- What is driving demand for business process automation?
- What are the business process automation trends?
- What processes are organisations looking to automate?
Business process automation is undergoing rapid evolution and reshaping the way that organisations approach their operations. It has become central to digital transformation strategies, providing the ability to streamline operations, enhance efficiency and improve customer experiences. In this article, we take a deep dive into the latest business process automation trends.
What is driving demand for business process automation?
The need for business process automation has been driven by a combination of economic, technological and competitive factors over the past few years. It has become essential for businesses to adapt and thrive in today’s dynamic and data-driven world.
Increasing task complexity, driven by technological advancements and the globalisation of markets, has created a demand for streamlined processes that can efficiently handle intricate workflows. Moreover, the deluge of data in the digital era necessitates automation to swiftly process and derive insights from vast datasets, enabling data-driven decision-making.
Business process automation also addresses the need for speed and agility in contemporary business landscapes. Customers and markets demand rapid responses, necessitating streamlined processes that business process automation can deliver with precision and consistency.
Employment costs serve as another significant driver. With wages on the rise in many regions, the cost-efficiency of business process automation becomes increasingly evident. This efficiency is particularly poignant in automating repetitive and routine tasks, which can be seamlessly executed without human intervention.
Furthermore, the cutthroat realm of global competition compels businesses to seek avenues for enhancing efficiency and reducing operational costs. Business process automation offers a strategic edge, enabling organisations to optimise processes, allocate resources efficiently and stay competitive in rapidly evolving markets.
What are the business process automation trends?
As technology continues to evolve, business process automation evolves with it. Organisations are actively embracing a wide-range of new strategies and technology, such as exploring the capabilities of artificial intelligence, no-code/low-code software and workflow orchestration, to optimise, oversee and govern automated workflows.
In this evolving landscape, intelligent process automation technologies are assuming a pivotal role, taking centre stage in the pursuit of digital transformation across both IT and business divisions, and reinforcing its role as a transformative force in shaping the future of business operations.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning (ML) are already playing a pivotal role in enhancing automation capabilities. These systems not only execute routine tasks but also make decisions, adapt to changing conditions and learn from data, making processes more efficient and error-free.
Additionally, cloud-based business process automation solutions are now becoming more prevalent, providing scalability and accessibility. Moreover, there is also a shift towards hyperautomation, where multiple technologies like RPA, AI, and analytics converge to create end-to-end automated processes.
All of this technology is enabling employees to focus on more creative and complex tasks, whilst automation handles the repetitive ones. As a result, business process automation promises increased efficiency, cost savings and a revolution in how businesses operate.
More and more CIOs are creating fully automated processes and value chains in order to realise digital transformation within their organisations. As digital transformation is a strategy that needs to permeate all aspects of a business they are also looking beyond just IT operations, turning their attention to increasing customer experience, scaling up productivity and focusing on optimising resilience and trust.
Viable, easy-to-use software and cloud technology solutions are therefore becoming increasingly important to facilitate these objectives. It is anticipated that this market is set to become one of the fastest growing markets over the next five years.
The current trends that are driving the demand for business process automation and starting to gain traction in many IT departments include:
- System and data integration
- Workflow automation
- No-code and low-code apps
- Customer experience
- Instant collaboration
- Cloud-based solutions
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
- Workflow orchestration
Let’s take a deeper look into each of these trends.
System and data integration
Granted, it’s not exactly a new concept. However, as organisations continue to adopt new technologies and software solutions, accumulating data in a variety of different sources, whether on-premises or in the cloud, system integration has become even more of an essential component for effective business process automation.
Integration platforms also continue to evolve, including developments such as iPaaS and the technology associated with it, meaning organisations need to keep up to date with the latest connections and innovations.
System integration breaks down the barriers between systems, streamlines data flow and expands the scope of automation possibilities, ultimately driving operational excellence and improved decision-making within businesses.
It is instrumental in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of business process automation. By seamlessly connecting various software applications, databases and systems, integration facilitates the smooth flow of data and information, enabling BPA to thrive in several ways.
Firstly, integration eliminates data silos within an organisation . Many businesses operate with disparate systems for different functions like finance, HR, sales and customer relationship management.
Without integration, data is often duplicated or inconsistent, leading to errors and inefficiencies. Integration ensures that these systems communicate and share data in real-time, providing a unified and accurate source of information.
Secondly, system integration enables end-to-end automation. Business process automation often involves multiple steps and systems working together to complete a process. Integration ensures that these systems can trigger actions and share data seamlessly, allowing for a continuous, automated workflow. This reduces manual intervention, accelerates processes and minimises errors.
