A Guide to Better Business Process Automation
We talk a lot about intelligent automation (IA) — the combination of artificial intelligence technologies to deploy digital workers and automate processes. But what exactly is a business process and how do you automate it? And beyond that, what do robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM) have to do with it?
In this guide, we’re looking at automating complex and common business processes that function beyond the simple, structured tasks you might normally associate with RPA. We’re also looking at how organizations can utilize this software to connect multiple or disparate systems and scale those streamlined workflows into end-to-end processes.
Key takeaways of this business process automation (BPA) guide:
- What business process automation is and how it works
- The benefits of automated processes
- Which business processes you can automate
- Types of business process automation software and use cases
Business processes vary quite a lot, and so do their automation solutions. We’ll start small and work our way up.
What Is a Business Process?
A business process is any activity within a business performed to reach a specific outcome. If you look at it from an automation perspective, a business process tends to be a repetitive transaction often involving multiple steps and systems.
Examples of common business tasks across industries:
- Insurance claims processing
- Purchase orders and invoicing
- Approving loan applications
- Data entry
- Welcoming new customers
As you can see, business processes exist in every organization across industries and sectors. You might be familiar with at least one and have probably seen how they can go poorly. For example, HR functions such as a new employee onboarding process are standard across industries, but they are also often overlooked and botched.
There’s potential for organizations from any industry to consider process automation for their current operations to reach improved efficiency and productivity while maintaining compliance.
What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?
Business process automation — or BPA for short — uses advanced technologies to automate and manage manual, repetitive tasks so employees can focus on higher-value, human-driven work.
Automation software is designed to prevent typical business process issues such as bottlenecks, errors and inefficiencies. Think about it this way: when your employees do tedious, time-consuming data entry all day, human errors are bound to occur.
Errors lead to cost leakages and inefficiencies, often resulting in poor customer experience and low employee morale.
By introducing technology like IA, digital workers can perform these manual tasks for your employees. Digital workers are available 24/7 and complete their work quickly and accurately. This frees up your resources so people can turn to more strategic and interesting work requiring human intervention.
What is business process automation software?
BPA software is a method for organizations to automate their business processes. It’s that simple.
How are BPA and RPA related?
Robotic process automation (RPA) deploys software robots to automate specific repetitive tasks, mimicking human actions. Meanwhile, BPA software allows you to manage complex processes through further AI-powered technologies.
RPA is a subset of BPA focused on automating how humans use software applications.
Most RPA solutions are pre-built, making them a good resource for starting your automation journey quickly. BPA allows you to monitor and make changes to your RPA bots as they work through your systems.
BPA can use artificial intelligence (AI), optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning (ML) to help interpret unstructured data, analyze processes and take on increasingly more complex tasks as your digital workers learn.
How are BPA and BPM related?
Let’s talk briefly about business process management (BPM) and BPA.
BPA can be standalone or include the overarching BPM strategy. Both aim to help businesses reach their goals by improving processes. BPM as a strategy doesn’t have to include automation, though BPM software allows users to manage their people and digital workforce.
BPM gives your business teams visibility into your end-to-end business processes by modeling, analyzing and optimizing them to help you meet your business goals. Working with business process automation, the two aim to improve process efficiency and reduce costs so you can deliver better business value.
BPM gives an overview of the organization and helps with complete business process analysis while BPA is the automation tool you use to improve specific processes. They work well together because BPM can map your processes, while BPA improves process efficiencies.
Why is Business Process Automation Important?
Your digital journey is best fostered with an automation-first mindset. In other words, as you implement IA into your business processes, you should constantly look for opportunities to optimize and grow toward a total digital transformation outcome.
You can start small, discover the best candidate for automation first, then work on scaling your automation across an entire process workflow.
BPA will help you progress toward digital transformation. Moreover, BPA provides operational efficiency insights into your current processes in ways you might not have looked for without it. It encourages organizations to look at the tasks involved in running their processes, leading to more questions of ‘How can we make this better?
What are the benefits of automating business processes?
Business process automation (BPA) allows you to take a step back and consider how work is done throughout your organization. Then you can determine the essential requirements within your processes.
BPA empowers the people in your organization to take a closer look at entire workflows and processes, continuously finding better ways to grow the business and discover new candidates for process automation. Here are some further benefits:
- Customer satisfaction: when your organization focuses on improving operational efficiency and quality output, it will respond better to customer expectations. With standards consistently met, people are more likely to develop loyalty toward your brand or business.
