There are many ways to make business processes more efficient, and business process automation is one method gaining immense popularity today.
Business process automation is about streamlining entire business processes with automation, which significantly speeds up processes end-to-end, reduces human errors, and frees up employees to do higher-value tasks that automation can’t replace.
In this guide, we’ll walk through what exactly business process automation is, how it differs from robotic process automation, and 6 reasons you should consider implementing it in your organization today.
What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?
Business process automation leverages technology to automate and streamline time-consuming, multi-step business processes. This type of automation gives workers across your organization more time to focus on higher-value tasks, such as those that require critical thinking or creativity.
BPA automates tasks across several departments and commonly uses APIs to facilitate the flow of information across your organization.
What can business process automation automate? (Examples)
Think of any rule-based, repetitive, and time-consuming process—there’s likely already a use case out there of how BPA can automate it.
Let’s look at an example of a sales order workflow.
- BPA can automate the creation of a sales order.
- BPA can automate the approval or rejection of the sales order or send out the sales order to the appropriate people for approval and signatures.
- If approved, BPA can automate the task of sending an invoice to the client.
- Once the client pays the invoice, BPA can also automate the order fulfillment and recordkeeping process.
Other examples of processes and workflows that BPA can automate are:
- Claims processing: Automate file transfers and the audit process to make sure every claim is accounted for.
- Time tracking: Automatically record hours worked. Then automatically send recorded hours to accounting and payroll where further automation can occur to ensure proper taxes are withheld.
- KPI dashboards: Automatically and regularly pull data from various sources to populate dashboards for key metrics.
- Loan approval: Automate the loan approval or rejection process for a quicker and better customer experience.
- Restock inventory: Point of sale (POS) systems and online stores can be connected to your inventory management system so that when an item is sold, an inventory item is automatically deducted from your inventory system. You can set up reorder points to automatically trigger reordering. Additionally, journal entries can be automatically created in your accounting system.
- Accounts receivables: Chasing clients and customers to get paid is frustrating. Not only can you automate the invoice sending process, but you can also automate the follow-up process.
- Customer onboarding process: Businesses in financial services can automate tasks like identity verification while ensuring no corners are cut following regulatory requirements.
6 business process automation benefits
As many business leaders rethink how work gets done across their organization in a post-pandemic world, many will turn to automation. According to a Global Intelligent Automation Study by Deloitte, 68% of business leaders leveraged automation to adjust to the impacts of COVID-19.
As the adoption of automation picks up speed, here are 6 reasons why you should consider BPA specifically.
1. Reduce and eliminate human error
BPA systems that are designed and implemented correctly complete daily tasks consistently and dependably. They don’t get bored, sidetracked, nor feel time pressure.
Sometimes workers have to work under intense time pressure, which leads to errors such as incorrectly inputting a number into a spreadsheet. In the example of processing claims, human error could result in missing claims that can take hours to correct.
A notable real-life case of human error that could’ve been avoided with the help of automation includes the infamous Citigroup lawsuit with Revlon, where Citigroup employees erroneously sent almost $1 billion dollars to Revlon lenders when it only intended to send $7.8 million. Citigroup was only able to recover about half of the money back following a federal judge ruling.
2. Speed up processes
Workers are busy with many complex tasks, and it’s easy for certain individual tasks to take second priority, which slows down entire processes. Workers also take days off, have lunch breaks, work a certain number of hours per day, and more.
On the other hand, BPA works overnight if it needs to and has the capability to perform tasks exponentially faster than humans. For example, it can scrape hundreds of websites to find essential contact information or prices in minutes, whereas this could take human workers days to do.
3. Reduce operating costs
A properly designed and implemented business process automation system can reduce operational costs by automating manual, repetitive, and time-consuming processes that require human intervention. This way, with the help of automation, your team can accommodate busier seasons and growth without necessarily having to hire as many workers as you would without automation.
Automation also frees up workers to learn new skills to broaden their skill sets so they can help your organization in more ways that may have required additional hiring.
As the business landscape gets more competitive, organizations that don’t use automation will be at a severe disadvantage compared to businesses that are leveraging automation to get more done with significantly fewer labor costs.
4. Boost productivity and engagement
A whopping 64% of the workforce in a Gallup study reports feeling disengaged at work.
Repetitive, time-consuming work can lead to disengagement and complacency, leading to reduced productivity and profitability. By automating the tedious, repetitive work, humans are free to focus their attention on more strategic initiatives that require critical thinking and creativity. It also allows them to learn more skills, boosting their confidence, which could further help your organization.
5. Improve the customer experience
BPA improves the customer experience in various ways. For example:
- Frees up workers to spend more time building relationships with customers or strategizing on how to improve the customer experience.
- Speed up specific processes that directly impact customers, such as speeding up the claims process, which reduces wait times and leads to a better overall experience.
- Equip workers with the knowledge they need to deliver superior customer service. BPA can aggregate notes across organizational silos so that your salespeople and marketers can have a 360 view of each customer, allowing them to create a more personalized experience.
6. Simplify compliance with regulatory requirements
BPA can help with digital record keeping and audit trails. The recordkeeping process still involves using a lot of papers for many businesses today, and manually filling out forms to meet regulatory requirements can be time-consuming and error-prone.
With BPA, your organization will be less vulnerable to compliance trouble resulting from human error in the documentation and recordkeeping process. BPA documents everything consistently and dependably to ensure compliance.
Additionally, BPA can break down silos and give business leaders greater visibility into their entire organization’s compliance from a centralized location.
Business Process Automation Vs. Robotic Process Automation
Business process automation and robotic process automation are often used interchangeably, but they’re two different concepts. Business process automation automates entire business processes end-to-end, whereas robotic process automation automates rule-based, repetitive tasks.
Put simply, robotic process automation is used more commonly to automate manual tasks within a larger process and can be used to complement business process automation.
The future of business process automation
As more companies realize the benefits of automation, business process automation will become increasingly adopted. Also fueling the growth of business process automation is the increasing popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). With these technologies, automation in business processes will continue to become more intelligent and more effective.
Gain the competitive advantage with business process automation
To realize maximum benefits from a business process automation solution, you must ensure business processes are optimized and efficient before adding automation. To help with this, we recommend starting with a few automations and incrementally adding more as you gain momentum.
With a well-designed and implemented business process automation system, you can easily monitor your automations and processes to identify areas of improvement to gain the most business value from your BPA initiative.
Interested in learning more? Reach out to an automation expert on our team to discuss which processes you could automate in your organization today.