Moreover, system integration extends business process automation capabilities by connecting to external sources, such as third-party applications or data providers. This opens up opportunities for organisations to leverage additional data and functionalities in their automation efforts.
Workflow automation is a transformative approach to streamlining and optimising the operational processes of businesses and organisations. At its core, it involves the use of technology, software and algorithms to automate, orchestrate and manage a wide array of tasks and activities within an organisation. By eliminating manual and repetitive steps, workflow automation not only enhances efficiency but also reduces errors, saves time and allows employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
Central to workflow automation is the concept of a “workflow.” A workflow is a predefined sequence of steps, tasks or activities required to complete a specific process or achieve a particular goal. These workflows can be as simple as a single-task process or as complex as multi-step, cross-functional processes that involve multiple departments and stakeholders.
One of the key principles of workflow automation is the digitisation of processes. This involves converting paper-based, manual or analogue processes into digital formats that can be managed and automated using software and digital tools. Digitisation is the foundation upon which automation is built, as it enables the capture, storage and manipulation of data electronically, making it accessible for automation.
Workflow automation platforms and tools play a pivotal role in facilitating this transformation. These platforms provide a set of functionalities and capabilities that enable organisations to design, deploy and manage automated workflows. They often include features such as process modelling, task assignment, notification triggers, integration with other software systems, and reporting and analytics.
At the heart of workflow automation are the rules and logic that govern the flow of tasks and data within a process. These rules can be configured to ensure that tasks are assigned to the right individuals or departments, that notifications are sent at appropriate milestones, and that decision points are automated based on predefined criteria. This allows for consistent and standardised execution of processes, reducing variability and improving predictability.
Beyond operational efficiency, workflow automation also contributes to compliance and regulatory requirements by automating compliance checks and regulatory filings. It enhances document management by providing automated document retrieval and approval workflows, aiding in organising and managing crucial documents efficiently.
Furthermore, workflow automation adapts to the changing needs of organisations. As business processes evolve, the automation can be adjusted and extended to accommodate new requirements, making it a flexible and scalable solution.
Workflow automation is a powerful strategy that uses technology to streamline processes, reduce manual intervention and enhance productivity across various departments and industries. By digitising, orchestrating and optimising workflows, organisations can achieve operational excellence, cost savings and improved customer experiences, ultimately driving their competitiveness and success. As technology continues to advance, the potential for workflow automation to revolutionise the way organisations operate and deliver value is unlimited.
Low-code and no-code integration and automation platforms are revolutionising the way businesses streamline processes and build applications. These platforms empower individuals with varying levels of technical expertise to create software solutions and automate workflows without extensive coding knowledge.
Low-code platforms offer a middle ground between traditional coding and no-code tools, allowing users to develop applications with minimal manual coding, primarily focusing on visual interfaces and configuration. On the other hand, no-code platforms cater to users with little to no coding experience, relying entirely on intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built components.
These platforms bring several advantages to organisations. They accelerate the development of applications and automation solutions, significantly reducing time-to-market. This speed can be a game-changer in today’s competitive landscape. Additionally, they promote collaboration between IT and business units, as business users can actively participate in solution development.
Low-code and no-code platforms also enhance agility by allowing for rapid prototyping and quick adjustments to meet evolving business needs. Moreover, they can help address the IT skills gap by enabling a broader range of individuals within an organisation to contribute to digital transformation efforts. As a result, low-code and no-code integration and automation solutions have become integral components of business innovation and process optimisation.
“The flexibility of the solution really highlighted the power of BPA Platform. The solution gives us the scope to continue to improve our business processes. We are already discussing the different ways we can further utilise BPA Platform in the future.” Vim Juneja, Global Head of IT, French Connection
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Customer experience is the lifeblood of any successful business. It encompasses every interaction a customer has with a company, from the first point of contact to post-purchase support. A positive customer experience can create brand loyalty, repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals, while a negative one can drive customers away and tarnish a company’s reputation.
Customer experience has therefore become a key focal point for organisations, with many turning to automation to help streamline operations, reduce errors and increase efficiency.
Here are several ways in which business process automation can positively impact customer experience:
- Faster response times: Automation allows for rapid processing of customer enquiries, orders and service requests. Automated responses and workflows ensure that customers receive quick and consistent answers, improving their overall experience.
- Consistency: Automation ensures that customer interactions follow predefined processes and standards. This consistency across all touchpoints contributes to a cohesive brand image and builds trust.
