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Navigating Business Process Automation: A Strategic Approach

As our business world becomes increasingly digital, the need for Business Process Automation (BPA) is becoming more pronounced than ever before. Business Process Automation holds the promise of automating repetitive tasks, reducing manual labour, minimising errors and rework, and driving productivity and efficiency to new heights.

Hence, it is emerging as a must-have for organisations constantly looking for opportunities to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and stay competitive.

Given this, automation adoption is seeing a rapid rise among organisations. A survey by McKinsey and Co. reveals that 66% of businesses have already initiated automation efforts in one or more of their key business functions.

With all the buzz around automation, many organisations are just jumping on the automation bandwagon. However, automating anything and everything will not save you millions of dollars and hundreds of staff hours.

Of course, automation is a must-have, but jumping straight to automation without taking a strategic approach will do you more harm than good. Turning the benefit of automation into reality requires meticulous planning, a clear understanding of existing processes, and a clear vision for the future. It’s important to navigate Business Process Automation as a strategic imperative rather than a mere trend.

The blog sheds light on the need for Business Process Automation and its ROI potential. It includes the right strategies, key considerations, and best practices that will empower organisations to make the most of Business Process Automation while avoiding the pitfalls.

What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

Business Process Automation is the strategic use of technology to automate and optimise routine and manual tasks within an organisation’s business processes. It involves using software, workflows, and digital tools to streamline workflows, reduce human intervention, and enhance operational efficiency.

Business Process Automation seeks to replace repetitive, rule-based, time-consuming activities with automated solutions. This can include tasks like data entry, invoice processing, order fulfilment, and even customer support inquiries. By automating these processes, organisations can not only save time and resources but also reduce errors and ensure consistency in their operations.

What are the Benefits and Potential ROI of Business Process Automation?

Business Process Automation offers a multitude of benefits that are top on the list of modern organisations, including:

Enhanced Efficiency: BPA eliminates manual intervention in routine tasks, leading to faster task completion and reduced turnaround times. This increased efficiency translates into higher productivity and cost savings.

Improved Accuracy: Automation minimises the risk of human errors in data entry and processing. This results in better data accuracy and improved decision-making.

Cost Reduction: By reducing the need for manual labour, organisations can lower operational costs. Over time, these cost savings can be substantial, contributing significantly to the organisation’s profitability.

Streamlined Processes: Business Process Automation optimises workflows, streamlining business processes. This reduces bottlenecks and ensures consistency and adherence to standardised procedures.

Scalability: Leveraging automation allows organisations to handle increased workloads without a proportional resource increase. This scalability is crucial in the digital era, where businesses face rapid growth and changing demands.

Given the advantages, Business Process Automation promises a substantial ROI. While initial implementation may require an investment in technology and process redesign, the long-term benefits in terms of cost savings, increased revenue, and improved customer satisfaction often far outweigh the initial costs.

Business Process Automation Pitfalls to Avoid

Falling victim to common process automation misconceptions can lead to misguided automation efforts. Some common misconceptions include:

Automation Solves Everything: Assuming that business process automation can address all operational challenges is a common misconception. Not all processes are suitable for automation and deliver the same benefits. For instance, automating a purchase order approval process addresses several issues, including delayed approvals, incomplete records and errors in the purchase orders. On the other hand, while automating a customer help desk does increase efficiency, it brings down customer satisfaction. Thus, choosing the right process to automate is crucial to deriving ROI. The key to selecting the right process is keeping customers at the centre and balancing process effectiveness with efficiency.

One-Size-Fits-All: Assuming that a single automation solution fits all processes is another mistake. In reality, different processes may require different automation technologies, approaches, and levels of customisation.

Immediate ROI: Expecting quick returns on investment from a business process automation project is not the right approach. Automation should be viewed as a long-term strategy. While upfront costs are involved, over time business process automation delivers significant benefits to the business.

Automating an Inefficient Process: The rule of thumb in automation needs to be to not automate inefficient processes. As Bill Gates aptly puts it, “Automation applied to an inefficient process will magnify the inefficiency.” Hence, before you take a step forward and go ahead with process automation, you need to take a step backward and map and improve your current processes. When an optimised process is automated, it delivers the desired output.

Strategic Approach to Business Process Automation

Before embarking on the automation journey, it’s imperative to gain a comprehensive understanding of your current processes. Hence, organisations need to first map, analyse and improve their current processes before going ahead with automation.

