- What is a business process?
- What are the signs that you should automate a business process?
- Determining if a process is suitable for automation
- Automated business process examples
- How does automation help business decisions?
- How to make the right decisions with business automation
- What is the best solution for business process automation?
Deciding when to automate a business process is a crucial step in ensuring successful implementation and maximising the benefits of automation.
In this article we will discuss the signs that a process is suitable for automation, how it helps with decision making and how to make the right decisions when implementing automation.
What is a business process?
Business processes refer to a series of interrelated tasks or activities performed within an organisation to achieve a specific goal or deliver a desired outcome. They represent the systematic way in which work is organised, executed and monitored to ensure smooth operations and efficient resource utilisation.
Business processes can encompass various functional areas such as sales, marketing, finance, human resources, operations, customer service, and much more. These processes often involve the flow of information, materials or services across different departments or individuals, following predefined rules or guidelines. They can range from simple tasks to complex workflows, and their optimisation is crucial for enhancing productivity, quality and overall organisational performance.
What are the signs that you should automate a business process?
Determining which business processes can and should be automated will obviously be different for each and every organisation, such is the scope and breadth of opportunities with automation.
Identifying signs that a process could be automated helps businesses identify opportunities where it can streamline operations, increase productivity, minimise errors, and allocate human resources to more strategic endeavours.
However, careful evaluation of each process’s complexity and feasibility will be necessary to ensure successful implementation and a positive return on investment.
To determine whether a business process should be automated, here are some signs to look out for:
- High volume of repetitive tasks: If a process involves a large volume of repetitive tasks that consume a significant amount of time and resources, it may be a strong indication that automation is warranted.
- Delays and bottlenecks: Processes that experience frequent delays or bottlenecks may benefit from automation.
- Manual errors and inconsistencies: If manual errors and inconsistencies are prevalent in a particular process, it may be a sign that automation is needed.
- Increasing customer demands and expectations: If customer demands and expectations are increasing, automation can help businesses meet those demands efficiently.
- Cost and resource optimisation: Processes that involve high labour costs or resource-intensive activities can be candidates for automation.
- Need for real-time information and insights: If decision-making requires real-time information and insights, automation can provide the necessary data analysis and reporting capabilities.
- Scaling and growth requirements: As businesses grow, manual processes may become inefficient and unable to handle increased volumes.
- Compliance and regulatory requirements: Processes that involve compliance and regulatory requirements can benefit from automation. Automating these processes ensures consistent adherence to established rules and regulations, reduces the risk of non-compliance, and provides accurate audit trails and reporting.
- Industry trends and technological advancements: Keeping an eye on industry trends and technological advancements can help identify opportunities for automation. If competitors or industry leaders are using automation to gain a competitive edge, it may be a sign that automation is becoming necessary to stay relevant and efficient in the market.
Remember that each business is unique, and the decision to automate a process should be based on a thorough analysis of the specific context and requirements. Careful evaluation, cost-benefit analysis and considering the potential impact on employees and customers are essential to making informed decisions about automation.
Determining if a process is suitable for automation
Automation has become a powerful tool for organisations seeking to streamline operations, enhance productivity and achieve greater efficiency. However, not all processes are suitable for automation. It is essential to carefully assess whether a process is a good candidate for automation before investing time and resources into implementation.
Let’s take a look at some of the main points to consider.
One of the primary indicators that a process is suitable for automation is if it involves repetitive tasks with a well-defined set of rules. These tasks often consume a significant amount of time and effort, and human error may occur.
Organisations need to look for tasks that are performed in a similar manner each time and follow a predictable pattern. If the process requires a substantial investment of time, manpower, or other resources, automation can lead to significant cost savings and improved productivity.
Automation is most effective when dealing with objective and rule-based decisions. Processes that require minimal subjective judgment or decision-making are well-suited for automation. Such tasks can often be automated to eliminate the need for manual intervention, reducing the chances of errors, saving valuable time, and freeing up human resources for more strategic and complex tasks.
On the other hand, processes that involve complex decision trees, human discretion or require a deep understanding of context may be better suited for human intervention.
Automation works best when the inputs to a process are standardised and consistent. If the process relies on structured data or follows predefined formats, it is more likely to be suitable for automation. Automated systems excel at handling standardised inputs as they can be programmed to interpret and process such data accurately and efficiently.
Likewise, if the process involves digital systems, software applications or data exchange between multiple platforms, automation can streamline the flow of information, reduce manual intervention and enhance data accuracy.
