Cloud Topics

The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation

By Nicole Lim / Jul 07, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation

cceed, it’s crucial to learn more about business process automation and how it can benefit you, your employees, and your organization as a whole.

What Is Business Process Automation?

Business process automation involves the use of technology to handle business processes, tasks, and workflows. Often covered under the umbrella of digital transformation, BPA automates repetitive, simple, or monotonous tasks, so you and your employees can spend more time and energy doing work that can’t be automated.

From creating valuable analytics reports to powering your marketplace software solution, BPA can be used for simple and basic tasks, as well as larger, more sophisticated processes at your business. Because it is so versatile and adaptable, you can tailor and tweak BPA to make it work for your organization’s needs.

Though it is highly flexible, there are a number of central principles that drive BPA and all of its associated processes:

  • Integration: BPA must seamlessly integrate with other software solutions and existing processes. Legacy systems that aren’t compatible may be due for an update or total replacement to support BPA.
  • Centralization: BPA consolidates and centralizes information and company processes so they are better organized and more accessible, often leveraging cloud solutions to streamline data management.
  • Consistency: BPA must be consistent and error-free each time it is deployed.
  • Reduction: BPA strives to reduce the need for human interaction or intervention in a given task or process.

With these core tenets in mind, you can determine the best way to deploy BPA within your organization.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) refers to software solutions or tools that partially or completely automate various tasks by functioning similarly to a human being. RPA is not a literal robot; rather, it is an application or program that is able to mimic how humans interact with digital systems or interfaces. Billing systems and chatbots are popular ways to use RPA in business.

Though RPA and BPA share similarities, they are two distinct things. RPA and BPA have the same goal — to help businesses operate more smoothly and efficiently — but they work to achieve that goal in different ways.

RPA is used to execute tasks on an individual level, while BPA takes a more holistic approach to automation. RPA can be used to accomplish menial, simple, and repetitive tasks, but BPA is what you need to transform your organization and make significant improvements in productivity, agility, and efficiency.

Benefits of Business Process Automation

The biggest advantages of BPA for your business include:

  • Increased Productivity: BPA can help increase the productivity of your employees, as well as your organization as a whole. When individual tasks or entire processes are automated, your employees suddenly have more time to focus on other work. This enables them to get more done and produce higher-quality results.
  • Error Reduction: When they are set up and implemented correctly, BPA can reduce the number of mistakes in your and your employees’ work. There is far less room for error when a software solution completes a task, rather than a human being. Fewer errors help to save time; since it was done properly the first time, you and your employees do not have to spend any more time on the project to go back and correct your work.
  • Increased Employee Satisfaction: BPA can increase employee satisfaction and boost morale. By taking over boring or repetitive tasks, employees can focus their attention on work that is more interesting and engaging. This simple shift can make their daily work far more enjoyable and gratifying.
  • Saved Money: At the end of the day, BPA might help your company save money. With an automated workflow, you and your employees can accomplish more while spending less on operational costs and expenses.

Disadvantages of Business Process Automation

For all its benefits, BPA isn’t perfect. Some of its major drawbacks include:

  • Large Investment: Because BPA is holistic in nature, it can be quite costly. According to one estimate, a large-scale RPA investment may cost as much as $20 million. Though the return on this investment may be worth it, the initial expense may be high.
  • Difficult Transition: Cost aside, it can be difficult to actually implement BPA across your organization. You have to integrate BPA with your existing programs and process (or do a complete overhaul), ensure your cybersecurity works for the new tools and solutions, and guide your employees through the change. Again, it may ultimately be worth the effort, but it’s important to prepare for a tough transition.
  • Job Uncertainty: Your employees may be afraid that their jobs will be replaced by these new automated processes. As many as 67% of workers in the tech industry and 44% of workers outside of the tech sector fear their jobs may be lost due to “digital capabilities powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic software.” Depending on your employees’ roles in your company, these fears may not be founded, but this attitude could cause employees to resist BPA implementation.
  • Not an All-Encompassing Solution: BPA can do a lot, but it can’t do everything. Some tasks and jobs just can’t be automated at this time. It’s crucial to temper your expectations and to remember, but not overstate, the benefits of BPA.