- Reduced errors: Automated processes significantly reduce human errors, leading to fewer mistakes in order processing, billing and other critical customer-facing activities. This translates to fewer customer complaints and a smoother experience.
- Personalisation: Business process automation can gather and analyse customer data to create personalised experiences. By segmenting customers based on their preferences and behaviour, businesses can tailor their interactions and offers, increasing customer engagement.
- Proactive communication: Automation can trigger notifications and updates, keeping customers informed about the status of their orders, appointments or support tickets. This transparency enhances trust and reduces uncertainty.
- Self-service options: Business process automation can enable self-service portals and chatbots that allow customers to find information or resolve issues independently. This empowers customers, reduces wait times and provides 24/7 support.
- Feedback collection: Automated surveys and feedback forms can be sent to customers, enabling businesses to gather valuable insights and continuously improve their products and services based on customer input.
Business process automation enables businesses to streamline processes, reduce errors and enhance personalisation, helping to deliver more efficient, consistent and customer-centric services, ultimately leading to higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty.
Instant collaboration has become increasingly important in the modern business landscape, where remote work, global teams and the need for rapid decision-making are prevalent.
Instant collaboration refers to the ability of individuals or teams to quickly and seamlessly communicate, share information and work together on projects or tasks in real-time. It relies on technology tools and platforms that facilitate immediate and efficient interaction, enabling employees to collaborate regardless of their physical location.
Unsurprisingly, business process automation can play a pivotal role in enabling this within organisations.
Firstly, business process automation ensures that information flows seamlessly across departments and teams. With automated workflows, data and tasks are routed to the right individuals or teams in real-time, reducing delays and bottlenecks. This promotes quicker responses to customer inquiries, project updates and internal requests.
BPA tools often include communication and notification features, which enable instant alerts and updates. When a critical task is completed or a specific milestone is reached, relevant team members can be notified instantly, allowing them to respond promptly.
Furthermore, BPA can integrate with collaboration tools and platforms, ensuring that all stakeholders have access to the latest information and can collaborate effortlessly. This integration fosters a culture of transparency, where employees can collaborate on shared documents, communicate through chat, or engage in video conferences without friction.
Business process automation can help organisations streamline processes, reduce manual intervention and enhance data availability, creating an environment where instant collaboration becomes not just possible but also highly efficient, ultimately driving productivity and innovation.
Cloud-based solutions are playing a pivotal role in advancing business process automation by providing scalability, accessibility and enhanced collaboration. These solutions enable organisations to host their BPA tools and workflows in the cloud, bringing several benefits.
Firstly, cloud-based BPA offers scalability, allowing businesses to easily expand or contract their automation resources as needed. This flexibility is essential for handling fluctuating workloads and adapting to changing business requirements.
Accessibility is another key advantage. With cloud-based BPA, employees can access automation tools and data from anywhere with an internet connection. This empowers remote work, enhances collaboration among geographically dispersed teams, and ensures that critical processes are not disrupted.
Additionally, cloud-based solutions often come with built-in security features and data backup capabilities, ensuring the protection of sensitive information and the continuity of operations.
Collaboration is further fostered by the ability to share and collaborate on automation workflows in real-time, facilitating cross-functional teamwork and knowledge sharing.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Let’s face it, you can’t escape the mention of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the moment. Every organisation or tech vendor is exploring its potential and/or trying to incorporate it into their business or solutions. It really is that revolutionary.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, both AI and Machine Learning (ML) have ushered in a new era of business process automation. They provide businesses with powerful tools to streamline operations, improve efficiency and enhance decision-making processes.
Here’s how AI and ML are transforming business process automation:
- Data processing and analysis: AI and ML systems excel at processing and analysing vast amounts of data quickly and accurately. This capability is invaluable for businesses dealing with large datasets, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and gain insights that were previously impossible or time-consuming to obtain. Whether it’s customer data, financial records or market trends, AI/ML can help distil information into actionable intelligence.
- Predictive analytics: ML algorithms can predict future trends and outcomes based on historical data. This is immensely helpful for inventory management, sales forecasting and demand planning. By accurately predicting market demand, businesses can optimise production, reduce waste and ensure products are readily available when customers need them.
- Process automation: AI and ML can automate repetitive and rule-based tasks across various departments, from finance to customer support. Chatbots powered by AI, for instance, can handle routine customer enquiries, freeing up employees for more complex interactions. In finance, AI-driven software can automatically categorise and process invoices, reducing errors and saving time.
