Simply put, business process automation refers to using technology to simplify business processes that are repetitive, complex, time-consuming and prone to human error. The goal of automation is to make processes easier to manage, cost-effective, faster, and more accurate. Automated processes are accompanied by well-kept documentation that aid proper workflow, identify employees responsible for each process, as well as the resources needed for each stage of the process and how they will be availed.
Processes can be automated separately or jointly. Some of the most commonly automated services include customer service, sales, marketing, human resources and operational processes such as production. Automation can be done for multiple processes in various departments – it is not limited to specific areas of the business.
According to a survey conducted by Redwood Software on 300 corporate managers in the UK and the US, 70% of them said that automating business processes saved delivery time. Additionally, 69% spoke about improved business productivity as one of the key benefits of automating processes. 61% of the respondents said that there were lower business costs after automation.
On the other hand, the same survey also found out that 99% of organizations still allocate considerable human resources to repetitive manual tasks. Additionally, about 74% of the companies have their employees spending roughly 25% of their work hours on manual, repetitive tasks. This means that while companies are embracing automation, there is a need to automate the right processes.
While companies are recording heaps of benefits of automation, it is crucial to identify the processes to automate so as to achieve the desired results. But how do you identify the processes that should be automated? Well, here is a simple guide that identifies the factors you can consider when choosing processes that need to be automated.
The most suitable business processes when it comes to automation are those that have the following characteristics.
• They need a lot of time to accomplish
• They fluctuate depending on transactional demand
• They need high levels of involvement and attention to detail
Some of the tasks involved in such processes may include updating customer database, data input and output, processing tasks such as claims or orders, among other repetitive tasks. Automation of these repetitive tasks frees the employees to concentrate on other equally essential tasks that would have been overlooked. Additionally, automation results in higher accuracy and requires fewer resources to accomplish better results.
Business process automation can be used for the simplest tasks as well as the most intricate processes alike – it all depends on the software you choose. The intricacy of the process is determined by the following;
• Number of steps needed to complete the task
• The amount of employee involvement required
• The amount of time needed to accomplish the task
• The number of times the task should be done in a day
While there are undeniably enormous benefits of automating complex tasks, a lot more time, money and other resources are needed for successful automaton. The best approach, especially for a business with a number of intricate processes they wish to automate, is to start with simpler tasks. Once they’ve had a feel of automation and all its requirements, then BPA solutions for more complex tasks can be sought.
It is advisable to start small so as to see the automation software in a practical environment and build upon it. This allows all parties involved to be well acquainted with handling BPA solutions before more complex processes are automated. This trial period will also give insights on how to optimally use the BPA solutions to achieve business goals.
Companies across industries have progressively moved away from the traditional set operation times. This means that a lot of companies are now receiving orders, complains and queries throughout regardless of day and time.
This 24 hours a day economy presents a new challenge to businesses; either hire extra people to deal with other shifts or have the current stuff work extra hours. There are shifts that fall outside of the traditional 8 am to 5 pm, and can be difficult to handle especially in customer service. Here, you will need a solid plan.
This is where BPA solutions, and in particular robotic automation solution, come in handy, especially for high volume tasks. There are some excellent software robots that are handy round the clock, with high accuracy and speed, to help with tasks such as customer services especially after normal working hours.
It is very easy to automate activities that are data-driven, consistent and can be standardized and easily controlled by rules. Business processes that require custom solutions every time they are to be achieved can be hard to automate, even with robotic automation.
Predictable activities such as order processing, claims processing, database update, front office activities, and transactional back-office tasks can be easily solved with intelligent automation. Other complex processes that require decision making and judgment to complete may need customized intelligent automation solutions. Such RPA solutions need to be highly customized so as to achieve the purpose for which it is installed.
If your company operates in a highly regulated industry such as in finance, there is a need to comply with the set codes of practice. When activities are outsourced to third parties, they are not subject to stringent scrutiny as when the company is carrying out the activities. However, the company has little control over the activities that are outsourced. With automation, however, the company easily takes back control, and still maintains the convenience of having tasks accomplished with fewer resources.
