automated. However, if you choose the right provider, they can easily help you determine which processes would be the best fit.
- Vendor Selection and Support – Selecting the right BPA vendor can also be a complex undertaking. However, by carefully reading reviews and rankings (and speaking to the vendors), you should be able to determine the best choice for your company with relative ease.
Best Practices for Successful Business Process Automation
What should you do in the preparation stage of implementing business process automation? Let’s take a closer look at some of the best practices you can trust to help you implement your BPA successfully:
- Comprehensive Process Analysis and Documentation – Conduct a thorough analysis of existing processes before automation.
- Collaboration Between IT and Business Teams – Foster collaboration between IT and business teams to ensure a holistic understanding of business processes and technical requirements.
- Pilot Testing and Phased Implementation – Start with a small-scale pilot project to test the effectiveness of BPA in a controlled environment.
- Employee Training and Engagement – Provide comprehensive training to employees who will be working with or impacted by automated processes.
- Clear Communication of Goals and Expectations – Clearly communicate the goals and expectations of BPA initiatives to all stakeholders.
- Continuous Monitoring, Evaluation, and Optimization – Establish a framework for continuous monitoring and evaluation of automated processes.
- Use of Scalable and Flexible Automation Tools – Select automation tools that are scalable and flexible enough to adapt to evolving business needs.
- Data Security and Compliance Considerations – Prioritize data security and compliance. Implement robust security measures, encryption protocols, and access controls to protect sensitive information.
- Governance and Standardization – Establish governance policies and standards for BPA. Define clear guidelines for process design, documentation, and implementation.
- Alignment with Business Objectives – Ensure that BPA initiatives align with broader business objectives.
- Adoption of Agile Methodologies – Embrace agile methodologies in BPA projects to foster flexibility and responsiveness to change.
- Performance Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – Define and measure key performance metrics and KPIs to evaluate the success of BPA initiatives.
- Change Management Strategies – Develop and implement effective change management strategies to address employee concerns, resistance, and cultural shifts associated with automation.
- Regular Stakeholder Communication – Maintain open and transparent communication with stakeholders throughout the BPA journey.
Future Trends in Business Process Automation
With a consistently growing field like business process automation, it’s expected that there will be constant new trend development. Some of the things you may expect to see in this field include:
- Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
- Cloud-Based BPA Solutions
- Low-Code and No-Code Platforms
- Integration with Emerging Technologies
- Cognitive Automation
- Enhanced Customer-Facing Automation
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Maturity
- End-to-End Process Automation
- Focus on Analytics and Predictive Insights
- Digital Twin Technology
- Regulatory Technology (RegTech) Integration
Business Process Automation is a useful service that can help improve your business’ efficiency, cut costs, and improve profitability. The key is to choose an appropriate BPA tool.
And this field is only set to keep growing, with many other exciting developments in store. From AI chatbots to machine learning, there are few limitations to what a well-planned business process automation tool will be in the future. If you want to learn more about what our workflow management and process automation tools can do for you, contact HighGear.
What is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation, often referred to simply as BPA, is when one uses technological advances to automate the complex processes and functions of business. This type of system goes beyond data manipulation and record keeping. Often, BPA systems involve the integration of various systems and applications.
Why is Business Process Automation (BPA) Important?
BPA is a crucial tool for many businesses because it brings a range of improvements to business functions. These include enhanced efficiency, cost reduction, minimizing errors, and allowing better scalability.
Can Business Process Automation be Applied to All Types of Businesses?
Most businesses can benefit from the implementation of business process automation (BPA). However, this is not the case with all businesses. The best choices for BPA are those businesses with routine and repetitive processes.