Automation is the use of technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance. Any industry that encounters repetitive tasks can use automation. Automation is the creation and application of technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention. The implementation of automation technologies, techniques and processes improve the efficiency, reliability, and/or speed of many tasks that were previously performed by humans.
Automation is being used in a number of areas such as manufacturing, transport, utilities, defense, facilities, operations and lately, information technology.
What is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation (BPA) is a strategy wherein businesses use technology to organize their personnel and systems through workflows. Processes are the sets of activities that move your business toward a goal. Forrester predicts that automation can cut operating costs up to 90 percent with BPA.
BPA goes beyond traditional data management and records to advanced software systems and programs that integrate all your applications. Automation can permit your company to maintain control over various issues, such as customer relationships, analytics, planning, sales, standardization, and development. Automation can target not only complicated information technology tasks, such as managing your system users and troubleshooting network issues but also programs like email marketing services.
Three main tenets comprise BPA:
- It allows companies to orchestrate, integrate, and automatically execute.
- It centralizes your processes for the greatest amount of transparency, as it keeps the computing architecture intact. It coalesces the business functions that should logically be more integrated and spreads them out across the company.
- It addresses your human-centric tasks and minimizes the need for personal interaction.
Importance of Business Process Automation
Standard operating procedure design and automation seek to improve operational efficiency and ensure consistent processes are followed. Business process automation is the use of technology to execute recurring tasks or processes in a business where manual effort can be replaced. It is done to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and streamline processes.
Business process automation is not to be confused with business process management, which is a larger discipline involving the management of complex organization-wide processes using different methodologies. The automation can help improve accountability, transparency, and enable accurate data recording, which can be accessed by relevant stakeholders when necessary. It will also retain all process-related communication within the workflow to make execution easier and faster.
One of the great outcomes of a process automation system is streamlined processes. Clear accountability, customizable notifications, valuable insights, and faster turnaround times make it easier to eliminate wasteful activities and focus on enhancing tasks that add value.
Types of Business Process Automation
There are four types of automation, progressing in complexity:
- Basic Automation: Basic automation centers are the simple jobs in your organization, giving a centralized place to store all related information. For example, using a centralized messaging tool for a topic or group allows transparency in communication, instead of hiding information in various email accounts.
- Process Automation: This documents and manages your business processes for task consistency and transparency. It is more powerful than basic automation and can be controlled by dedicated software and apps.
- Integration Automation: More complex than process automation, integration automation enables machines to observe the way that humans perform tasks and repeat those actions. Humans must define the rules, however. For example, you could integrate your BPM software and customer support software. This could give you results from a customer support checklist processed for each customer complaint and assign personnel when needed.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Automation: Adding AI to integration software enables decision-making where your technological support is humanlike. The system would make decisions on what to do with the data, based on what it has learned and constantly analyzed. For example, in manufacturing, AI automation can significantly reduce supply chain forecasting errors.
Reasons To Automate Your Business Processes
Every day, your employees schedule appointments, request approvals, revise documents and workflows, route information, and look for status updates. In many businesses, people still perform these actions manually. This can be a struggle when you have to scroll through multiple email revisions, replies, and forwards to find the current version of a document. It can also be a challenge when you miss an email that gives you an approval before everything’s ready.
When someone asks you for an update, can you be sure that your reporting is correct? What happens if the sales team changes the prices and doesn’t update the document you’re quoting from? These inefficiencies can cost your company money. They also decrease your company’s accountability, not to mention wreak havoc on company compliance and customer satisfaction.
Automating these processes can help reduce stress. Self-automating activities eradicate worries about missed emails or someone taking a sick day. According to a 2017 Forrester report, companies that master automation will take over their industries. Businesses typically automate their processes to
- Streamline communication
- Enforce accountability
- Minimize costs
- Reduce paperwork
- Decrease defects and manual errors
- Keep a tab on business processes
- Establish a clear approval hierarchy
- Improve workflows
- Decrease the time it takes to perform repetitive tasks
- Maintain a consistent process speed
- Ease and speed up auditing and analysis
- Create more flexibility, so it’s easier to make changes
- Foster a happier and more stable workforce
- Satisfy customers and, thus, increase your business’s competitiveness
- Reduce human errors and variance
- Produce faster responses to mission-critical system problems
- Allow more efficient allocation of resources
- Maintain a consistent work standard
- Give customers a flexible platform
Know More About Business Process Automation
BPA is sometimes referred to as Information Technology Process Automation (ITPA). Implementing BPA can be a major event; because many business IT environments are virtual or cloud-based, their complexity can be challenging. Furthermore, in business process management (BPM), the automation element can take a backseat to define the processes themselves. BPA concentrates on first automating the processes, then analyzing and optimizing them. BPA practitioners know that business needs change rapidly and there’s often no time for substantial business process modelling and mapping projects prior to software selection.
BPA is often confused with other terms such as industrial automation, robotic process automation, smart factories, infrastructure management, and enterprise risk management. Industrial Automation (IA) uses control systems such as computers to automatically run industrial processes. Primarily found in manufacturing, it replaces the human element and improves the production rate through consistently managed processes. Whereas BPA automates processes and workflows, IA strictly automates the physical human labour in processes and workflows.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an emerging field that specifically automates artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Although the technology is getting savvier, RPA mimics high-volume, repeatable human tasks, leaving more abstract duties such as relationship-building to humans. RPA complements BPA after it streamlines your processes.
Smart factories are production environments that continuously improve and self-optimize. The “smart” label applies not only to goods production, but also planning, logistics, and product development. Communication technology connects the production process, with integration possible across the entire supply chain.
Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is another related term. In ERM, the organization plans for all the potential risks of regular business activities and accidents, including financial, operational, and strategic scenarios. In this context, you would plan for the risks of automating your business processes.
Both are similar to infrastructure management (IM), the larger discipline that encompasses BPA and IA. IM handles all operation pieces, such as all policies, procedures, processes, data, people, and customers.
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