January 20, 2020

What is Business Automation? Your Guide for Success

Automation
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It is every business’ goal to reduce operational costs and increase profits. Technology continuously plays a significant role in lowering inefficiency and freeing up human resources to focus on high-level tasks. With business automation, your organisation can manage various tasks promptly and with reduced error rates. 

By utilising resources like business process automation, you can maximise efficiency and benefit your organisation in so many ways. Here, we will take a look at what business process automation means, what it can do for your business and the types of processes that are most beneficial to automate. 

What is Business Automation? 

Business automation, also called business process automation (or BPA), is the use of technology to automate repetitive tasks to replace manual efforts. Using rules-driven automation, business automation tools hastens the time it takes to complete processes, thereby freeing up human resources to focus their energy on essential tasks. 

Business automation is a stand-alone strategy that streamlines processes that can otherwise feel out of control because they consist of many moving parts. Throughout the process, accountability is ensured because the software system performs each step and provides real-time reporting. 

Along with up-to-date reporting, process automation tools provide audit trails with historical data and securely protect the data before, during and after the process has been completed. 

Business automation can assist in various departments within an organisation, from marketing, sales, accounting, and more. The software allows for all those who need access to be able to use the system for their particular needs. One of the greatest strengths of BPA software is that it is deployed relatively quickly and doesn’t require intensive IT support or infrastructure. 

Deployment of BPA Using Robotic Process Automation (BPA)

Within business, automation exists robotic process automation (RPA). Robotic process automation is where computers (robots) learn from human example how to carry out a task. To exemplify, some processes are automated when a software developer writes a script and the system follows the commands. 

However, with RPA, the system develops the list itself by watching a user first perform the action steps and then repeats the steps itself automatically to continue carrying out the process. 


BPA vs BPM

Business process automation is just one subset of automation strategies that sits under the umbrella of business process management (BPM). BPM serves as a blueprint for all your business’ strategy that involves automation. It begins by mapping your processes and results in their automation. 

BPA, on the other hand, can either work alone or be a piece of the overall business process management system within your organisation. 

Use Case Examples

One of the best ways to discover how business process automation can work for you is to see how it works in specific use cases. 

Consider the following: 

  • HR Onboarding: Say you have to hire a lot of people in a short amount of time. HR onboarding takes many people, filing and communication steps to complete. Most processes follow the route of application reviews, in-person interviews, manual routing, follow-ups, paperwork and finally, onboarding. Instead, a business automation tool could reduce the process to electronic applications, automatic document routing to the necessary parties, approval and acceptance, then employee onboarding. Throughout the process, everyone who should be aware of the status will be automatically updated as the employee moves through the process. 
  • Purchase Orders: When a business needs to complete a purchase order, the request is completed and sent for approval to the purchasing team. Then, the team has to check if it is within budget and can be approved before sending back to the requesting team. Only after that’s complete, the requesting team can send the paperwork to make the order. This could all result in errors in the PO, delayed approval and slowed productivity. Instead, an automation tool could transfer the request digitally to the necessary people, and upon approval, be sent to complete the order. 
  • Accounts Payable: Accounts payable teams are often bogged down with a lot of paperwork and manual routing of copies. If someone fails to see a document on their desk, the unpaid invoice will be further delayed, and vendor relations could suffer. Instead, with automation, a vendor can complete an electronic form for payment which is automatically routed and information will be securely stored. This lowers processing errors and allows for on-time payments, in turn, saving money on late fees and keeping good relationships with vendors. 

Why Automate Business Processes: The Benefits

Bringing process automation into your business will undoubtedly transform it for the better. There are so many benefits to what BPA offers, including: 

  • A step towards digital transformation: Naturally, business leaders feel overwhelmed at the idea of introducing new technology into their organisation. It requires an investment of both time and money and the need for buy-in. Business automation serves as a stepping stone for complete digital transformation. It’s an excellent place to start because you can automate low-level tasks for a relatively small amount of money with easy-to-use software. In turn, employees and stakeholders can quickly see the benefits and get on board with furthering your technological integrations. 
  • Increased Clarity: When you choose processes to automate, you need first to understand who is responsible at each step and know the processes that occur within your business. This starts with business process modelling and contributes to increased clarity and better control of what’s happening within your organisation and departments because all your processes are clearly outlined.  
  • Streamlined Processes: BPA contributes to streamlined processes because it removes bottlenecks through automation. You can set up customizable notifications and reduce the time it takes to complete processes. The software will either fully complete the task or send the necessary information to the respected person for approval before completion. 
  • Reduced Errors: With manual work and data entry, there’s a high chance for manual errors. Implementing automation reduces the risk of manual error as the system does the job.  
  • Increased Compliance: BPA software systems are set up to make audits easy. With detailed audit trails and tracking, you can access historical data that is immutable and protected.  
  • Standardisation of Operations: Especially if you are a business with multiple offices, you want to make sure that operations run consistently across them all. By using a software system, you know that everything goes through the same processes and procedures are seamlessly standardised. 
  • Customer Service and Satisfaction: When your business operates consistently, and promptly, customers are more satisfied. Using automation to deal with and respond to customer complaints can help you retain happy customers. 
  • Frees Time: BPA eliminates the need for your employees to do repetitive and low-level tasks. In turn, they can spend more time being creative problem-solvers and building meaningful relationships within teams and with customers. 
  • Enhanced Productivity: The manual effort it takes for most business processes may include making copies, sending emails, following up, entering data and more. All these processes are completed more quickly with automation tools, thereby reducing operational costs and increasing productivity. 
  • Job Satisfaction: When employees get to focus their time on analysis, problem-solving and human-specific tasks rather than monotonous low-level tasks, they are more satisfied because they feel a greater sense of purpose. 

Which Business Processes Should You Automate?

While BPA seems like the perfect solution because of all its benefits, there is a way to maximise its efficiency. It begins by choosing the right types of processes to automate using BPA. 

To select business processes that will benefit from the tool, you want to focus on the process that has the following characteristics:

  • High-volume
  • Repetitive
  • Time-sensitive
  • Require multiple people to complete 
  • Affect compliance and play a role in audits
  • Significantly affect other processes 

To give you a better idea, here is a list of some commonly automated processes within organisations that fit the above criteria:

  • Call centre processes
  • Invoicing
  • Payroll
  • Help desk support
  • Push notifications and emails 
  • Lead nurturing
  • Collections
  • Data manipulation
  • Data aggregation 
  • Data migration
  • Employee leave requests
  • Employee travel reimbursements 

Best Practices 

Now that the benefits and use cases for business process automation are clear, how can you get started? 

  • Clearly define your processes by breaking down tasks and responsible parties 
  • Define your goals when automating a process so you can measure its success 
  • Start small and measure results as you go by checking key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Train employees properly 
  • Design a long-term and phased approach to furthering your tool stack 
  • Implement complete solutions wherever possible 
  • Revisit your tools as your business grows and scale your tools with your business 

The Wrap Up 

Business automation can save your business time and money. Mckinsey & Co. found that RPA alone contributed to an 80% decrease in process costs. 

Business automation is key to remaining competitive in any industry.

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