- Personalisation and customer experience: AI and ML enable businesses to personalise customer experiences by analysing customer behaviour and preferences. eCommerce platforms use recommendation algorithms to suggest products to individual customers, enhancing sales. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide personalised support, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Fraud detection and security: AI and ML are indispensable in fraud detection and cybersecurity. They can detect anomalies and unusual patterns in real-time, helping businesses identify and prevent fraudulent activities. This is critical in financial institutions, where AI can analyse transaction data to flag potentially fraudulent transactions before they cause significant harm.
- Supply chain optimisation: AI and ML are instrumental in optimising the supply chain. They can track and analyse various factors, such as weather conditions and transportation logistics, to ensure products are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively. This reduces lead times, minimises costs and improves overall supply chain resilience.
- Employee productivity and HR: AI can assist in HR tasks, such as resume screening, employee onboarding, and even predictive maintenance for equipment used by employees. It can also help identify potential training needs, improving the skillset of the workforce.
As a result, AI and ML are transformative forces in business process automation, enabling organisations to operate more efficiently, make data-driven decisions, enhance customer experiences, and bolster security. Embracing these technologies is seemingly no longer a choice but a necessity for businesses looking to remain competitive and adaptable.
Workflow orchestration represents a sophisticated approach to managing complex business processes. It is essentially the art and science of meticulously planning, coordinating and optimising various tasks and activities within an organisation to achieve specific objectives efficiently.
As organisations grapple with multifaceted tasks and increasingly intricate operations, the need for a structured approach to process management becomes evident. Workflow orchestration acts as the conductor, ensuring that all components of a process are synchronised and working seamlessly together.
One of the key drivers of workflow orchestration’s prominence is the proliferation of data and the digital transformation of businesses. With data volumes expanding exponentially, organisations need a means to handle, analyse, and act upon this information in real-time. Workflow orchestration plays a critical role here, ensuring that data flows smoothly through various stages, from collection and processing to analysis and decision-making.
Moreover, the integration of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation has elevated the significance of workflow orchestration. These technologies are highly versatile but require careful orchestration to maximise their potential. Workflow orchestration provides the framework for deploying and managing these technologies effectively within an organisation.
Additionally, the global nature of businesses today demands a level of agility and adaptability that traditional, rigid processes cannot provide. Workflow orchestration enables organisations to create flexible processes that can respond to changing market conditions, customer demands and regulatory requirements with ease.
In essence, workflow orchestration is the backbone of modern business operations. It ensures that processes are executed consistently, efficiently and in compliance with regulations. It optimises resource utilisation, reduces operational risks and enhances overall productivity. As businesses continue to evolve in response to technological advancements and market dynamics, workflow orchestration remains a critical tool for achieving operational excellence and maintaining a competitive edge.
“The thing we like about BPA Platform is its flexibility and ease of use. You don’t have to be too technical in order to use the tool. If you want to do business process automation I think BPA Platform is the best tool to use.” Mansoor Ahmad, IT Consultant, Slendertone
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Hyperautomation is taking business process automation to the next level by incorporating cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation. It envisions a comprehensive approach to streamlining operations and enhancing productivity across the entire organisation.
Business process automation alone offers efficiency gains, reducing manual effort and minimising errors. However, hyperautomation goes further by leveraging AI and ML to analyse vast datasets, extract valuable insights and make predictive decisions. It facilitates end-to-end automation, seamlessly integrating disparate systems and workflows to create a unified and responsive operational environment.
In the hyperautomation concept, businesses can not only automate routine tasks but also adapt rapidly to changing market conditions. It empowers employees to focus on creative problem-solving and innovation, driving growth and competitiveness.
Moreover, hyperautomation extends beyond traditional process boundaries, enabling organisations to optimise customer experiences, enhance compliance and risk management, and deliver exceptional scalability. By embracing this holistic approach, businesses can navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape with agility and intelligence, ultimately ensuring sustainable success.
Key components and concepts of hyperautomation include:
- Process orchestration: Hyperautomation often involves the orchestration of multiple automated processes and systems to streamline end-to-end business processes.
- Data integration: Access to and integration of data from various sources is crucial for making informed decisions and automating processes effectively.
- Automation of complex workflows: Hyperautomation extends beyond simple task automation and can address complex, multi-step processes that involve decision-making and data manipulation.
- Scalability: Hyperautomation solutions should be scalable to accommodate the changing needs and growth of an organisation.
