The following is a guest post by Billy Lucas. Billy is a passionate blogger sharing business tips on behalf of EngageBay. He writes primarily on SEO, email marketing, CRM, marketing automation and covers the entire gamut of marketing.
Every business wants to get the most out of its resources. Apart from making more profit, companies constantly strive towards reducing overall operational costs.
Technology has helped us in solving some of the most difficult problems where human power is just not enough, and for every big problem that is solved using technology, a number of other small problems are also solved.
Surviving in today’s competitive world requires businesses to efficiently utilize available resources and take appropriate strategic decisions. In order to prevent wastage of resources, many organizations are turning towards process automation solutions.
Business process automation has emerged as a way to carry out a number of tasks without the need for any manual input. IT departments in companies extensively use automation to efficiently provision technology resources, cut operational costs and optimize overall utilization.
The benefits of IT process automation are limitless. If you run a business or are thinking of setting one up, you should definitely consider incorporating process automation.
What is business process automation?
Technically, business process automation is a way of using technology to automate business processes in order to cut costs and increase productivity. Bear in mind that Business Process Automation (BPA) is completely different than Industrial Automation (IA). Typically, industrial automation deals with automating tasks that reduce physical labor, for example, assembling products. In business process automation, you automate processes and workflows.
A process can be chosen for automation if:
- The process is repetitive in nature
- It doesn’t require logical thinking or human intervention for completion
- It is important for the process to have consistency across the business organization
- It needs to be error-free
Business process automation is a subset of a larger branch, Business process management, and only focuses on specific activities among a bunch of other activities in BPM. Business process management involves everything from planning to execution and controls a number of business processes that either occur simultaneously or separately.
Fundamental principles of business process automation
Every organization has its own way of implementing business process automation but there are some fundamental principles that each of them follows.
Understand, Simplify and Automate (USA)
Before introducing automation, it is essential for you to first completely understand the existing system and analyze it. Once that is done, you must try to simplify it to the greatest extent possible and only after that you must introduce automation and that too only if it is really required.
Integration with existing processes
All the processes running in business are different from one another. So, the process that is automated should seamlessly integrate with the existing processes. The integration can happen at various levels of the automation process but it is essential for all the automation processes to work smoothly with the environment.
The automated processes should be consistent with other processes and their corresponding inputs and outputs.
Step by step approach
It is not necessary to perform the automation of all the necessary tasks at once. Depending on funds, resources and overall logic of the business processes, you can divide the job into several stages.
Over a period of time, business processes tend to change. The automation solutions should be flexible enough to incorporate and reflect these changes.
The aim of automation is to make the business processes simpler and not more complicated. If after automation, the process requires a lot of human intervention, you must understand that something is wrong.
Training the staff
For efficient functioning of business processes, it is important for the staff to have a complete understanding of the workflow. The better they know a process, the better it will function.
Automation is not just replacing papers with digital documents. It is about making processes efficient, simple, error-free, streamlined and transparent.
In this article, we have compiled 5 major problems that business process automation can solve.
5 business process automation benefits
Reduce operational costs
Running a business is a costly affair. Automation can substantially help in reducing cost and increasing profitability. However, most of the people find it difficult to choose tasks for automation. Well, any task that that doesn’t require human thought process but just a series of steps that can be predicted using computer logic can be chosen for automation.
Automation helps small and medium-sized enterprises more than giants as they do not have a lot of human power to delegate tasks to as most of the jobs are handled by a condensed team.
Almost all the tasks related to paper processes can be completed using automation. These days, you can digitally sign documents, sign contracts and also easily manage organizational expenses using various software available in the market. Solutions like Trello have made it easier to manage the flow of work. A number of services like Zoho, Quickbooks, etc have made it very easy to pay suppliers, employees and manage other accounting tasks.
Moreover, human beings are bound to make mistakes. Rectification errors cost businesses a ton of money every year. The greater the rate of error more is the cost for rectification. A small misconfiguration can expose vulnerabilities to attackers or disrupt business processes.
Automation can help you in improving efficiency and ensuring accuracy. You can take basic tasks out of human hands and engage their brain more into developing strategies and more important functions.
Deliver superior customer service
With major advancements in the field of technology, today, the way customer service is provided has changed a lot.
Experts say that by 2020 85% of all the customer interactions will be handled without the need of any human agent. With automated customer service, you can provide faster and more accurate assist to your users, all while reducing the costs that are required to manage a support team.
Using artificial intelligence, you can create great customer service that will answer all of their questions directly and provide the team working at the back end with required information and resources.
Automated customer service can help you greatly reduce the response time. Constraints such as public holidays or different time zones do not affect automated customer service. Chatbots can help in responding to customer queries almost instantly, something which human support cannot guarantee. Thus customers no longer have to wait for hours just to get a response.
Considering the advancements in technology especially artificial intelligence, very soon, virtual assistants will be able to predict what customers are looking for by tracking their actions and understanding their needs. Once you identify the customer issues, you can provide real-time support using chatbots or displaying FAQs.
Purchase abandonment is a major concern these days. If you can actually understand their issues it will not only reduce customer complaints but also improve consumer satisfaction and in turn reducing product abandonment rates.
Hiring and training staff takes a lot of time as well as money. Over a period of time, these costs get higher. Using AI for automation can provide your employees with the information required to close a deal or to be successful in general. The best part about such platforms like IBM Watson is that it comes programmed with domain knowledge and you only have to train such these models once.