There are some intelligent RPA solutions that save a log file of completed tasks that can be later reviewed. This capability allows the employees responsible for the said processes to analyze the log files and create data reports as well as ensure compliance with industry regulations. This is important especially when responding to audit requests.
RPA solutions are as varied as the company needs for automation. This means that any process in any industry can be automated. Businesses that are implementing RBA for the first time have different goals with long time RBA users seeking to expand their existing automation systems.
There are regional companies that are seeking to upscale their operations. On the other hand, there are global organizations that employ RPA to enhance consistency in regulatory compliance. Regardless of the company’s specific needs and goals, automation can still be successfully implemented. You only need the right RPA service provider to help you pick and implement suitable tools.
While every business needs to automate processes, it is an activity that requires proper planning and research. In order to choose the right BPA tool for your business, here are a few questions you can ask yourself when shopping around.
• Why do I need the BPA tool, what do I wish to accomplish with the automation?
• Can I define KPIs and track the results with the BPA tools?
• What features do I need in a BPA tool?
• Who will use the BPA tool and how easy will it be for them?
• What are the software requirements?
• Does the BPA tool comply with industry laws and regulations?
It is important that you understand your internal requirements, how the tool is used as well as industry regulations.
Visual process modelling is essential in assessing the right automation tools and services. There are some tools that require users to have coding experience while others do not. If the people who are to implement and oversee the function of the automation do not have coding experience or knowledge, it is important to look for the appropriate tools.
The form complexity of the BPA tools affects how the processes will run. For the most part, it is easy to have a drag and drop form builder. When picking a form builder, go for the one that is dynamic enough to facilitate both complex and simple workflows. This ensures that you will not quickly outgrow it as your business grows.
The process complexity ensures that the tools and services you choose can successfully automate the processes you want automated. The best tools facilitate reasonable flexibility when it comes to process-mapping which is essential in process automation.
Your budget and licensing requirements should be among the top considerations for the technological investment you choose. Consider the licensing options that work for your industry as well as your automation budget. Look out for other hidden charges that may surface later and only choose a service and tools where you pay for only what you are using.
The mobility of the BPA tools and services you choose allow for faster and easier workflow. For example, desktop versions of automation services may require onsite approvals which may delay processes and hence affect turnaround time. It is therefore essential to choose a mobile, flexible solution for your business processes.
Document management is essential in business today, especially since organizations today have a massive amount of documents and data they need to effectively run the processes. Haphazard storage of these documents and data can lead to wastage of time as teams try to retrieve the data they need. This delay is likely to cause major compliance issues which will eventually be costly.
Effortless integration of the tools is essential as no BPA service or tool can be operated in a vacuum. As such, the services and tools you choose must easily integrate with other tools and software used in the business processes. If integration is not easy and effortless, it will require manual transfer of data which makes room for errors. This manual transfer of information also significantly lowers productivity.
Hosting options are dependent on your company’s needs and requirement. There is a range of options available to you today, some of which include cloud, on-premise or hybrid. If the business processes require that the data is hosted locally, then you can opt for on-premise. The hybrid hosting option offers the benefits of both on-premise and cloud hosting options. Most businesses, however, opt for cloud-based hosting as it is convenient and effective.
In-house capabilities of the BPA service and tools are essential. It is important to assess the skills and capabilities of the end-users before you settle for a BPA tool. This is because if opt for a too that will require BPM expertise, your team must be adequately equipped otherwise implementation will be a failure and there will be inefficiencies and low productivity. Therefore, when picking a BPA tool, choose one that can be managed in-house to avoid over-dependence on external experts.
The business automation option you choose must have robust reporting and analytic capabilities. It is extremely essential to have an automation tool that can provide data-backed insights that help improve business processes. The best BPA tools provide real-time analytics on their dashboards (which are customizable) which are essential in tracking KPIs as well as fi errors that may derail the business process.
There are three main factors that drive businesses to look for business process automation. These are:
• To improve service quality
• Reduce costs of operation
• To speed up business processes
You will need a software provider that understands what your business automation needs are so that they can recommend the appropriate solution. When choosing business automation software, it is important to look at the basics such as how to customize and develop it in order to achieve your goals.