Common Business Processes to Automate

You should automate any process that can be automated, as this will help you maximize the benefits of BPA. Generally, the best processes to automate are:

  • Tasks that are repetitive or high-volume;
  • Tasks that must be free of any errors;
  • Tasks that are time-sensitive;
  • Tasks that must be frequently or regularly repeated;
  • Tasks that require collaboration or work from multiple people;
  • Tasks that must be completed to start work on another task or project.

Using these criteria, you can decide which tasks can benefit from automation and which are best left to your employees.

More specifically, some common processes that many businesses choose to automate include:

Depending on your organization’s needs and existing processes, you may find it useful to automate other or additional processes.

Keep in mind that not all processes are worth automating. For example, customers would probably prefer to speak with an actual customer service representative to resolve an issue, rather than navigating through a lengthy or tiresome automated phone menu. Some tasks will always need a human touch, even if they can be automated.

Business Areas and Industries that Benefit From Automation

What’s more, BPA has more applications and uses in certain niches than in others. Some of the following industries have already been disrupted by BPA, while others have incredible potential for transformation in the future:

Healthcare

The healthcare sector is large, providing plenty of opportunities to use BPA. Hospitals, small practices, pharmaceutical companies, and laboratories are just a few of the many healthcare settings that are already benefiting from automation. BPA can be used for administrative tasks like scheduling and billing, scientific research, and developing new medicines and technologies.

It’s thought that the current applications of automation in healthcare may reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care patients receive. Artificial intelligence in its various forms will likely be essential to future applications of automation in healthcare settings. This can include everything from analyzing large sets of patient data to the automation of various tasks, to helping improve patient care and subsequently save more lives.

Human Resources

The Human Resources department is an essential one for virtually all businesses, but many of their tasks and processes can benefit from automation. BPA can make rote tasks, such as time-tracking and processing time-off requests, far simpler for HR professionals and employees alike. Further, BPA can reduce much of the work of hiring and onboarding new employees, including application screening, scheduling interviews, and immediately sharing relevant new hire materials.

Digital Commerce

Digital commerce and its various branches, including e-commerce, already rely heavily on automation. In fact, automation has already powered many features that customers have come to expect from e-commerce businesses and digital retailers, such as customer service, e-mail marketing offers and promotions, and post-purchase. In some instances, BPA may be responsible for powering the functionality of entire digital commerce platforms and marketplace solutions, facilitating the sale and distribution of those products to customers. As more businesses and consumers alike turn to the digital economy, BPA will likely play an increasingly important role in this realm.

Marketing

Marketing, especially digital marketing, has allowed businesses of all types and sizes to promote their services to an ever-growing audience. With BPA, marketers can easily target customers through multiple channels, perform A/B tests, consistently post to social media profiles, find and nurture leads, and use analytics to learn more about potential customers. It’s unlikely that all marketing processes can be automated, even with more sophisticated technology, but BPA still allows marketing departments and agencies to devote more time and attention to that work.

Finance Departments

Internal finance departments and financial service companies alike can also make use of BPA. They can easily streamline the invoicing process, accounts payable and receivable, bookkeeping, payroll, and employee reimbursement requests. BPA is particularly useful for finances and accounting because of its ability to minimize errors. Making mistakes with money — such as undercharging a customer, forgetting to pay a bill or vendor, or miscalculating an employee’s check — can be difficult to deal with and correct. With the right BPA solution, these issues can be avoided altogether.

Telecommunications

Automation and telecommunications go hand in hand. Because so much of telecommunications can be successfully automated, it can be difficult to succeed without an effective solution created specifically for this industry. With BPA, communications service providers can segment their customers’ orders based on their desired service, create and manage customer service agreements and contracts, diagnose network or service problems, and help with service delivery as a whole.

No matter what sector you’re in, BPA is a necessity if you want your organization to succeed. The process automation industry is only expected to grow in the coming years, with more applications than ever before. With so many available opportunities, you’re sure to discover a new way to harness the power of BPA for your business.