There are some recurring tasks such as bill payment, scheduling reminders that happen regularly and are predictable. If we use technology to automate such tasks, the employees will have more time at their disposal and will also considerably reduce the risk of important things falling through the cracks.
All the businesses have a number of bills that they need to regularly pay for. Using automation, you can seamlessly set up the process of the recurring payment of a regular bill. All you need to do is specify the payee, the amount and the frequency of transactions and link a bank account from where you are going to transfer the funds. Auto-payment is a great way to avoid late fees and ensure that the payments are done on-time.
You can make regular tasks such as generating weekly reports, paying rent, etc. automatically appear in the tasks list based on the interval you determine.
Backing up your data effectively and routinely is important. Data is one of the most important assets for any business. Different types of data need to treated differently. Some data needs to be backed up daily while some type demands weekly or monthly backups. With automation in place, you just need to develop backup strategies for your data. The actual job of backing things up will be managed by the system you set up.
If you want to build an online presence on various social media platforms but are unable to spend enough time or hire someone to do so, you can set up a process to automatically push blog posts on your site or publish posts on Instagram, Facebook, etc.
You can set up filters for your emails to automatically segregate them based on their types. You can segregate them based on the sender, the site, or a particular word in the subject line. You can also automatically add a label for a particular email so it becomes easier for you to identify what to delete after a certain period of time.
Improve employee morale
The main aim of any industry, whether it’s manufacturing, food service or healthcare, is to maximize output. To attain such high levels of productivity, businesses may lengthen the shifts of their employees. However, this can have a serious effect on employee morale.
Customer disengagement is a more severe problem than you might think. A recent study has shown that it costs US businesses around $300 billion annually. When the employees are disengaged, they consistently give you their time don’t put the best of their efforts.
One way to improve employee engagement is by providing them opportunities that will help them develop a sense of purpose with regard to their work. A lot of employees today spend most of their time doing menial, repetitive tasks that do not add much value to the organization.
With automation, employers can automate such tasks and free up time for high-value work. According to a report by Smartsheet, 69% of the employees thought that automation will reduce the wastage of time during their workday and 59% thought that they would have more than six spare hours per week if repetitive jobs were automated.
Once the employees have more time to focus on valuable work, managers need to make them aware of the strategic goals of the company or the department because only then they will be able to think of new ideas for the overall success of a business.
Automation is a great way to implement governance in business, however, it is rarely considered as one. Any task that an automated process completes is essentially always documented. For every task, you get clear logs that tell you what was done, who did it and when it was done. As stated before, automation plays a major role in reducing human errors as well as speeds up tasks that need to be performed repeatedly.
All automation jobs can be done by service accounts and do not need direct access to the managed systems. So system managers and other officials can monitor all the tasks easily via a single screen interface.
There is no denying to the fact that automating business processes is contributing to an organization’s success. People have been using it for Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS), workflow platforms as well as to develop Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems.
However, regardless of how business process automation is being used, it is necessary to take information governance into consideration.
In the past, it was necessary to set up automation solutions on-site that required expensive installation and licensing. Thus, most of the organizations refrained from using it. However, with cloud automation and because of its benefits like lower up-front commitment, minimal footprint and setup time, businesses are opting for it extensively.
An easy way to get started with process automation
By documenting your workflows in digital checklists, you are instantly creating an actionable workflow in which tasks can be assigned to team members, automated, and monitored in real-time to ensure they are being executed in the way they are intended to be, each and every time.
The point is to minimize human error, increase accountability, and provide employees with all of the tools and information necessary to complete their tasks as effectively as possible.
Each task included in the checklist can contain various details in the form of text, a variety of form fields including sub-checklists, and rich media so each individual working on the process knows exactly what is required and has access to relevant information.
If you need to make a change at some point to refine the workflow, Process Street’s template editing system allows quick and seamless edits on-the-fly, without disrupting existing workflows.
The platform’s integration with Zapier allows you to connect with over 1000 other apps, so you can create automation rules between Process Street and the tools you already use to extend the capabilities of your tech stack ecosystem.
To demonstrate an example, let’s take one of the most critical processes of any business – the sales process.
A sales process will go through various stages of the buyer’s journey that have been defined by sales managers, along with specific tactics and guidelines for salespeople to follow at any given stage.
Within each stage, there are various other workflows that can be defined, documented, and managed for high levels of productivity and streamlined sales execution.
These workflows include qualifying a lead, creating a compelling pitch deck, presenting a demo, and ultimately handing over a new customer to the customer success team.
For now, let’s focus on lead qualification.
A typical approach for qualifying leads is the BANT method.
Below is a checklist template that you can immediately integrate into your sales organization and begin assigning to sales reps.
The final task in the checklist is called “Check to complete and create notes & tasks in Close.io”.
By setting up a simple integration between Process Steet and Close.io in Zapier, you can automatically pass data collected in the checklist into your CRM. You can also set this up with Salesforce and a number of other CRMs.
This type of automation is effective but only scratches the surface of what’s possible.
For some more inspiration, check out these 50 workflow automation ideas to get you started.
The bottom line
In conclusion, automation, if implemented correctly, can help you in increasing the efficiency and accuracy of your business processes. The employees of the company can spend their valuable time on important proposals and agendas without worrying about other time-consuming tasks.