Table of Contents
- 1 Understanding BPA Software
- 1.1 What is Business Process Automation Software?
- 1.2 What is business process automation?
- 1.3 How to automate business processes: tasks, tools and steps
- 1.4 What is system integration?
- 1.5 Utilising report automation
- 1.6 Business process management workflow
- 1.7 Alerts and notifications
- 1.8 Advantages of business process automation
- 1.9 Next Steps
BPA Project Management
Before starting your business process automation journey and deciding which BPA software solution is best suited for your organisation’s requirements, it’s beneficial to have a BPA project management plan in place. With this in mind, we have put together a BPA Project Management Workbook to help get you started. The purpose of the downloadable BPA Project Management Workbook is to help you to identify the business processes that you would like to automate. Additionally, it will help you to define the business systems and databases where data is held and the processes that are run manually within the project.
The steps outlined within the workbook will help you to consider the business requirements and resources available to make your business process automation implementation a success.
Understanding BPA Software
What is Business Process Automation Software?
Business Process Automation (BPA) software provides a powerful platform for organisations to streamline business systems through the automation of processes and communication across multiple systems, databases and people to improve business process efficiency throughout the business.
Whilst leveraging existing business systems, business process automation software enables organisations of all sizes to quickly and easily build automated business processes that are unique to the way they work. Business automation software solutions streamline essential administration tasks to improve employee productivity, reduce operating costs in business and drive company revenue.
Through an intuitive drag and drop interface, BPA software takes the complexity out of business process automation and provides added flexibility to the day-to-day running of an organisation. As business processes and requirements change, automated processes can be adapted or completely re-written to meet new conditions.
Primarily, BPA software solutions can add the following capabilities to your existing infrastructure:
- System integration tools
- Report automation
- Business process workflow tools
- Notifications and alerts
What is business process automation?
Business Process Automation (BPA) provides organisations with the ability to improve the management of business information, data and associated processes. Automating the management of these aspects helps to increase the visibility of critical data to reduce operational costs, streamline resources, improve efficiency and increase profitability.
According to Forrester, business process automation can dramatically reduce manual administration and cut operational costs by up to 90%. Due to manual administration processes being automated, employee productivity is increased, allowing them to concentrate on value added tasks, such as developing customer relationships, improving brand awareness or enhancing products and services.
Implementing a business process automation strategy to streamline internal processes can provide your business with a competitive advantage. Ensuring that each department and employee has access to the most up-to-date information can aid decision making, strategic planning and forecasting. This means that it’s essential for businesses to reduce the number of siloed systems and disparate information for day-to-day processes to become more efficient.
“I always equate BPA Platform to being a staff member that never sleeps. It’s like an incredibly efficient person, or team of people, checking data, that never stops.”
Malcolm MacLean, Global Head of IT, Graff Diamonds.
One of the key points to consider is the management and manipulation of data. Business systems hold a wealth of information within a database. Often, as a company grows, this information is held in different systems and applications across departments. In this instance, the lack of system integration and the ability to dynamically share information between systems leads to irregular and inaccurate data.
Integrating business systems and applications with BPA software brings disparate systems and data together. It eradicates data irregularity and provides real-time information to aid decision making. Business system integration bridges the gap between systems and applications by allowing them to talk to each other to reduce process bottlenecks and repetitive data entry.
Common business process automation scenarios achievable through data integration include:
- Accounting and Finance: automated reports, credit referencing, invoice automation and approval workflow, credit control automation, e.g. credit control letters, account placed on hold notifications, automatic aged debtor reports, credit limit change request workflow approvals etc.
- eCommerce: Integration with ERP systems, order process management automation, e.g. customer information, order details, payment transactions, stock levels etc.
- Warehouse: automatic placement orders with courier/shipping services, automatic stock level warnings, delivery alerts, automated pick lists, delivery notes etc.
- Customer service and help desk: Automated welcome packs, documents and statements, automatic escalation of unresolved support issues, automated assignment of support tickets, automated customer renewal packs etc.
- Sales and marketing: CRM integration, automatic notifications of sales enquiries via website, order summaries, goods dispatched notifications, automated KPI reports, account placed on hold notifications, automatic assignment of sales leads, price change notifications, automated SMS sales promotions, automated welcome emails, automatically processing email marketing unsubscribes from campaigns etc.