The right business automation software helps you to reduce errors in business processes as well as keep the workflow smooth, easy and fast. Additionally, automation makes room and time for creativity, productivity and research which result in higher revenues.
In any business, there are always those tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming and tiresome that can always be automated for better productivity. This means that some of those processes will affect different departments that are dependent on the outcomes of the process. As such, you need your software provider to understand what you want as well as advice on the software that can deliver the results you want. Keep in mind that the software you choose must be compatible with all other tools it will integrate with. Additionally, it must be easy to use, especially if hundreds of employees will need it to continue their work.
As the business representative, you should have your own checklist of the features you need in BPA software. The features will depend on the processes you would like to automate. The software should be able to work with both predictable and unpredictable factors to give the desired results. When talking to your service provider, you must be in a position to fully understand the recommended software options and what they can do.
One of the most important factors of the software you choose should be its ability to integrate with existing systems, software and tools. There are countless tools and software that can be used to make business processes easier, faster and more efficient. It is counterproductive to have them work against each other. It is also ineffective to have tools that do not seamlessly integrate as they’ll require manual information transfer from one tool to the other, leading to errors and delays. In todays’ business solutions, it is possible to have automation tools and software that integrate with multiple systems.
Once you inform the service provider of the systems that are already in place and their features, he should be in a position to recommend automation solutions that can work well with those systems and tools. Most business process automation solutions are built to integrate with other systems.
It is essential that your team is able to navigate the software easily. It is important that you can use the software and tune it up/customize as you wish without the help of eternal experts. As such, it is important that the service provider explains to you the skills needed to navigate the recommended software.
It is important to note that a comprehensible UI/UX will be as a result of continuous and thorough testing. While the service provider will know the skills needed, navigation is best checked and verified in action. As such, some training will always be necessary even if the end-users are acquainted with the system. Once automation is implemented, it is important that navigation is tested to ensure that there will be effortless workflow especially if the software will be integrated with other business systems.
It is true that business automation solutions are getting smarter by the day, and most next-generation solutions will feature intelligence process automation. These IPA solutions will include machine learning, RPA, object character recognition as well as natural language processing. Intelligence process automation, accord to McKinsey, will result in the following changes.
• Up to 70% automation of business tasks
• Up to 30% growth in income
• Up to 60 processes done at a higher pace and lower time
• Triple-digit return on investment
When looking for a solution, the service provider should recommend software that is agile enough to suit the constantly changing business needs. As such, be sure to look for a BPA with artificial intelligence. It is also advisable to go with BPA solutions that can be customized to keep up with the business’ changes and growth.
Does the service provider have a reputation for proper customer service? You can always go online to check out what other people say about their interaction with the service provider you wish to work with. In most cases, customer reviews give a general honest opinion of what it was like to deal with the service provider.
If you go for a BPS solution that will need the service provider to be present until it is proven to run smoothly, you might want to work with someone who can offer the support you need. In other instances, you may need to reach out to the service provider to fix issues and bugs in the system. As such, it is important that the service provider you work with is available to fi any arising issues as soon as they occur so that your work goes on without unnecessary delays.
Digital BPA solutions will always be accompanied by risks of potential cyber-attacks and other security risks. Most businesses prefer digital BPA solutions as they are easy to customize in addition to requiring minimal operations skills by end-users. Additionally, they are easier and faster to run and make tasks considerably easier, faster, more accurate as well as more efficient. However, these digital solutions are also vulnerable to external interventions such as hacking.
A BPA service provider should explain all the risks that come with the software they recommend as well as how to stay safe. There are always security measures that you can implements. You will probably need to do periodic sweeps of the system with updated versions of the risk aversion tools so as to ascertain that the software is free from external manipulation. You can go for ISO Certified BPA solution from service providers who have a strong security policy as well as those who work under strong NDA.