Map the Current State

Before you can automate a business process, you need to understand it inside and out. This begins with process mapping, a visual representation that outlines each step, decision point, and interaction within the process. Process maps provide a clear, bird’s-eye view of how a process functions. By examining the flow of a process, you can spot bottlenecks, delays, or unnecessary handoffs. This clarity is essential for identifying inefficiencies and redundancies. Process maps also reveal who is involved at each stage, clarifying roles and responsibilities. This insight helps in resource allocation and determining where automation can provide the most significant impact.

Apply Business Process Analysis Techniques

Once you have a detailed process map in hand, the next step is analysis. This phase involves a deep dive into the intricacies of the process to uncover inefficiencies and areas for improvement. Apply various analysis techniques, such as value, cost, efficiency and root cause analysis. Use the findings to identify the non-value-adding activities in the process and understand opportunities for flow redirection to minimise handoffs. The analysis also helps to understand if a task can be reassigned to a resource for greater efficiency and proper restructuring of the organisation.

Improve and Optimise the Process

The next step is to use these actionable insights to optimise the current processes and streamline the workflows. Create a future state process and observe if the benefits identified in the analysis phase are being realised post-improvement. Once you have an optimised process, then you can proceed with the next step of automation.

Best Practices for Business Process Automation

  1. Think Big, Start Small

    When starting with process automation, think big, start small needs to be your mantra. While you need to think of automation from a broader lens, you need to start with the tasks that will quickly showcase results and help you maintain momentum and get buy-in for the program. Identify the ones that are high volume, high frequency, manual, and repetitive with multiple handover points that result in delays and low customer touchpoints. Automating such tasks will quickly deliver quantifiable results, such as decreased turnaround, reduced staff hours, increased productivity, reduction in errors, etc. Once you succeed with initial projects and your automation efforts mature, you can progressively move to the ones with greater customer touchpoints. Taking a scaled approach goes a long way!

  2. Understand the right processes to automate

    Not all processes are created equal. It’s crucial to select the appropriate ones. To identify the processes that are structured to deliver maximum benefits with automation, the below criteria can be applied :

    • Repetitive and Rule-based
    • High-Volume and Time-Consuming
    • Labour-Intensive
    • Error-Prone
    • Data-Intensive
    • Compliance-Related
  3. Identify the best-fit automation

    As with any other project, you must define the project’s goals, objectives and expectations. This will help you choose the right path onwards and select the right type of automation. For instance, if your goal from the automation project is cost saving, then a different structure of automation will be required as compared to when you are looking at increasing productivity.

    Further, analyse whether you need spot-fixing or end-to-end automation to assess which type of automation mode will deliver the best results as per your requirements. For instance, while Robotic Process Automation works best in the case of spot-fixing, it is not the right choice for end-to-end automation. Analysing all these requirements will help you select the automation mode to deliver the best result.

  4. Build the right team: The importance of team capabilities to drive your project successfully through the finishing line cannot be stressed enough. Build a team with diverse capabilities and roles, right from business process analyst, change management expert, and automation expert to subject matter expert and security infrastructure technology analyst to drive end-to-end automation. You must also work with your IT team to understand your current technology stack to avoid any integration challenges at a later project stage. Evaluating the security requirements right at the initial stage is also crucial to prevent the efforts from backfiring.
  5. Test Thoroughly: Conduct rigorous testing before deploying automation solutions in a production environment. Verify that the automation works as intended and doesn’t introduce new issues or errors.
  6. Embracing Business Process Automation as a Long-Term Project
    Automation should not be considered a one-off project; it should be taken as a technology that will play a massive role in your organisation’s continuous process improvement. Continuously monitor automated processes and measure their performance against predefined KPIs. Regularly assess the impact of automation on productivity, cost savings, and customer satisfaction. Review and refine automated processes regularly to adapt to changing business needs and emerging technologies.

Power Your Automation Journey

A critical element to drive the Business Process Automation ROI is selecting the appropriate toolset that aligns with your strategic goals and requirements. If you are considering a single integrated platform for mapping, analysing, improving and automating processes, then PRIME BPM is a great tool to consider.

With drag and drop and auto-connect functionality in PRIME BPM, organisations can easily create consistent and standardised process maps using the latest and worldwide-recognised standard for process modelling, BPMN 2.0. The easy-to-use interface makes process mapping accessible to both process experts and business users.

The tool also comes equipped with a built-in analytics engine, which gives actionable insights such as process cost, time, value and efficiency in a click. Some other key functionalities in the tool include one-click process prioritisation, a simulation engine, collaborative features to drive continuous improvement, etc.

PRIME BPM empowers organisations to take a strategic approach to Business Process Automation.

Wish to explore the powerful features and functionalities of the PRIME BPM tool? Take a 30-Day Trial.