How to automate business processes: tasks, tools and steps
BPA software solutions enable organisations to build powerful automated business processes, whilst leveraging the power of existing business systems. BPA software should offer a scalable, cost-effective automation solution for organisations ranging from the small-to-medium business to the large enterprise.
In many instances, business process automation software provides extensible process modelling capabilities to enable the automation of complex manual tasks, therefore driving improvements in operational efficiency throughout the business. Additionally, market leading BPA software solutions, such as BPA Platform, are built around the central concepts of “tasks” and “steps”, providing the ability to build flexible automation processes with logical building blocks. These processes integrate seamlessly with existing information sources, infrastructure and communications, without the need for bespoke programming.
Business process tasks
Within leading business automation tools, tasks represent all, or part of, a business process containing multiple interrelated steps. By building tasks, BPA software makes it easy to design business rules that partially or completely replace a manual process. Each individual task provides complete control over which steps are used and in what sequence by using visual modelling techniques within a graphical user interface (GUI). A task can be scheduled periodically when required or triggered in real time from a change within a database.
BPA software tools and steps
Within BPA software, tools are used to create steps within a task. This provides the functional building blocks that interface with common technologies, systems and applications. They are joined together in a logical sequence to build the business process.
|Data Connectors||Provide a connection between BPA Platform and an external data source e.g. relational database (RDBMS) or CRM, ERP system.|
|Event||Triggers a task to be run and exposes data through variables to other steps within the task.|
|Execute||Executes an external application, procedure or object, allowing developers to control the precise result of this step when utilising proprietary systems.|
|Input||Pulls information into BPA Platform from a source, such as a relational database (RDBMS), file format or other structured source, and exposes this to other steps.|
|Format||Consumes and formats information of one type and then exposes that information as another type to other steps.|
|General||Provides specific functionality that cannot be included in the other tool types or is related to third party applications used within BPA Platform.|
|Output||Consumes information from input or format steps and outputs the information from BPA Platform into another system, application or communication method.|
What is system integration?
System integration enables businesses to synchronise data between systems for a specific function. Bridging the gap between disparate systems through drag and drop system integration tools provides a structured format to achieve integration between data sources; improving data consistency and reducing the need for unstructured and convoluted bespoke integration.
The benefits of system integration include:
- Ensure data consistency across multiple data sources
- Reduce bespoke development times and costs
- Eradicate repetitive data entry and associated human errors
- To improve data import routines for specific datasets or when minimal or irregular updates are required for an application’s data
- Safeguard the upgrade path of primary business systems and applications
- Company mergers and acquisitions
- Reducing high operational costs
- To enforce compliance procedures
Leading BPA software solutions, such as BPA Platform, facilitate integration between two systems through a graphical user interface (GUI) to enable the mapping of data between on-premises and cloud-based business systems or applications. BPA Platform will allow you to connect to practically any data source via ODBC, OLEDB, web services or an extensive range of supported third-party APIs through connectors. This wide range of connectivity makes it possible to automate an unlimited number of automated business processes that require manual administration.
Using a web service for system integration
A web service is a web-based interface to a business application hosted on a server, such as an eCommerce web shop or cloud-based accounting/ERP system. This interface provides access to the application to allow integration through a web service connector.
If required, a Web Services Description Language (WDSL) file can be used to describe the web service used with supported operations including GET, POST, PUT and DELETE.
Web Service Connector Mapping Example using BPA Platform
A web service connector tool can support a wide range of web connection standards or architectures, including:
- HTTP/HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol / Secure HTTP)
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)
- WSDL (Web Services Description Language)
- REST (Representational State Transfer) including Open Data, Sage Data and Google Data
The use of a web service connector tool allows connection to a wide range of web services, including MS Exchange, MS Dynamics NAV, Magento, Amazon Seller Central, FedEx, DPD, Sage SDATA and many more. For more examples of system integration using a web service connector visit: BPA Connectors
Utilising report automation
Report automation makes sure that relevant people and departments receive detailed and up-to-date information in any report or document. Using industry standard reporting tools, such as Crystal Reports, Microsoft SSRS, Sage Reports, Microsoft Word and many others, report and document automation ensures that reports arrive on time, as and when required.