When talking to the service provider, he should be in a position to assess the skills and capabilities of the end-users and recommend BPA solutions that are ready to use. Once the recommendations have been made, you can opt for the software whose operational capabilities and functionality is well suited with in-house talents. If you do not get a recommendation that suits your needs, you can consider getting customized software or train your talents. It is important that you go with software that has quality control measures. This allows you to keep measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of the automation tool you are using.
Here is a truth; you will quickly realize that a good number of BPA service providers are relatively new. This means that there is relatively little information about them and their services. This makes it hard to differentiate between a service provider who’ll do a stellar job, and one who will give poor results.
If you are it willing to take a risk with a relatively new BPA service provider, you can always seek out a company with a proven track record. The good thing about companies that have been in operation for a while as you can get reviews from previous customers to support their claims.
Here’s the thing; every successful company was once a new service provider. Therefore, it is important to note that you can get a good service provider even if they haven’t been in the industry for long. However, you must be acquainted with their services or get a recommendation, if you are not willing to gamble, it is advisable go with an established service provider.
A lot goes into determining the cost of BPA software. The pricing method that each company employs differs from what their counterparts do. Your specific needs, as well as the features of the software to be used, contribute heavily to the cost of the BPA solution. Different companies are likely to offer different solutions with equally varying costs.
There are some service providers that bill user licenses. This means that the prices go up with every additional end-user who is granted access. There are service providers whose prices are also dependent on transactional volumes.
There are service providers who charge one-off fees for the software and installation, offer free support for a period after installation. There are others who charge a monthly fee for the services you agree on. Basically, BPA costs are as varied as there are service providers however, once you speak to a few, you will have a general idea of the costs of the solution you may need.
One of the easiest ways to check if a company will be a good fit is to look at their customer care. How are they handling their existing clients? How are they handling your queries? It is important that they show that they are focused on helping you achieve your goals.
The next good indicator is their dedication to their customers. What do their clients say about working with them? When you make your queries, how do they respond? It is advisable to work with a service provider whose priority is to get you the best solution for your automation needs. This dedication should be apparent right from the start.
If you are looking to have seamless business process automation, there are some considerations you must have in mind. Here are some of the fundamental principles of automation.
Understand, simplify then automate
It is very essential that you thoroughly understand your business, your systems as well as all the tasks that go into accomplishing the activities you’d like to automate. Analyze the data and find the issues to be solved as well as have an idea of what you’d like an automation solution to do for you. Once you know exactly what you’d like, simplify it to all the relevant parties. After everyone has fully understood exactly what should be done, then automation can be carried out.
Integration with other systems
This can never be overemphasized. It is extremely important that the BPA solution you choose seamlessly integrates with the systems that are already in place for smooth workflow. The service provider can take an audit of existing systems and tools and come up with a solution that integrates with what’s already at work.
The step by step approach
If you have a range of tasks you want to automate, you need not do so all at once. It is okay to start the automation with the most vital tasks and work your way up to the last task you want to accomplish. This is especially helpful if you have budgetary restraints or do not have enough resources to do it all at once. Sometimes it beats business logic to do it all at once. In such cases, you are allowed to divide the automation implementation into as many stages as you deem appropriate.
Process simplicity and flexibility
The truth is that your business will grow with time. As such, it is important that you opt for a flexible automation solution that can be changed as time goes by. It is expensive and a waste of resources to keep changing a BPA system every now and then because it cannot be customized to work with changing tasks.
The reason why companies automate processes is to ensure that tasks are accomplished faster, at higher accuracy rates and at lower costs. If the BPA solution ends up being complicated, taking more of the worker’s time to work it than it would to actually accomplish the task, it may not be a feasible solution. The BPA system installed must be simple to understand and operate.
Staff members that are involved in the processes being automated already understand the workflow. They only need to be trained on how the new system works to ensure seamless workflow that is fast and error-free. If there are new staff members who are not previously acquainted with the workflow, thorough training should be conducted so that everyone understands exactly what they need to do at any one time.
Your choice of BPA is as important as your decision of who to work with. While doing your homework on the possible tools and features you would like in a process automation solution, dig up on the service providers who spark your interest. It is absolutely important that you work with an accredited service provider who is dedicated to helping you achieve the vision you communicate.
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