Business process automation (BPA) is the act of installing software, robots or machines to complete tasks. It can help a business increase productivity, support employee innovation, improve customer satisfaction and expand operations. If you are a business leader, consider implementing process automation to enhance your product or service output. In this article, we discuss BPA and its benefits, how to identify processes to automate, ways to use process automation and some tips for using it.
What is business process automation?
BPA, sometimes called robotic process automation (RPA), is the practice of putting technologies like computer software or robotic mechanisms in charge of completing jobs. It can eliminate the need for manual efforts from people for certain tasks, increasing efficiency and decreasing errors. Automation software can complete routine processes repeatedly and consistently. It can follow programs or sets of rules and steps to perform actions such as making keystrokes, navigating systems and understanding screens. It might help businesses with the following activities:
Collecting, analyzing and transporting information
Processing transactions through applications
Editing and updating data
Causing actions in other digital systems and software
Some businesses may combine BPA with cognitive technologies such as artificial intelligence to automate more complex tasks that usually require human perception and judgment. Programming technologies with abilities like machine learning, speech recognition and natural language processing can enable them to perform the following actions:
Recognize and interpret characters and images
Read, understand and create text and documents
Engage in conversations with customers
Use data to make complex, informed decisions
Benefits of process automation
Automating processes can save an organization time and money, providing it with the freedom to create new ideas and optimize its products and services. Here are some other benefits of process automation:
Increase speed: Technologies can complete tasks faster, as they don’t need to take breaks. They can also direct information to the right person at the right time immediately, making business correspondence more efficient.
Minimize errors: It can be easier for automation software to complete an extensive amount of tasks without errors. They can also typically comply with instructions in a more comprehensive, consistent manner than humans can.
Improve transparency: Since automated processes are digital, they can track every detail of actions and store this information in a digital repository. This can enable all stakeholders, including supervisors, employees and even auditors, to monitor the exact processes of a business.
Support employee productivity: Automation software can complete tedious tasks, freeing employees to work on high-value, strategic work and increasing the overall productivity of a team. Employees may have more time to complete actions that require creativity and collaboration, like serving customers and solving special issues.
Handle spikes in workload: Automation software can handle spikes in workloads because of unexpected events, enabling a business to be more receptive and flexible. While hiring more employees in a short time can be difficult, automation technologies can usually address an enormous increase in demand quickly and easily.
Maintain consistency: While people may complete tasks in varying ways, automation software can typically complete actions the same way an extensive number of times. A business can use automation software to reach customer needs consistently, build trust in its customer base and increase loyalty.
Identifying processes to automate
There might be certain processes a business can automate to make its operations faster. Here are the characteristics of a process that it might be beneficial for a company to automate:
Requires consistency: The process needs to be the same, every time and across teams.
Needs to be free from error: It’s important that the process is accurate and error-free.
Depends on rules: There is a specific set of rules or directions for how to complete the process.
Requires efforts from multiple people: The process requires work from many team members.
Should occur in high volume: Employees typically complete the process in high volume, such as multiple times every day.
Is time-sensitive: The process has deadlines and due dates.
Is financial: Auditors and other stakeholders look at this process to assess the financial history of an organization.
Ways to use process automation
Process automation can be especially beneficial to financial services firms because software can help them perform calculations and complete financial tasks. However, process automation can help businesses in other industries too, like healthcare, retail, human resources, government, manufacturing, law and information technology. Here are six ways a business could use BPA to improve its operations:
1. Human resources
Human resources tasks like onboarding can be much faster and easier if they’re automatic processes. BPA can help a company hire many new employees quickly if it needs to scale its service capabilities. An automatic onboarding process typically involves electronic forms for employees to complete on which they can place their e-signatures. Automation software can then send these forms and other important onboarding documents to the proper departments, offer online training programs to new employees and help them set up direct deposit systems for their paychecks.
An automation software could even answer employee questions without a manager having to get involved. It can enable employees to make and receive leave requests and track their time and attendance. This can make it easier for HR professionals to monitor their employee’s activities, especially if they have an extensive staff.
2. Financial tasks
BPA software can help companies organize financial information such as accounts payable. Instead of trying to keep track of paper invoices and copies and delivering them manually, a company can send electronic forms to vendors and route digital invoices to the proper locations. This can also allow team members to track and find expenses and other financial details quickly. Making the payment process easier and faster can increase the satisfaction of both vendors and employees.
3. Customer support
Customer or help desk support is one of the most popular ways businesses use BPA. Robots can be very helpful in answering common customer questions such as business hours or how to complete actions on an application. They can even process customer cancellations and issue refunds, while also recommending other resources to customers. BPA can help a business handle an extensive number of customer inquiries and help customers as quickly as possible.
BPA software can be very helpful for businesses to prepare for audits. This is because it can enable a company to track financial information, retrieve it easily and include it in audit documents. Some BPA software can even complete analyses and reports that may help give an auditor a clear picture of a business’s financial history and performance. Automation can make the auditing process fast and accurate.
5. Data protection
Automatic data backup can help protect data, such as customer analytics, from being lost. It can also help businesses manipulate and restore data to use it for operations. BPA software often enables companies to store data in a central database and thus access it from any device and any place.
6. Daily operations
BPA can help with specific tasks and daily operations of a business. For example, it can provide email notifications or reminders to employees and customers, facilitate product launches and process sales orders. It can also help a company advertise its products and services automatically.
Tips for process automation
With the proper amount of planning and a sufficient amount of resources, a company can implement BPA to better fulfill its goals. Here are some tips for automating processes for your own business:
Manage your expectations: Instead of completing process automation on a large scale all at once, consider starting small and increasing your automation over an adequate amount of time. This can help you address potential issues in automation software and train employees for the changes that can come with it.
Consider the financial consequences: While process automation can reduce costs and increase returns on investment in the long term, it can sometimes be a significant cost upfront. Consider this and other financial implications when you are planning your process automation to ensure this is an excellent decision for your business.
Support your customers: Think about your customer base and their needs before implementing process automation. For example, while an automated robot that helps with customer service issues may increase efficiency for a business, some customers may want to work with a person instead to solve their issues.
Support your employees: As process automation can be a significant change, make sure to support your employees throughout it. Work with the human resources department to adjust training methods and provide the resources to help employees understand their job responsibilities.
Build a powerful team: Building a team that is in charge of process automation can help the change be successful. This can also involve hiring an information technology team to help install process automation and troubleshoot any issues that come up.
Plan for obstacles: Expecting obstacles or mistakes can help you prepare for them and overcome them if they happen. For example, it may be a good idea to back up information and install security systems to protect data in the event of a technology failure.
Track results: Monitor the results of process automation to see its effects on your business. Seeing the results can also help you adjust processes as needed to support stakeholders and generate success.