Processes that involve a high volume of transactions or data are also excellent candidates for automation. Automating these processes enables organisations to process large quantities of data quickly and accurately, significantly reducing the time and effort required to complete them manually, leading to improved efficiency and cost savings. Additionally, automation is highly scalable, allowing businesses to handle increased volumes without the need for additional human resources.
Businesses need to evaluate the impact of automation on customer experience. Processes that directly or indirectly impact customers, such as order processing, customer support or service delivery, can benefit from automation to enhance efficiency, accuracy and response times, leading to improved customer satisfaction.
Similarly, organisations need to consider the impact of automation on their workforce. Will automation free up employees from mundane tasks and allow them to focus on more creative, strategic, or customer-oriented activities? Automation should be seen as a tool to augment human capabilities and enhance employee engagement rather than replace jobs.
Assessing the potential return on investment is crucial when considering automation. Will it help your organisation gain a competitive advantage, improve decision-making, or enable you to focus on higher-value activities?
Calculate the time and cost savings that can be achieved by automating the process and compare it to the cost of implementing and maintaining the automation system. If the potential benefits outweigh the investment required, it is a strong indication that the process is suitable for automation. Automation should align with your overall business strategy and contribute to your long-term goals.
Not all processes need to be automated, and careful evaluation is crucial to ensure successful automation. Therefore, determining if a process is suitable for automation requires careful evaluation of several key factors.
Repetitive and rule-based tasks, high volumes of transactions, standardised inputs, clear steps, low subjectivity, and a favourable return on investment are all indicators that a process is well-suited for automation. By considering these factors, organisations can make informed decisions and leverage automation to optimise their operations, enhance productivity and achieve long-term success.
“We wanted to integrate data from multiple systems and then generate reports and alerts from the combined data. We knew that we needed a cross-platform monitoring, reporting and alerting tool. BPA Platform is the market leader for doing what it does – and we certainly knew that it would add value. The number of man hours required to duplicate the things that BPA Platform does automatically just wouldn’t have been worth the effort. There wouldn’t have been a business case to even do the work. This is about improving our internal processes and service quality really.” Charles Verrier, Information & Database Architect, Moore Stephens LLP
Accounting and financial advisory organisation benefits from BPA Platform’s automated cross-platform monitoring, alerting and reporting tools
Automated business process examples
So what types of business processes can be automated? Well, the list is basically endless and really depends on the type of business or company structure that it is going to be applied to, and the specific needs, goals and challenges of the organisation.
Business process automation provides the ability to carry out and fulfil business processes without human intervention. These processes can cover a wide variety of business activities, tasks or workflows, ranging from order management and financial reporting to data monitoring and critical notifications.
Likewise, automated workflows can be used across a variety of industries and functions, from customer service (route customer inquiries to the appropriate team member or department, or track and respond to customer requests in a timely manner) and marketing (manage email marketing campaigns, track website analytics, streamline content creation and approval processes) to finance(manage the accounts payable and accounts receivable processes, track expenses, and generate financial reports) and HR (Manage employee onboarding processes, track vacations and sick time).
Here are some common examples of business processes that can be automated:
- Invoice processing: Automating the invoice processing workflow involves capturing invoice data, validating it against predefined rules, routing it for approvals and generating payment notifications. This automation can streamline the accounts payable process, reduce manual data entry and improve accuracy.
- Order fulfilment: Automating order fulfilment involves integrating systems for order capture, inventory management, order processing and shipping. Automated workflows can help track orders, update inventory levels, generate shipping labels and send order status notifications to customers.
- Customer relationship management (CRM): Automating CRM processes involves capturing and managing customer data, tracking interactions and automating communication workflows. This automation can help in lead generation, sales pipeline management, customer segmentation and personalised marketing campaigns.
- Performance reporting: Automating performance reporting involves collecting data from various sources, aggregating it, and generating reports for analysis. Automated reporting can save time, provide real-time insights and enable data-driven decision-making.
- Expense management: Automating expense management involves digitising expense submission, approval and reimbursement processes. Automated systems can capture expense data, validate it against policies, route it for approval and streamline reimbursement processes, saving time and reducing errors.
- Data backup and recovery: Automating data backup and recovery processes involves scheduling regular backups, transferring data to backup servers or cloud storage and automating the recovery process in case of data loss or system failure. Automation ensures data integrity, reduces the risk of data loss and speeds up recovery time.
