The powerful capability of Business Process Automation (BPA) is more necessary than ever for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who want to scale operations and become more cost-efficient. But, what is business process automation?
In this blog we will delve into the world of Business Process Automation, exploring its definition, dispelling common misconceptions, and illustrating its benefits and core components.
What Is Business Process Automation?
Business Process Automation, often referred to as BPA, is the strategic implementation of technology to automate repetitive, manual tasks to streamline business processes.
It involves the use of process workflows, business process automation software applications, and systems to optimize and automate processes that were previously executed manually.
These processes can span various departments within an organization, such as finance, human resources, sales, marketing, and customer service.
At its core, BPA has three main goals:
- To enhance operational efficiency
- To reduce errors
- To free up valuable human resources to focus on more strategic and creative tasks
By automating routine tasks businesses can save time and resources while improving overall productivity.
Clearing Up Misconceptions: What BPA Is Not
Before we dive deeper into the benefits and components of BPA, it’s important to dispel some common misconceptions surrounding this concept.
Not About Replacing Humans
While BPA involves automation, its purpose is not to eliminate the need for human involvement entirely.
Instead, business process automation tools aim to empower employees by removing mundane tasks and allowing them to focus on value-added activities that require critical thinking and creativity.
Not Just for Large Enterprises
Although often associated with larger corporations, BPA is highly relevant and beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses as well.
The scalability and adaptability of BPA solutions make them ideal for SMBs looking to streamline operations and boost efficiency.
Not Limited to a Specific Industry
A business process automation platform can be applied across a wide range of industries, from manufacturing and retail to healthcare and professional services.
The underlying principles of process automation are universal, and the specific processes that can be automated vary depending on the industry.
3 Business Process Automation Examples in Everyday Scenarios
To better understand the real-world applications of business process automation, let’s consider a few business scenarios where automation can make a significant difference for SMBs.
1. Customer Onboarding
Automating the customer onboarding process through online forms and automated email sequences can ensure a smooth and consistent experience for new clients.
2. Inventory Management
BPA can help manage inventory levels by automatically generating purchase orders when stock reaches a certain threshold, reducing the risk of stockouts.
3. Invoicing and Payments
Automating the invoicing process can save time and reduce errors. Systems can send out invoices, follow up on overdue payments, and even process payments electronically.
Data entry tasks, such as transferring data from one system to another, can be automated across all of these scenarios minimizing errors and freeing up employees for more meaningful work.
When deciding to potentially invest in automating key processes in your business, think about the potential benefits to your business.
5 Benefits of Business Process Automation
So, why business process automation? Implementing business process automation can yield a wide range of benefits for SMBs. Let’s explore some of the key business process automation benefits:
1. Efficiency and Productivity Improvements
One of the most immediate benefits of using a business process automation tool kit is the boost in operational efficiency.
Automation allows tasks to be completed faster and more accurately, reducing the time spent on manual processes.
Employees can redirect their efforts toward tasks that require creativity and strategic thinking, ultimately increasing overall productivity.
2. Reduction of Human Errors and Associated Costs
Human errors can lead to costly mistakes, especially when it comes to data entry and routine tasks.
BPA minimizes the risk of errors by standardizing processes and removing the potential for manual mistakes.
This reduction in errors not only saves money but also enhances the company’s reputation and customer satisfaction.
3. Enhanced Scalability and Flexibility
As a business grows, the demand for its products and or services can fluctuate significantly.
BPA solutions are designed to be scalable and adaptable, accommodating changes in workload and demand – usually higher workload levels.
Whether the business experiences rapid growth or seasonal variations, BPA can seamlessly adjust to meet the evolving needs of the organization.
4. Improved Customer Experience and Satisfaction
Automation can significantly impact customer experience by enabling quicker response times and more consistent interactions.
For instance, automated customer service responses can provide instant answers to common inquiries, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
However, make sure you can test out what the customer would be subjected to because implementing a solution that degrades the customers’ experience could hurt your reputation.
5. Real-time Data Insights for Informed Decision-making
Systems that are automated can generate real-time data and insights on process performance, customer behavior, and other key metrics.
This data can inform strategic decision-making, helping SMBs identify trends, optimize processes, and seize growth opportunities.
There is also a side benefit to making this investment that may not be obvious at first glance: employee morale and engagement.
Investing in the business’s future and the people responsible for its success can bring tremendous value to getting your team engaged in an effort to make their work lives smoother and more productive.
3 Core Components of Business Process Automation
Before starting any business automation effort, you must first have a very clear picture of the process(es) you want to automate.
1. Define the Process(es)
Creating a process visualization can be done using tools like Vizio or Lucidchart. Several business process automation tools on the market can work well.
You should also take inventory of the current systems being used across the entire process. This helps you determine exactly which data is needed for each part of the process.
And lastly, before you start define what success looks like. For example, you might have the following in mind.
- Decrease the time it takes to accomplish XYZ process for ABC people
- Reduce errors in XYZ process
- Transition ABC person or people to perform other roles that they are more suited for
Once you are clear on the objectives of your business process automation initiative, you’ll need to make sure you completely understand the data that is added, changed, or removed during the course of the process you are automating.
2. Data Collection and Integration
Centralized data collection and integration are fundamental components of BPA.
Gathering data from various sources within the organization is crucial for automating processes effectively.
This data can include customer information, sales data, inventory levels, and more.
SMBs often utilize multiple software systems and tools to manage different aspects of their business.
These systems may include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, accounting software, and inventory management tools.
BPA involves collecting data from these disparate sources and consolidating it into a single, centralized repository.
3. Automate with a Centralized System
Once the data is collected and consolidated, the next step is to integrate it into a centralized system – this is the system you use to automate the process.
This integration enables different processes and departments to access the same set of accurate and up-to-date information.
For example, integrating CRM data with the sales system can help automate lead generation and customer follow-up processes.
There are several automation platforms available on the market. Here are three tools we are familiar with.
Warning: these automation tools are easy enough for anyone to use, but unless you have your process documented, data needs, and systems defined you could get yourself stuck and lose interest without seeing any success.
Business Process Automation presents opportunities to transform small to medium-sized businesses through optimization of their operations.
We hope that by providing you with an understanding of what is involved in Business Process Automation initiatives, dispelling some misconceptions we’ve noticed, and embracing its benefits and core components, your business can leverage automation to drive efficiency, reduce errors, enhance scalability, and provide superior customer experiences.
As technology continues to advance, BPA will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of business operations for a wide variety of companies that once thought they were too small to take advantage of these capabilities.
To get more insights, listen to a recent conversation Grant Eckstrom had with Tony Lael about Business Process Automation 101.