Business process automation software provides the added ability to automate the reporting process on a scheduled basis, making it easy to dynamically run critical business reports daily, weekly or monthly. Common documents and reports that organisations use with an automated reporting system include:
- Credit control letters
- WIP reports
- Aged debtor and cash flow status reports
- Invoices and statements
- Waste reports
- Stock reports across multiple locations and warehouses
- Sales reports
- Support ticket reports
- Pick lists
- Compliance documents
- Delivery notes
- Budget reports
- Welcome packs
- Customer purchase history reports
- Renewal documentation
- KPI reports e.g. productivity levels, waste % per product line
Report automation using a Format tool within BPA Platform
The Format tool is used to create a task step that automates the running of your reporting system from BPA Platform. This tool can be applied in many different types of tasks and, with BPA Platform’s Event tools, enables reports to be run based on a range of different events, such as changes to data in a database, receipt of an email or SMS, an action in a user workflow, or scheduling regular runs. The output report can be sent by email, saved to disk or an FTP server, or consumed by a stored procedure. This output can be in a range of different formats and could be processed further by other tools. An example of an output might be an HTML output that is sent via FTP to a web server for display on PCs, phones, and tablets.
Benefits of automated reporting
Within any organisation, report creation and distribution costs time and money. Employees spend their valuable time exporting data from one system to manipulate the data provided into a digestible report. Whether data is held in an Excel spreadsheet or an ERP system, BPA software provides the ability to automate this process on a scheduled or database-driven event. Removing the manual administration surrounding report creation is just one benefit. Other typical benefits of automated reporting include:
- Save employee time and improve efficiency
- Save administration times and costs
- Protect against manual administration errors
- Gather and receive reliable, up-to-date data when you need it most
- Access new data that may not have been retrievable during a manual process
- Ensure 100% compliance to policies and procedures
- Improved decision making
BPA software can cut administration and operational costs up to 90%
Business process management workflow
Business process management workflow provides organisations with the ability to rapidly deploy and configure workflow processes, such as a simple authorisation form and database write back or a multistage workflow contribution process.
Workflow process software included within BPA Platform helps employees to adhere to business rules and procedures so that an organisation can operate efficiently. Its business process workflow tools provide a series of tasks, events and interactions that define a business process.
Using BPA software to build a workflow process automation task will deliver you with a structured overview of the day-to-day operations that need to be performed and who is responsible for each task.
Business process management workflow example: Discount approval process
Common workflows created using business process management workflow software include:
- Purchase order authorisations
- Price change authorisations
- Supplementary data requests
- Credit note authorisations
- Account recollection approvals
- Discount authorisations
- Credit limit reviews
- Review processes
- Sales team commission sign off
- Expenses approvals
- Service quote approvals
- Holiday request approvals
Regardless of how simple or complex a workflow process is, enforcing rules, systems and auditability within an organisation can help to streamline manual tasks whilst improving decision making.
Alerts and notifications
An additional capability of BPA software is the ability to include automated alerts and notifications to your business processes. Automating alerts and notifications for essential business processes ensures that the right people receive essential information at the right time.
Incorporating alerts and notifications within BPA software enables organisations to graphically build and maintain real-time, event-driven communications by utilising email, SMS or collaborative APIs as transport mechanisms. The recipient, whether internal or external to the organisation, will therefore receive the information they need regardless of location or device.
Common examples of internal and external alerts and notifications include:
- Stock level warnings (too high / low)
- Performance / KPI notifications
- Aged debtor updates
- Customer account placed on hold
- Price change updates
- Back orders now in stock
- Order confirmations
- Order status updates
- Contract renewal reminders
- Delivery notifications
- Appointment confirmation / reminders
- Service data reminders
Advantages of business process automation
Business process automation helps to increase efficiency in your day-to-day operations and acts as a virtual employee that is working 24/7, 365 days a year. Business process automation software streamlines time-consuming manual administration tasks to allow employees to add value to other areas of the business. A dedicated BPA solution, such as BPA Platform, provides your IT department with the functionality and capabilities to reduce bespoke development times, allowing your organisation to adapt quickly to changes in processes, systems and environments, quickly and efficiently.
Common benefits of automation software include:
- Reduced development times and costs
- Ability to adapt quickly to changes in personnel, systems, business processes and working environment
- Eradication of human errors from manual administration
- Increased visibility of critical business information
- Improved decision making and increased output
- Reduced operational costs, including the need to recruit additional staff during peak periods
- Real-time information, as and when required, and distributed to the people who need it most
For more information on BPA software and planning your business process automation project, download the BPA Project Management Workbook or call us on +44 (0) 330 99 88 700.