- Employee satisfaction: BPA helps allocate work to the right people and places, eliminating the need for a manual approach to menial tasks and improving the employee experience. Your employees can work on higher-value initiatives, improving company loyalty and empowering them to pursue further career opportunities.
- Standardized operations: by automating your business processes, you’re distinguishing a set of business rules, which extends to a more consistent and standard outcome in your work. It also makes your organization more reliable to your customers.
- Reporting and compliance tasks: BPA documents every detail of a business process for clearer reporting and auditability.
- Transparency: with the ability to monitor processes as they run, you can improve the visibility of operations and maintain accountability within the business.
- Productivity: by streamlining repetitive and time-consuming tasks, employees can focus on cognitive tasks, such as complex business decisions. BPA also enables faster communication by automatically assigning and tracking work, leading to streamlined and higher-quality output.
- Cost savings: BPA allows for faster turnaround times thanks to fewer errors and reworks.
Each is a benefit of business process automation, and the list goes on. The key to finding an automation process that works for you is recognizing your organization’s automation capabilities and finding ways to innovate and optimize those automation technologies to fit your goals.
Types of Business Process Automation
Within BPA, many automation technologies help streamline workflows, drive efficiencies and move your organization along its automation journey. We’ll break down the main process automation tools you’ll see in most business process automation platforms. This will help you brainstorm how BPA can help your organization meet its goals.
What is it? In its simplest form, intelligent automation combines AI and RPA for non-route and complex business processes, capable of dealing with structured and unstructured data.
How do we do it? SS&C | Blue Prism® Enterprise is a no-code/low-code automation software where you can deploy a robust digital workforce within legacy or modern applications, with drag-and-drop process automation building and reusable ‘objects’ across your enterprise.
What is it? Robotic process automation focuses on automating individual tasks that don’t require decision-making, such as data entry and reporting.
What is it? Business process management gives users visibility into business processes, analyzing the current state of workflows and identifying areas for improvement across the enterprise. This helps later decision-making for workflow automation candidates.
How do we do it? We orchestrate your work with a comprehensive business process management software that includes BPA, case management, omnichannel interactions and operational analytics with SS&C | Blue Prism® Chorus.
What is it? Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as understanding language and utilizing decision-making capabilities.
How do we do it? We integrate AI into our intelligent automation platform for faster decision-making and adaptability.
What is it? Machine learning computes a system’s ability to learn and adapt without following instructions. Using algorithms and statistical models, ML discovers patterns in data and makes business decisions based on that data.
How do we do it? ML is one part of our IA technology, and with SS&C | Blue Prism® Decision, you can create explainable ML-based processes in hours rather than days.
What is it? Optical character recognition converts images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-readable data. It can take information from scanned documents, photos and so on.
How do we do it? OCR is best utilized in SS&C | Blue Prism® Decipher IDP (intelligent document processing), where data is validated and extracted from structured, semi-structured and unstructured documents. Decipher extracts text and text layout information from images while maintaining data accuracy.
What is it? Natural language processing is a branch of AI that helps computers understand and interpret unstructured natural language data — connecting computers with human language.
How do we do it? NLP can be added as a plug to our Decipher IDP and document automation software to allow further reading capabilities of unstructured text.
What is it? Process intelligence performs process capture activities to prove visibility into the current state of organizational processes.
How do we do it? With SS&C | Blue Prism® Process Intelligence, you get a process map of current processes with technologies such as process mining, task mining, intelligent automation and business process management to facilitate decision-making across the business. It uses primary path analysis, what-if modeling and predictive simulations to find the optimum process and task flows, enabling you to improve as you go and quantify the benefits before any automation goes into production.
What business processes can be automated?
How you use BPA software depends on which business processes you want to automate. Determining what sort of processes need improvement should give you an idea of the BPA solutions you need. Here are some factors that might indicate a BPA opportunity:
- High-volume of tasks
- Compliance and audit trails
- Strict timelines and turnarounds
- Multiple people required to complete a task
- Impacts or slows down other systems and processes
Business automation empowers employees. It provides them with the opportunity to save money, speed up processes, increase transparency, improve auditability, streamline communications, reduce manual processes and error rates, and improve customer service.
If you want a scalable solution to your slow or error-prone processes, you’ll want to prepare your BPA initiative with a strategic business plan. But don’t just take our word for it — talk to the experts to learn more.