“We were looking at integration options between our core ERP system Dynamics AX and direct-to-consumer sales channels and courier systems to enable us to streamline the entire order to fulfilment process. When we export goods outside of the UK there is often a lot of paperwork to manage, so having the ability to extract the relevant data from Dynamics AX and use BPA Platform to upload the shipment data to the different courier systems allows us to be very efficient at fulfilling orders. We use BPA Platform to transfer sales orders, sync inventory and manage shipments across the different sales channels.” Jonathan Emerson, Head of IT, inov-8
inov-8 improved sales order processing via order fulfilment automation
How does automation help business decisions?
In today’s fast-paced business environment, making informed and timely decisions is critical for success. Organisations are constantly looking for ways to optimise their operations, increase efficiency and gain a competitive edge.
One powerful tool that can greatly assist in this process is a business process automation platform. By automating processes, businesses can not only streamline their operations but also make better-informed decisions.
One of the significant advantages of automating business processes is the enhanced accuracy and availability of data. Manual data entry and processing are prone to errors, leading to faulty or incomplete information. Automation eliminates this risk by ensuring that data is accurately captured and processed consistently. With reliable and accurate data readily available, businesses can make more informed decisions based on real-time information.
It can also significantly speed up the processing and analysis of data. Instead of spending valuable time on manual data entry and manipulation, automated systems can perform these tasks at a much faster rate. This acceleration enables businesses to access critical information more quickly, reducing decision-making time and allowing for more agile responses to changing market conditions.
Business processes usually require integrating data from multiple sources or systems. Using a dedicated integration platform, businesses can benefit from a unified view of their operations, enabling better decision-making. Furthermore, by automating these processes, it enables the visualisation of complex data sets in a more accessible and intuitive manner, providing decision-makers with clearer insights and facilitating data-driven decision-making.
As we have already mentioned, manual processing can be prone to inconsistencies and variations, particularly when multiple individuals are involved. Automating these processes ensures that tasks are executed consistently and follow predefined rules. This standardisation helps to eliminate bias and ensures that decision-making is based on consistent criteria. With consistent and standardised processes, businesses can make decisions that are more objective and reliable.
Business process automation also enables real-time monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators (KPIs) and critical metrics. Businesses can set up automated dashboards and reports that provide up-to-date information on various aspects of their operations. Real-time monitoring therefore allows decision-makers to quickly identify trends, anomalies or potential issues, empowering them to make proactive and data-driven decisions.
“The main benefit is time – the hours saved generating and manipulating reports. The sheer hourly numbers of staff time that’s been saved is incredible. I can identify ten reports which were taking users in excess of three to four hours a week to generate, whereas BPA Platform can just generate them and spit them out instantly. It eliminates errors, saves time and eradicates people actually manufacturing reports themselves.” Malcolm MacLean, Global Head of IT, Graff Diamonds
BPA Platform integrates SAP Business One, EPOS system and SAP Concur; automates data checking, reporting and sales alerts for Graff Diamonds
When organisations are looking at automating business processes they will often need to reevaluate existing workflows. Through this optimisation, businesses can identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies and areas for improvement, which can lead to streamlining operations, reducing costs and increasing productivity.
A dedicated integration and automation platform also provides businesses with the ability to scale operations more efficiently. As the business grows, these platforms can handle increasing volumes of data and transactions without a proportional increase in manual effort. Moreover, automation allows for easier adaptation to changing business needs and market demands. By quickly adjusting automated processes, organisations can respond more effectively to new challenges and opportunities.
Automation can help businesses mitigate risks and ensure compliance with regulations by automating compliance checks, data validation and audit trails. This can help reduce the risk of errors, non-compliance and penalties, as well as generate reports and alerts to highlight potential risks or anomalies, allowing decision-makers to take appropriate actions promptly.
Automating processes offers numerous benefits to businesses, including improved data accuracy, faster processing and analysis, enhanced data integration and visualisation, consistency and standardisation, real-time monitoring and reporting, process optimisation and scalability.
These advantages, in turn, contribute to more informed and effective business decision-making. By embracing automation, organisations can gain a competitive advantage, drive growth and achieve their strategic objectives in an increasingly dynamic and data-centric business landscape.
