Every business needs to efficiently utilise all available resources effectively. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, fully realising automation’s potential requires people and technology to work hand-in-hand.
No wonder many organisations are turning to business process automation (BPA) to improve performance, reduce errors, increase productivity, improve quality and speed–and in many cases achieve outcomes that go beyond human capabilities.
No Longer a ‘Nice-to-Have’
The fact is that the automation of business processes has moved from being a nice-to-have to a necessity. Analyst firm Forrester predicted that BPA can cut operating costs by up to 90%. With costs reduced by that amount, automation can enable you to spend more budget on innovation.
In the introduction to its automation framework, Forrester says it is ‘impossible to overstate the impact automation has on digital transformation’. It goes on to say that automation:
directly impacts customer experience (CX)
contributes directly to your bottom line
will create 10% more jobs in a new automation-led economy
What is BPA?
Technically, BPA is a way of using technology to automate business processes in order to cut costs and increase productivity. Basically, you can automate processes and workflows, with a process chosen for automation if it:
is repetitive in nature
doesn’t require logical thinking or human intervention for completion
is important for the process to have consistency across the organisation
needs to be error-free
What is BPA best suited for?
BPA can be applied in a number of areas where there is a need for automation. Key factors that indicate the need for automation include processes that are high-volume, require multiple people to execute them, are time-sensitive and have significant impact on other processes and systems.
Examples of some of the more commonly automated processes in organisations include:
Backup and restoration
Employee leave requests
Call centre processes
Time and attendance tracking
Four Key Benefits of BPA
There are many upsides to deploying business process automation, but key benefits include:
1. Enhanced Customer Service
With major advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and associated technologies, the way customer service is provided has changed dramatically. Nirvana for many organisations is to have all customer interactions handled without the need of any human agent.
Using AI, it’s possible to create great customer service and enable staff to answer all customers’ questions directly via easy access to back-office information and resources. This automated customer service can help greatly reduce response times.
‘Virtual assistants’ can be used to predict what customers are looking for by tracking their actions and understanding their needs. Once you identify the customer issues, you can provide real-time support using chatbots or by displaying FAQs. If you can get to grips with customers’ issues, you can not only reduce complaints, but also improve customer satisfaction and reduce product abandonment rates.
2. Improve Productivity and Reduce Costs
There are many recurring tasks within an organisation that happen regularly and are predictable. By automating such tasks, employees have more time at their disposal and can work more productively, considerably reducing the risk of important activities ‘falling through the cracks’.
You can automate regular processes such as generating weekly reports, processing invoices, and ensuring routine data back-ups are carried out effectively. If you want to build an online presence on various social media platforms, but are unable to spend enough time or hire someone to do so, you can set up a process to automatically push blog posts on your site, or publish posts on social media.
The old adage “time is money” holds true in business processing. If you speed up processing through automation, you cut costs. The less time you spend on a given process, the less impact it will have on your bottom line.
3. Optimise Employee Resources and Engagement
To improve employee engagement it’s important to provide opportunities that will help staff develop a sense of purpose. Many employees today spend a lot of their time doing menial, repetitive tasks that don’t add much value to the organisation.
Automation takes over time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Many employees are often overwhelmed by how much they have to do, so automation gives them a chance to breathe and focus on more engaging tasks. And since they’re not spending as much time on what might feel like boring work, automation helps keep your tech-savvy employees on board, thereby improving retention and lowering attrition.
Once employees are freed up to focus on more valuable work, they are more likely to come up with new ideas that will drive the overall success of the business.
4. Ensure Compliance
BPA is a great way of ensuring regulatory compliance in business. It helps:
track and monitor compliance with all legal requirements and contractual obligations
facilitate training and communication of key messages at different levels
document relevant procedures
promote internal reporting
enhance internal investigative processes
Weak areas of compliance may be identiﬁed through automatic data analytics, which trigger immediate corrective actions before identiﬁed issues become major problems.
Any task that an automated process completes is always documented. For every task, you get clear logs that tell you what was done, when it was done and who did it. So you get a transparent audit trail that will act as an important proof point when auditors put your organisation under the microscope.
This streamlining of processes allows compliance professionals to focus on important issues and decision making.
Business Process Automation Examples
To put BPA in perspective, below are two example use cases:
Hiring employees involves multiple tasks, including:
completing employee information forms
setting up inductions
inputting bank accounts
collecting relevant documents
Without automation, the entire process can become quite chaotic and result in endless paperwork, employee dissatisfaction and errors through missing out some tasks.
Applying BPA to employee onboarding can ensure a smooth transition between a sequence of tasks, ensuring that employees are kept in the loop and there is visibility and transparency throughout the process.
Purchase Order (PO) requests are recurring processes in most organisations. A PO request is sent to the purchasing team, who may approve or reject it if there is inadequate information.
Issues may include:
delayed PO approval
errors in the PO request
BPA can help improve accountability, transparency and enable accurate data recording, which can be accessed by relevant stakeholders as required. It will also retain all process-related communication within the workflow to make execution easier and faster.
Potential of BPA
Business process automation has the potential to bring about real change to your organisation. You can get more work done, faster and at lower cost. But just adding BPA into the mix doesn't deliver results overnight. You need an effective and well-thought-out strategy, supplemented with AI-based solutions, to really drive success.
Find out more about how to address the entire automation lifecycle.