If you run a business, you understand well the need to keep costs down, revenues up and help your employees be more productive and efficient in their daily work. It’s a no brainer right?
One of the best ways you can do these things is to reduce the amount of routine and repetitive work your employees do and allow them to focus their time and effort on high-value work activities.
Business process automation is your answer to achieving efficiencies in cost, resources and investment. It’s about combining the advantages of technology with the knowledge of employees to support customers quickly and properly.
But what is business process automation (BPA) exactly? We’re glad you asked.
Business Process Automation Defined
First, so we’re on the same page, let’s define what a business process is. A business process is a set of repeatable tasks or activities that together accomplish a business goal. Some examples of a business process include an application for house insurance, managing clinical trials in healthcare, mortgage applications and so on.
Business processes typically follow predictable patterns and have a number of repetitive tasks. Business process management is the overall management of business processes including both structured and ad hoc tasks and it takes advantage of business process automation wherever possible to improve the management of structured tasks.
This is research analyst firm Gartner’s definition of business process automation:
“… the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies. It focuses on “run the business” as opposed to “count the business” types of automation efforts and often deals with event-driven, mission-critical, core processes. BPA usually supports an enterprise’s knowledge workers in satisfying the needs of its many constituencies.”
Sounds straightforward right? Well, maybe not so much. So let’s break this definition down into more understandable ideas:
- It’s the automation of business processes. There’s a lot of work involved in running your organization, a lot of processes to follow that can involve many employees, systems, information and decision points. BPA makes the management of those processes easier by automating as much as possible and allowing employees to focus on the high-value tasks that can’t be automated.
- It leverages technology. BPA solutions enable you to manage your business processes from end-to- end, automating the routine, ensuring the right people follow the right workflow, and there is transparency of the full process.
- It supports knowledge workers. These are the people who do the work. BPA defines ownership and accountability of different stages of a business process, streamlines communication, and improves efficiency and productivity.
Why You Need BPA
The need for BPA is clear. Customers demand great customer service and are very willing to go elsewhere if they aren’t happy with the quality and speed of service you provide. Whether your business processes are directly customer focused – such as filing an insurance claim or applying for a loan, or are internally focused – such as biomedical research or asset procurement, the speed and efficiency at which you can handle the process affects how well your organization can operate and meet the needs of customers and its constituents.
BPA ensures the management of structured processes from initiation, through execution and completion. It provides the following benefits:
- Helps automate repeatable and repetitive tasks, so they are done quickly and without the need for human intervention.
- Reduces the possibility of manual errors.
- Defines the approval hierarchy for a business process and outlines clear accountability and ownership of the process and its different stages.
- Streamlines communications by keeping track of all information and data in a single location.
- Increases transparency of the entire business process so you can easily see what stage a process is in and who has worked on it at any point in time.
- Provides insights into any potential bottlenecks, identifying where more assistance might be required or process adjustments are needed.
- Offers regular reports on the performance of processes allowing you to track the efficiency and productivity of your employees and the overall process.
Know Which Processes to Automate
Not every process can be automated. Some processes can’t be automated at all, and others have specific tasks within them that can be automated. It’s important to understand what your specific automation goals are. Next, see what tasks and activities within a business process you can automate to reduce costs and achieve greater efficiency.
Talking with the employees involved in each process is critical. They can help understand how the process works and where automation can reduce their workload and enable them to spend more time on important tasks. Look for processes, or tasks and activities within a process that are time and resource-heavy but are repetitive, following repeatable patterns. These are best suited for BPA.
Once you know the right processes to automate and implement automation, ensure you properly train your employees on their new/adapted role in the process. It may take some time to get employees working with the new process properly.
Monitor the process once it’s automated and up and running. Define the expected performance improvements and then measure the results to see if automation has been beneficial based on your expectations.
Automation is not free, so if it’s not bringing the performance improvements you defined then consider stopping the automation of the process or activity and look for other business processes you can improve through automation.
Don’t assume that you can automate your processes and then forget about them. Business changes. Business processes change as well. Plan to regularly check to ensure the process is working as expected and achieving the desired results. Ensure that as business rules change your process is adapted to apply them.