- Low-Code/No-Code development: Hyperautomation platforms often provide low-code or no-code tools, making it easier for non-technical users to design and deploy automated processes.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA involves the use of software robots or “bots” to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks that were previously performed by humans. RPA can be used to automate tasks in various departments, including finance, HR, customer service, and more.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): As we mentioned earlier, AI and ML technologies are used to add cognitive capabilities to automation. They enable systems to learn from data, make decisions, recognise patterns, and perform tasks that require human-like reasoning.
- Analytics and insights: Hyperautomation platforms often include analytics capabilities to monitor and optimise automated processes continually. This helps organisations identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement.
Hyperautomation is seen as a key driver for digital transformation because it allows organisations to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer experiences and remain competitive. By using a combination of automation technologies and intelligent decision-making, businesses can become more agile and responsive to changing market conditions.
What processes are organisations looking to automate?
One of the most compelling reasons for organisations to adopt business process automation is its ability to streamline processes. Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks frees up valuable human resources to focus on more strategic and creative endeavours. This not only reduces the risk of human error but also accelerates task completion, leading to a substantial increase in overall efficiency and productivity.
The specific processes chosen for automation, however, depend on an organisation’s goals, industry, budget and available technology. Many organisations start with automating routine and repetitive tasks, gradually expanding automation efforts to more complex processes as they gain confidence and experience in automation technology.
Here are some common business processes that organisations often seek to automate:
- Data Entry and Data Processing: Automating data entry tasks, such as manual data input and data validation, can significantly reduce errors and accelerate data processing.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Automation in CRM involves managing customer interactions, lead generation and follow-ups. Automated email marketing, lead scoring and customer segmentation are examples.
- eCommerce Operations: Automation in eCommerce includes order processing, inventory management, payment processing, and customer communication.
- Accounts Payable and Receivable: Automating invoicing, payment processing, and expense management can streamline financial operations and reduce the risk of late payments or errors.
- Inventory Management: Automated inventory tracking, reorder notifications and demand forecasting help organisations optimise stock levels and reduce carrying costs.
- Supply Chain Management: Automation in supply chain processes includes demand forecasting, order processing, shipment tracking, and vendor management.
- Document Management: Automating document creation, storage, retrieval and approval workflows can improve document control and compliance.
- Sales and Marketing: Sales processes can be automated through lead nurturing, sales prospecting, and quoting, while marketing can benefit from automated social media posting, content scheduling and ad campaigns.
- Customer Support: Chatbots and AI-driven customer service automation can handle routine enquiries, freeing up employees for more complex issues.
- Quality Control and Testing: Automation can be used to perform routine quality control tests and inspections, especially in manufacturing and healthcare industries.
- Human Resources (HR) and Payroll: HR processes like employee onboarding, payroll processing and benefits administration can benefit from automation to reduce administrative overhead and improve accuracy.
- IT Operations: Network monitoring, system updates and cybersecurity tasks can be automated to enhance the efficiency and security of IT operations.
- Appointment Scheduling: Automating appointment booking and reminders can improve customer satisfaction and reduce no-shows, especially in service-oriented businesses.
- Compliance and Reporting: Automated compliance monitoring and reporting can help organisations adhere to industry regulations and avoid penalties.
- Data Analytics and Reporting: Automation of data extraction, transformation and visualisation processes can speed up decision-making and provide insights from large datasets.
- Project Management: Automation can assist in project planning, task allocation and progress tracking, helping teams stay on schedule and within budget.
The economic benefits of business process automation cannot be overstated. Through automation, organisations can significantly cut employment costs associated with manual processes. Moreover, the reduction in paper-based processes, physical storage requirements and printing expenses all contribute to substantial cost savings. With the money saved, organisations can allocate resources strategically to drive growth and innovation.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, timely decision-making is essential. Business process automation provides real-time data and insights, enabling organisations to make informed decisions rapidly. Automated alerts and notifications also help in identifying and addressing issues as they arise, enhancing the agility of the organisation.
Organisations often face fluctuations in workloads. BPA systems are inherently scalable, allowing businesses to adapt to changing demands without incurring significant overhead. This scalability is particularly advantageous for growing organisations, ensuring that automation remains effective as the company expands.
In a fiercely competitive marketplace, those who embrace business process automation gain a significant competitive edge. Organisations that can deliver products and services faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost are better positioned to succeed. Business process automation also equips businesses to respond swiftly to market changes and disruptions, maintaining their competitive advantage.
For more information on the benefits of data integration and automating business processes, and how they can help your business, download the brochure below or call us on +44(0) 330 99 88 700.