Business process automation
Piotr Lewandowski, 28 July 2021
A business process is a series of structured activities and tasks that must be performed to achieve a specific result. In every company, there are many business processes from different areas. Examples include recruiting employees, purchasing goods, and bookkeeping. As a company grows, business processes become longer and more complex. Therefore, it is not surprising that every dynamically developing company reaches a point when it becomes necessary to formalize and automate business processes. Today, computerization is a necessity and a market standard for every organization. Without it, effective management of a large quantity of data and tasks becomes impossible.
Business processes have a very repetitive nature. Additionally, most of the processes consist of several tedious and monotonous but necessary tasks. Implementing such processes in the traditional way is often not effective. Not only are employees forced to perform dull tasks, but there is also a significant risk of human error. In such cases, company employees cannot fully focus on performing key activities for the company. The solution to this problem is business process automation.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation means that tasks that were previously performed by employees are now being performed by machines. All repetitive activities can be automated by using appropriate algorithms. In such cases, software with artificial intelligence solutions is developed to perform specific actions.
The benefits of business process automation
Companies are increasingly choosing to automate their business processes because of many benefits. We have described some of them below.
Reducing operating costs
Automation reduces time spent on certain tasks and thus reduces wage and salary costs. Moreover, a machine can work continuously. Unlike humans, a program does not need breaks and works with the same intensity, efficiency and accuracy all the time. Employers do not have to pay for vacations or find temporary replacements. At the beginning, business process automation involves a lot of costs. However, after some time the investment pays off and business owners enjoy the generated savings. The possibility of reducing business costs is one of the most common reasons influencing the decision to automate business processes.
Optimizing the time for performing tasks
The intensity and effectiveness of the same tasks performed by humans depend on many factors, including fatigue level and mood. Not surprisingly, the more tired an employee is, the slower they work. A bad mood also affects the time and quality of activities. In addition, the time needed to perform a task is increased due to employee interruptions. IT systems work faster than humans. They analyze data, transfer documents, and generate reports faster. Moreover, it always takes them the same amount of time to complete a given task. There are very few factors that can slow down or stop an IT system. These include lack of Internet access (when the program uses external data), hardware failure, or "aging" of the system. However, a well-maintained solution should work effectively for several years or even over a decade.
The software performs all tasks automatically, without wasting time on thinking. It is designed in such a way as not to make any mistakes. When business processes are carried out by employees, you have to take into account the risk of human error. Even repeatedly performed tasks can result in a mistake at some point. The error often results from distraction, inaccuracy, or carelessness of the employee. Additionally, sometimes employees can forget about some element of the process. Most mistakes occur during activities related to transferring data from one system to another. When data is entered manually, typos or other mistakes are very common. The solution to this problem is to automate the process by integrating both systems. In this way, the relevant data from one solution will automatically be transferred to the other.
Business process automation is possible thanks to advanced software performing actions on the basis of collected and gathered data. Many such solutions are integrated with other IT systems from which data is taken. Also, integration is possible with many external solutions. As a result, the software can process integrated data, often in real-time. This is an extremely important advantage. As an example, investment portfolio management tools have automated processes for obtaining and analyzing information about the share prices of various funds. Automating helps to monitor stock prices and react quickly to changes in them. A major advantage of automation is also continuous access to relevant data by all authorized employees with the appropriate level of access.
Process automation increases a company's market competitiveness because of the advantages described above, i.e., constant access to real data and reduced time of service delivery, among others. In addition, some business owners decide to lower the price of the product because they have additional savings thanks to automation. The lower price is also an important factor that increases the competitiveness of the offer.
Business process automation solutions perform monotonous, tedious tasks which previously were done by employees. By using various technological solutions, employees can fully devote themselves to creative and complex activities. Most employees prefer to perform slightly more difficult, but more interesting and important tasks that add more value. Employees who fulfill their potential while completing challenging tasks are not only more engaged in the project, but also more productive. By making employees more productive and engaging them in areas that actually impact the business and its growth, the company's productivity increases.
Better process control
Business process automation increases the safety of their implementation and enables more complete control of all stages and tasks. Additionally, such a systematized process is easier to analyze and it is less challenging to identify imperfections and so-called "bottlenecks". Bottlenecks are process elements with low capacity or throughput which prevent a company from reaching its full potential. Thanks to process automation, such problems can be easily detected and effectively solved.
Examples of automated business processes
All business processes or some of their parts can be automated. Below we present selected business processes that can be largely automated.
Training and onboarding a new employee are time-consuming tasks, as such a person has to get familiar with all the essential data. Moreover, collecting their signatures on many documents, assigning a mentor, and organizing training is also a long process. Sometimes employees responsible for onboarding can forget to provide some important information or documents and thus prolong the process. With traditional onboarding, a new employee receives materials in paper or electronic form with guidelines on how to perform specific tasks and all the rules and regulations related to both the organization and the culture of the company. At first, the employee wastes a lot of time searching for specific information and is not productive for the company. The solution to increase the employee's initial productivity and streamline the entire onboarding process is automation. The software will guide the employee through the onboarding process step by step. Thanks to this, the employee becomes familiar with all the key information, electronically fills out all documents, and signs the required consents. Additionally, some systems have chatbots answering all the questions asked by employees, and concerning such areas as health and safety, social benefits, and vacations. Also, the use of a search engine streamlines the process of searching for information. Thanks to this, an HR employee can focus on more important tasks than answering standard questions from new employees.
Most of the time, customer service employees answer the same questions repeatedly. This process can be automated with a chatbot or voice assistant that will answer standard and common questions frequently asked by customers. In the case of non-standard issues, the software should send the information to a customer service employee who will deal with a problem and then later enter their question and final answer into the system. Customer service department automation reduces costs by hiring fewer employees. Additionally, it increases customer satisfaction by providing the ability to get an immediate response. Thanks to such a solution, customers avoid calling the hotline and waiting for a long time for a free consultation.
Process automation in the order confirmation is now a common solution. Thanks to this, employees do not waste time sending emails to customers informing them that the order has been accepted. What's more, the order tracking is also automated. All information about status changes is automatically sent to the customer. The customer knows at what stage their order is and when it will be delivered. Automation of this process increases customer satisfaction.
Currently, many companies are implementing business process automation solutions because they start noting its many benefits such as the ability to reduce operating costs, minimize the risk of errors, and reduce the time necessary to carry out processes. For many employees, automation is also a good thing because they can focus on more challenging and creative tasks. It's no wonder that companies are implementing automation wherever possible.