Business process automation refers to the use of technology to execute recurring tasks or processes in an organization where manual effort can be replaced. It is done to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and streamline processes. Business process automation is not to be confused with business process digitalization, which is a larger discipline involving the management of complex organization-wide processes using different methodologies.
Business automation can be applied to pretty much any process within your company. Some of the key areas where business process automation is popular include sales, procurement, finance, human resources (HR) and onboarding, product development, inventory tracking, logistics and delivery, and even the IT processes.
Why Business Process Automation?
There are various potent reasons why digital transformation is extremely popular among companies today. Organizations are looking at it from the perspective of reducing error-prone manual tasks, improving efficiency, and cutting unnecessary costs.
Progressing with digital transformation objectives - With the continued progress in automation, your business is likely constantly undergoing digital transformation. At times, this change may feel overwhelming, but the introduction of BPA is another way to ease into a more technologically centered environment in the digital workplace. Employees would be more open to accepting technology as a part of their daily work and you would have sub-consciously progressed with your digital transformation objectives.
Increased employee satisfaction and output - Automating repetitive tasks will take the burden off the shoulders of your employees. In turn, they will have more time to focus on tasks that are challenging and intellectually stimulating and offer them a chance to feel like they are making an impact on the organization. This results in increased employee satisfaction, higher productivity, and reduced turnover.
Streamlining operations - It’s easy to get caught up in daily operations without ever taking a step back and looking at how they work. Through BPA, you will clearly define, outline, and able to analyze how current workflows happen and are managed to perform process improvement. Not only does this offer insight to potentially improve the order of operations.
Improving efficiency - BPA naturally streamlines processes and allows you to see the progress and status of an operation. Therefore, it can help to prevent essential tasks from slipping through the cracks.
Saving costs and time - When things move along their path automatically, it will inherently save time and unneeded back and forth between parties. In turn, when operations are running efficiently, it will result in money saved.
Better compliance management - All industries and businesses face regulations, especially those in finance. As such, digital software can help to reduce risks as they record audit trails and secure the history of operations that took place. BPA software is also capable of producing reports and automatically updating dashboards for consistent oversight and regulatory compliance.
Minimize human error - When people must take care of data entry and management, it can quickly get messy. There is a high chance of human error, which can increase as data increases. However, automation tools are designed to have very high accuracy rates, thereby reducing the opportunity for human error.
Steps in Business Process Automation
While business process automation may look complicated for someone looking to kickstart this initiative, it's composed of the following easy-to-implement steps.
Define goals and identify target processes - This step is about selecting which business processes you’re going to start automating first. Of course, in time you can aim for “all of them”, but in the initial phase, we recommend identifying the ones which have the business impact, process maturity, and complexity. Selecting processes with high business impact, medium complexity, and high maturity scores will ensure that you have identified the set of processes that would benefit you the most if you were to automate them.
Before you go into an automation frenzy, keep in mind that while implementing BPA can be highly beneficial, it’s better not to automate certain processes.
Processes that involve complex decision-making and critical thinking capabilities. While you can automate certain approvals and rejections with basic conditions, humans are better at making more complex decisions. That’s not to say automation can’t assist in making these decisions, for instance, by giving strategic oversight through detailed reporting.
Processes that require a “human touch” also shouldn’t be (entirely) automated. These include processes that could potentially involve emotions, such as change management, giving difficult feedback, or certain parts of the offboarding process.
Processes that lack structure or are subject to frequent change and fluctuation are difficult to automate. If you find it difficult to identify specific rules or conditions to apply to a process, it’s probably better not to automate it.
Design – There are two parts to the design phase, one on functional needs and the other on technical requirements.
Functional – This is about taking what you need in a business and defining it in terms of the solutions that will meet those needs. It’s critical that all the relevant users and team members are consulted during this phase to make sure all user requirements are fully represented.
Technical – This stage then translates all the work above into a technical design document that defines all the technical details and specifications of the solution so best practices can be shared with everyone who needs them.
Once the documents are complete, it is crucial to have them approved by the different stakeholders prior to the build stage as they will define the building path.
Build - Now it’s time to start putting all the planning into action. By turning the technical details and specifications outlined above into a tangible solution, you can model, develop, and integrate all the components that form the application. Throughout this phase, you should focus on measurability: structuring data, developing, and validating templates, and configuring the behaviors of fields along with supporting business rules and policies. This is where you will capture the logic of the process and transform a business process into an application.
During the build stage, it is highly recommended to present the progress of the application, how the information will be displayed and how documents will be generated to ensure everything is being built in line with the initial specifications.
Test - This is the stage to check your workings. Before you start implementing in the production environment, this is the chance to make sure the solution meets the business requirements specified at the beginning of the project. To ensure all specifications are met it is highly recommended to involve as many end-users as possible. Everyone who will have a role in the process must test it and any feedback or suggestion must be considered as an improvement opportunity.
Implement - Now that you are ready to go live, we recommend developing a structured plan to make sure each project goal is achieved as you move into the production environment. As always, there are likely to be unforeseen issues that crop up during this phase, so make sure you factor in time to address these. As you move to this stage, make sure you communicate the go-live of the project to your entire organization – let them know why the change is happening and the benefits it will bring.
Change management - It’s important to ensure that change management is an important step in the BPA journey. This ensures that all members of the organization are trained and transitioned into adopting the technological changes which have been made. As an organization, you would need to set up training and tutorials for staff, especially those who will be working with the technology day in and day out. It would be helpful if you Involve your team and provide continued education through training sessions. Finally, it’s important to create a culture that’s open to change.
Business Process Digitalization vs. Business Process Automation
Another term that is sometimes used interchangeably with BPA is business process digitalization (BPD). Business process digitalization refers to the discipline of — or comprehensive strategy for — modeling, monitoring, and improving business processes. Business process digitalization also focuses on the orchestration of different types of processes, to ensure that they work together efficiently in ways that make sense for the people, systems, and data that a process affects. One way to think about the difference between BPA and BPD is in terms of their goals. The primary goal of BPA is to create a more cohesive and optimized process layer through automation and integration. The goal of BPD is to ensure that the process layer is helping the business meet its objectives. Put another way, BPA is one element of a larger Business process digitalization strategy. However, many BPA tools have sophisticated features and capabilities that support BPD. For example, BPA software may offer customizable reporting or process modeling capabilities required by a BPD strategy.
QuickReach: A New Breed of Business Process Automation
If you are ready to augment the workforce of the company with seamless technology tools, the QuickReach Automation Platform would be the preferred choice for your organization. A no-code SaaS-based platform doesn’t require technical support to set up. The intuitive drag-and-drop visual interface ensures that your processes can be stitched, and a layer of automation could be built-in to ensure rule-based triggers could help faster processing. Complement this with the state-of-art mobile / tablet-based application and QuickReach empowers business executives to make effective decisions where ever they are.
Furthermore, QuickReach also caters to your data security needs with role-based access. This means you can control who has access to specific data.