Think about the regular tasks in your business that require a sequence of events—first this and then that…get approval from finance, route through marketing, escalate to legal, get another approval, and so on and so on.
Your organization has any number of business processes that get you from Point A to Point B. By automating that workflow, you can increase productivity, reduce mistakes, and reach your goals with as little lag time as possible.
From human resources and accounts receivables to back office processes and product delivery, companies are finding any number of ways to automate workflow, streamlining business processes that were once highly manual or paper driven.
FYI: These automation tools go by several names: business process automation (BPA), workflow automation, or business process management (BPM). BPA and workflow automation are relatively interchangeable terms. But (to oversimplify a bit) BPM is a more robust software suite designed to support an overarching management discipline, not just a straightforward transactional tool.
These are just a few examples of business processes you might automate:
- Employee training (requests, approval, completion records, reimbursement)
- Job applicant tracking
- Onboarding – employees, vendors, customers
- Purchase orders and invoice processing
- Due diligence processes
- Product changes
- Anything requiring a routine intake, notification, approval process or manual handoff
Here’s how business process automation pays off:
With business process automation, you get visibility into process status. You can see where an item is in the workflow. That can be particularly useful for capacity planning and deadline management. Need to know if your team is on track to deliver on-time? Check your workflow software.
With visibility comes greater accountability. There’s less opportunity for mix-ups, lost files, and finger pointing. By automating your business processes, managers can see who’s responsible for what and where processes are getting stuck. Managers can even get alerts when a certain step in the process hasn’t occurred according to schedule.
3. Document Management
Skip the paper chase. When combined with a document management system, BPA reduces the time employees spend filing and retrieving documents. Cut down on lost documents and search time. Plus, customers enjoy better service when employees have immediate access to information and process status from any location.
Business process automation helps your employees do more with less. Processes can move ahead faster because no one is waiting for files to be transported from desk to desk and no one has to remember to notify the next person in line. Alerts and task reminders can be generated automatically. On a management level, team leaders can get a macro-view of the process, allowing them to be more proactive about addressing and correcting potential bottlenecks. That high-level visibility means teams can reduce the time they spent in update and review meetings.
5. Business Insight
A good business process automation tool will include analytics capabilities. That allows managers to analyze business trends, identify repeat bottlenecks, and track response times. Which processes trigged the most missed deadline alerts? When are new process requests most likely to initiate? When processes terminate without completion, what’s the most common failure point? Check your workflow software.
Perhaps of equal importance, some BPA software will calculate whether automation is saving you money in terms of employee time, paper, less product returned, or any other number of metrics. If you can measure the cost savings, it’s easier to justify the upfront costs of automation.
The Essential Argument for BPA
Manual workflow processes create multiple opportunities for delay and error. With business process automation, you can improve organizational efficiency by automating redundant tasks. Figure out where administrative processes are putting a strain on employee time and free them up with workflow automation.
Interested in learning more? Read part two of this series - How To Implement Business Process Automation: A Project Success Strategy.