Business scenarios are more complex today than ever before. To survive in today’s highly competitive climate, organizations must carefully use available resources, avoid wastage, and cut down operational costs. The pressure on margins is driving organizations to look for technology to support these measures towards gaining operational efficiencies.
Automation technologies provide many benefits that help optimize business operations. In fact, innovations in process automation have proved to be disruptive, completely transforming the landscape in IT applications in industries like finance and human resources. Using automation in accounts payables (AP) and HR onboarding, for example, have saved many person-hours, bringing down the processing time to days instead of weeks and hours instead of days. Business process automation leverages the power of innovative technology to bring in operational efficiencies.
Defining Business Process Automation (BPA)
BPA or Business Process Automation involves identifying tedious, manual tasks that are time-consuming and repetitive and replacing them with more efficient, quick, automated actions by leveraging specialized software tools. BPA frees up valuable human resources, allowing teams to take up work that requires human engagement, brings more work satisfaction and increases contentment with their work life.
Let’s take a simple example: A manual employee attendance count requires an HR team member to spend time updating an employee roster after checking in on employees who have reported to work each day. Leaves taken have to be meticulously recorded manually with reasons for the leave of absence, and the record of the total count of leaves taken by each employee needs to be maintained. Imagine now this task is turned into an automated process using biometric records of entry and exit and an employee portal for leave applications and approvals. The HR executive is now spared a tedious, manual (and boring!) daily task and can move on to doing more rewarding and engaging work.
According to one survey (Redwood Software and Sapio Research, 2017), 59% of business processes could be automated by 2022. The survey revealed that 83% of respondents (IT decision-makers from the UK and US) said they considered robotic automation to be “essential” or “very important” to the digital transformation of their companies. The majority of respondents said automation would be driven by the IT department, CIO or CTO, rather than an operational or functional role. This study highlights the key role IT departments play in their digital transformation journey and process automation specifically.
Read our case study on Innovation Through Process Automation.
Types of Process Automation Software
Many advanced process automation tools have taken the market by storm. Business process automation software help teams achieve organizational goals by adopting new, simplified processes that increase efficiency, save time and reduce operational costs. Many large organizations across industries are already using process automation software to reduce manual efforts, deliver error-free results in critical functions, and increase execution speed.
Process Automation Tools: From macros to intelligent bots
Macros are probably the oldest of automation tools! These are simple programs that are capable of making advanced calculations, text substitutions, and spreadsheet shortcuts. They are very useful for data-entry and database updating tasks. Set actions can be automated and completed very quickly and without errors using macros.
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) bots are another transformative technology that has revolutionized how repetitive tasks are performed. They have simple drag-and-drop interfaces, making it easy for the regular office-worker to harness the power of automation to make daily tasks faster and error-free.
When RPA bots are augmented with AI (Artificial Intelligence), NLP (Natural Language Processing), or image recognition (OCR) capabilities, they are referred to as cognitive or intelligent bots and can be harnessed for more complex automation.
More complex and specialized business process automation software is also now being used by enterprises to automate complex, multi-system processes.
5 Main Benefits of Process Automation
While the benefits of automation are many, the top takeaways about why organizations must take process automation seriously are as follows:
1. Reduces operating costs
Adopting process automation reduces operational costs in several ways. The most obvious benefit is in terms of saving time. BPA delivers rapid task completion. Software tools and bots don’t need breaks and days off! These tools can be programmed to run continuously, overnight, as well as on weekends – getting jobs done faster, with no overhead costs like extra staffing, overtime, or compensatory leaves for working extra hours. This delivers significant cost savings for human resources.
A second, and likely more important way BPA reduces costs, is through data accuracy. Humans can make errors in manual tasks, especially when they are repetitive or laborious, while automated tools are largely error-free (so long as they are configured and implemented correctly). The cost of finding and rectifying errors is very high, and errors that go uncorrected can cost the business in more ways than one, including regulatory penalties and customer dissatisfaction.
2. Improves overall productivity
When software takes on tasks that were once done manually, there is a definite improvement in productivity. Firstly, automated tools work at tremendous speed (which is impossible for humans to match), and secondly, they don’t make errors in executing the tasks. Lastly, advanced automation tools based on Machine Learning technologies become more efficient as they process more data – these tools literally ‘learn’ with experience!
3. Delivers superior customer experience
In business, the customer is king. No matter how much technology progresses, this ancient business rule still applies. In fact, it applies now more than ever before! Superior customer experience is what drives business growth and is the prime parameter of business success in today’s digital age. Prompt customer service using automated processes, customer service bots, and 24/7 service tools are at the forefront of digital transformation. Significant improvements in response time are achieved using BPA in customer service processes. Uninterrupted service, including on holidays, off-office hours, and across time zones, helps to deliver an enhanced customer experience.
4. Benefits employee performance and motivation
When employees are relieved of monotonous and repetitive tasks, it tends boosts morale. It signals to employees that the organization values their capabilities and cares for their well-being. Once automation tools are deployed, employees can use the space to engage in higher-value activities that require human creativity, cognition and engagement. Such work is more fulfilling to employees, reducing work-related fatigue and enhancing self-esteem. BPA is surely and winning tactic for improving company culture and employee satisfaction.
5. Enhances business governance
An automation tool’s value proposition is its ability to log everything. Running reports for various activities and processes is quick and easy. This is a manager’s dream come true! Progress on projects and operational activities can be monitored easily, and resources suggested in a timely manner. Workflows streamlined, and operational processes more efficient and reliable. Fast response times to customer or client inquiries and service requests, detailed activity logs by department or employee, and error-free calculations, on-time bill processing, and payments – all contribute to running the business more smoothly, keeping clients and partners happy, and avoiding regulatory fines and penalties. Thus, process automation results in enhanced organizational governance across the board.
Process automation is undoubtedly an essential step towards digital transformation. A highly competitive business landscape necessitates high productivity, reliability, and efficiency, all while keeping costs low, maintaining employees’ well-being, and keeping clients happy! A tall task for any business. Process automation tools are technological innovations that are the driving force behind high-performing enterprises in the digital world.
Our automation experts at Treehouse Technology Group develop and deploy powerful process applications quickly and at scale across your organization.
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