According to a recent report by Forrester, up to 22% of businesses still lack workflow automation and process excellence. These are critical for growing revenue and customer satisfaction. If you want to continue to grow your base of happy and loyal customers, process excellence needs to be one of your primary focuses. Business process automation (BPA) is a straightforward and effective way to get started.
What Is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation refers to the use of technology to execute recurring processes or tasks in a business where manual effort can easily be replaced. Investing in BPA reduces costs, improves efficiency, and ultimately streamlines your processes.
It’s important not to confuse business process automation with business Process Management (BPM) which is a larger discipline that involves the management of complex organization-wide process using a variety of methodologies.
Examples of Business Process Automation
To help you better understand business process automation, take a look at these two popular use cases.
For most organizations, purchase order request a recurring process. The requesting team fills out a form and send it to the purchasing department. The approver then takes a look at the request and rejects it instances where there is not enough information or the purchase isn’t in the budget. It is then sent back to the requesting team. If approved, the purchase requisition becomes a purchase order and copies are sent to the supplier and inventory team.
Without an automation workflow in place, there could be any number of issues such as:
- Delayed purchase order approval
- Errors in the purchase order
- Errors while taking delivery of the supplies
- Incomplete record
- Impacted productivity
Though hiring employees may seem like a relatively smooth process, it does involve multiple tasks. You must fill out employee information forms, set up introduction meetings, a range training, collect relevant documents, set up bank accounts and direct deposit for payroll, assign mentors, and more.
Without automation, there is potential for the onboarding process to become chaotic, causing:
- Employee dissatisfaction
- Endless mountains of paperwork
- Lower productivity
- Missing out on certain tasks
Relying on business automation for employee onboarding ensures smooth transitions from one task to the next and keeps reliving employees in the loop. It provides visibility into the status of the entire process.
Why You Should Automate Business Processes
Part of the Path to Digital Transformation
If you’re not on the path to digital transformation, it can seem like a goal you’ll never achieve. Adopting business process automation can be a stepping stone on that path to creating a company culture of continuing transformation. Start with the processes that will make the most impact to your business and work your way up to more complex workflow automation.
Streamline processes are a result of automation. You’ll get customizable notifications, accountability, insights, and faster turnaround times so you can eliminate wasteful activities and focus efforts on tasks that add value to the organization.
Standardization of Operations
With business process automation, there is a consistent standard of outcomes every time. This standardization positions your company as reliable, which helps build a stronger customer base.
When you automate your business processes, everything about the process is recorded. This not only holds everyone involved accountable, but the records can be shown to demonstrate compliance in the event of an audit.
Customer satisfaction is projected to overtake price as the key differentiator in any industry. Focusing on operational and process excellence ensures that you can meet and exceed customer expectations with ease. When you’re able to consistently meet those promised standards, customers are likely to become loyal to your company.
When you’re designing your automation workflow, you need a certain amount of clarity about the process. If you don’t know the tasks or the people involved for running the process, you won’t be able to properly design and automate the workflow.
Process mapping can give all the employees clarity and can serve as a training resource for new employees. The insights you gain from analyzing your process can clearly show you the gaps between how your process currently operates and how it should ideally run for process improvement.
Automation solutions come in all shapes and sizes to help you manage and automate your process workflows. The key is to focus on what your business needs are and find a solution that will scale and grow with you.
What Business Processes Should You Automate?
The good thing about business process automation is that it isn’t restricted to a small group of functions. Factors that can indicate the need for automation include:
- High task volume
- Time sensitive nature
- Multiple people required to execute
- Significant impact on other systems and processes
- Need for audit trails and compliance
Activities that meet all of the above criteria are likely to need automation. Here are some of the commonly automated processes across organizations in a number of industries:
- Time and Attendance Tracking
- Lead Nurturing
- Data Backup and Restoration
- Data Aggregation and Migration
- Creating Customer Case Studies
- Employee Leave Requests
- Product Launches
- Sales Orders
- Call Center Processes
- Email and Push Notifications
- Helpdesk and Customer Support
Benefits of Business Process Automation
Once you’ve automated your processes for workflow efficiency, you’ll see a number of benefits.
Enhanced access to data makes it easier for your employees to do more in the same amount of time. Cloud-based process automation tools store your data in a central database that’s accessible from anywhere there’s an internet connection, from computers and mobile devices. This makes it possible for employees to stay connected to data when they’re away from the office, and even allows them to telecommute.
You’ll ultimately have higher employee satisfaction because the team no longer has to worry about doing boring, monotonous repetitive tasks. Your employees will be happier and doing more meaningful work.
Business processes will become more transparent. It’s easy to track and monitor processes while they’re running, which improves visibility and accountability.
Faster Error Response
Being able to monitor processes on the go helps you keep an eye out for errors, allowing to fix them as they occur. Performance reports give you the information you need to take preventative measures to prevent recurring errors.
Regardless of how much attention to detail your employees have, they are still human and have the potential to make mistakes. There’s always a chance someone will forget to send and email or forget another important detail. The consequences can be relatively small, or they may be far reaching, depending on what was forgotten and when. The right automation software reminds you of your tasks on a regular basis to reduce the chances of error as a result of things falling through the cracks. Though you’ll never be able to completely eliminate human error, automation efforts can go a long way toward reducing it.
Over the long term, you’ll see faster turnaround times and cost savings because you’ll have fewer manual interventions. You’ll be able to enhance workforce allocation because automation will handle the mundane recurring tasks. This allows you to redirect your team to tasks that require human intervention to add value to the company. More money for your business means better value for your employee investment, and you may be able to foster more growth by investing the return into employee initiatives that will further increase employee satisfaction.
Business Process Automation Best Practices
Just signing up for a business process automation tool isn’t going to guarantee you’ll be successful. You’ll need to look at your approach to automation and do some legwork to get the most benefit from it.
Use these tips to help you be successful with implementing automation in your business:
Start with a clear understanding of what tasks are involved, who is responsible for each part, and when each task must be executed. If you lack this understanding, start with process mapping to get you heading in the right direction.
Clearly define your goals when you automate a business process, so you can go back and measure your success toward meeting or exceeding those goals. If you fall short, you’ll be in a better position to analyze what happened and what you can do to fix it to reach your goals.
Use a phased approach to measure your results. Results won’t materialize overnight, and thinking they will set your organization up for disappointment. You may give up on automation too soon.
Invest enough time in training employees, and factor in an adjustment period. For better results, allow them to provide input on the solutions you choose to setup your automation – since they will be the ones working directly with the software platform. The better their user experience is, the easier it will be to implement everything for better workflow management.
Adopt a long-term outlook and you’ll get a much better return on investment.
Opt for ready-made solutions when available so you don’t invest in an IT team or technology to build a custom solution only to have it fail to meet your expectations. Look for automation systems that integrate with software applications you’re already using and that will talk to one another to increase efficiency.