How to make the right decisions with business automation
When considering automation, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the process’s steps and requirements. A well-documented process with clearly defined inputs, outputs and intermediate steps is easier to automate. On the other hand, if a process is highly complex, with many variables and exceptions, it may be challenging to automate effectively. In such cases, it may be necessary to simplify or streamline the process before attempting automation.
It is also beneficial to test and refine the automation solution by repeating the processes. Implementing a proof-of-concept or pilot project can help identify any potential challenges or limitations in the automation process. This approach allows for adjustments and improvements to be made based on feedback, ensuring a more successful implementation.
Here are a few points that you should consider when assessing your process automation requirements:
- Assess your current processes: Evaluate your existing workflows and identify pain points, bottlenecks, and areas that could benefit from automation. Consider the potential impact of automation on efficiency, productivity, cost savings and customer experience.
- Define clear objectives and goals: Determine what you want to achieve with business automation. Identify the specific areas or processes you want to automate and the desired outcomes. Whether it’s reducing costs, improving customer service, enhancing data accuracy, or streamlining operations, having a clear vision will help you stay focused and make decisions aligned with your objectives.
- Map out the existing processes: Thoroughly map out the current workflow of the identified processes. This helps in understanding the sequence of tasks, decision points and potential areas for improvement through automation.
- Research automation options: Look for a flexible and powerful automation solution. Understand its features, capabilities and compatibility with your existing systems. Consider factors such as scalability, integration capabilities, ease of use and vendor reputation.
- Analyse costs and benefits: Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the financial implications of automation. Consider factors such as initial investment, ongoing maintenance costs, potential savings in labour or time, and the expected return on investment (ROI). Evaluate both short-term and long-term benefits.
- Involve stakeholders: Engage relevant stakeholders, including employees, managers and IT personnel, in the decision-making process. Seek their input and address their concerns. Involving key stakeholders ensures that their perspectives are considered and increases the likelihood of successful implementation.
- Pilot projects: Before fully committing to automation, consider running pilot projects or proof-of-concepts to test the chosen automation solution in a controlled environment. This allows you to assess its effectiveness, identify any challenges or limitations, and make adjustments as needed.
- Monitor and measure: Once you implement automation, closely monitor its performance and measure key metrics. Track the impact on productivity, efficiency, accuracy and customer satisfaction. Regularly review the results and make necessary adjustments to optimise the automation solution.
- Continuous improvement: Business automation is an ongoing process. Encourage feedback from employees and users to identify areas for improvement. Stay updated on emerging technologies and industry trends to ensure your automation efforts remain relevant and effective.
- Change management: Prepare your employees for the changes that automation will bring. Provide training and support to help them adapt to the new processes. Communicate the benefits and address any concerns or resistance to ensure a smooth transition.
- Evaluate and adapt: Regularly assess the effectiveness of your automation initiatives. Evaluate the achieved results against your initial goals and make adjustments as needed. Stay agile and be willing to adapt your automation strategy based on new information and changing business needs.
By following these steps, you can make informed decisions about business automation and maximise its potential to drive efficiency, productivity and growth in your organisation.
What is the best solution for business process automation?
Manual data inputting is a huge drain on resources for many organisations, but one that can be easily rectified via process automation. Rather than an employee constantly extracting data from one application or system and then inputting it into another, a BPA solution can simply automate the transfer of data in real-time. This will help improve the flow of data as well as make sure that all information across the business is synchronised.
BPA Platform provides the tools needed to quickly and easily build automated processes that are unique to the way a business works. It allows for changing business environments by providing the flexibility for automated processes to be adapted or completely re-written to meet new conditions and acts as a ‘virtual’ employee that works 24/7, 365 days a year.
BPA Platform also provides a powerful and flexible workflow automation solution for managing and monitoring the flow of work within an organisation, ensuring that business rules are adhered to and administration is removed. It permits users to receive and authorise multi-level workflow jobs, regardless of device and business system the workflow starts or ends within, and creates a 100% audit trail for complete piece of mind.
Additionally, BPA Platform makes it extremely easy to automate any number of data management alerts and notifications for a host of different scenarios. They can be sent automatically in response to predefined conditions or events and be used to notify customers, partners or administrators of important, informative or critical system events.
BPA Platform can monitor business systems for key data changes (to business rules) and automatically send email or SMS business alerts to both internal (management, sales, finance, operations) and external (customers, partners, suppliers, members) recipients when required. They can be generated based on specific business events, such as stock level notifications, sales notifications, delivery alerts, service alerts, credit control notifications, support team updates or warehouse alerts.
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.