Business processes are at the heart of every company. They ensure that individual activities are completed to certain standards and achieve clear objectives.
However, things like repetitive tasks, document routing, and lack of transparency can slow down crucial work from getting done.
So how can you make your processes more efficient? How can you increase transparency and set clear expectations across your company?
This is where business process automation comes in.
In this article, we’ll explain what business process automation is. We’ll also look at the benefits of automating your processes and show real-life examples. Finally, we’ll cover the exact steps that you can follow to get started.
Click the links below to jump ahead:
- What Is Business Process Automation?
- What Are the Benefits of Business Process Automation?
- Business Process Automation Examples
- How to Get Started With Business Automation
What Is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation is when you use software and modern technology to automate multi-step business workflows and transactions.
Don’t quite understand what that means? Let’s start by defining a “business process.”
A business process is a set of tasks or activities that you carry out to achieve a specific outcome. It lets you standardize how your team works and ensures more consistent results.
Companies of every size benefit from clearly defined processes. Not only do they set clear expectations, but they also increase accountability. Employees know what tasks they’re responsible for and when they need to finish them.
Processing invoices is an example of a business process. Here are the steps involved from start to finish:
Each step of the invoice approval process is clearly defined.
However, tasks like manual data entry and document routing can slow down approvals. This can result in issues like delayed payments and inability to capture discounts.
So how can you streamline your processes and reduce the risk of errors? This is where automation comes in.
Business process automation is the use of technology to automate repeatable and repetitive manual tasks. It makes your processes more efficient by minimizing and even eliminating human intervention in some cases.
Automating business processes can deliver massive time savings. In fact, 75% of IT & technology business leaders who have implemented automation solutions report time savings of at least four hours per 40-hour workweek.
Let’s revisit the invoice approval process above.
Instead of manually keying in invoice data into your account system and routing documents for approval, you can use accounting automation software like DocuPhase to automate these steps.
This is just one example. Your company likely relies on dozens or even hundreds of processes to get work done. With the right automation software, you can make your operations more efficient and free your team from repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
What Are the Benefits of Business Process Automation?
Relying on manual processes may work in the early stages of a company. But they can quickly turn into bottlenecks and limit your ability to scale.
Here’s how business process automation can benefit your company.
Standardizes Business Operations
Whether you’re onboarding a new hire, processing an invoice, or handling a customer refund, you generally follow the same steps. However, problems can occur if these steps aren’t standardized (e.g., employees applying discounts differently).
Automating a process demands a certain amount of clarity. It’s hard to automate a process if you don’t understand the tasks and people involved. By automating your processes, you can standardize your operations and ensure more consistent outcomes.
Increases Employee Productivity
A majority of employees are still spending a huge chunk of their time on tasks that could be automated. 71% of employees spend 20% of their time on mundane tasks, which equates to about 1.6 hours per 8-hour workday.
Time spent on mundane tasks means less time on more productive tasks — preparing a sales presentation, onboarding a new client, handling customer inquiries, etc.
Business process automation helps you reduce and even eliminate mundane tasks. Instead of wasting time on tasks like data entry, employees can focus on the work they’re paid to do. This doesn’t just boost productivity but can also boost employee engagement.
Reduces the Risk of Errors
Manual processes are prone to errors — an employee could make a typo or calculation error when preparing certain documents. Fixing these mistakes creates more delays as it means having to send forms back for corrections and starting over again.
Using a solution like DocuPhase to automate your processes can help reduce the risk of issues like data entry errors. For example, its capture recognition technology enables you to digitally and accurately capture data from documents like invoices. You can even set up parameters to ensure the validity of the data you’re capturing.
Increases Process Visibility
Manual processes often suffer from a lack of visibility. It’s hard for managers to monitor a process when employees are performing each step manually. This lack of visibility can affect productivity and make it difficult for managers to optimize their resources.
Workflow automation software provides real-time visibility into your processes, allowing you to monitor progress across each step. That helps you quickly identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies that are holding a process back.
Non-compliance with certain industry regulations can incur heavy penalties. However, gathering the necessary documents to prove compliance can be difficult with manual processes.
Automation tools like DocuPhase keep audit trails with detailed logs, so you can track when tasks were completed, see who performed them, and more.
These records can also provide additional safeguards for processes like invoice approvals. For example, you can view the audit trail to make sure that the proper actions were taken before approving an invoice.
What Business Processes Can You Automate?
Automation can completely transform your company. It can help you eliminate repetitive tasks and increase productivity. However, not every process is suitable for automation.
For example, following up with a vendor requires a more human touch. While you can automate tasks like reminders, you probably don’t want to automate the whole thing.
Here are some factors to help you determine what processes you can automate:
- Follows a predictable set of steps
- Involves repetitive tasks like data entry
- Has a time-sensitive nature
- Gets repeated frequently
- Requires audit trails
Let’s look at some examples in the next section.
Business Process Automation Examples
If you’re not already leveraging automation, you’re missing out on opportunities to streamline your operations. Here are just a few business processes that are ripe for automation.
Invoice processing is an important part of accounts payable. It involves tracking what you owe to vendors and ensuring that any outstanding balances are paid in a timely manner.
However, manually entering data from invoices into your accounting system and checking them against purchase orders can slow down approvals. This can affect your ability to capture early payment discounts.
With accounting automation software, you can streamline your entire procure-to-pay process and reduce turnaround times.
New Hire Onboarding
A strong onboarding process is key to helping new hires acclimate to their roles. However, this process is often filled with tasks like filling out employment and tax documents.
With an automated employee onboarding workflow, you can streamline the paperwork and provide a more engaging onboarding experience. HR can spend more time helping new hires prepare for their roles instead of burying them with paperwork.
The hiring process typically starts with a job requisition — a formal document that department managers submit to fill open positions. However, manually filling out these forms and routing them to HR for review can slow down the hiring process.
With a human resources automation solution, you can get rid of paper-based forms and create automated workflows for job requisitions. Once approved, you can have the opening posted to your website and start collecting applications.
Manually processing time-off requests isn’t just tedious and time-consuming. It can also make it harder for employees to get the time off they need and for managers to plan accordingly.
With workflow automation software, you can create a time-off request workflow. Instead of filling out paper forms, employees can submit a time-off request with an online form and have it routed automatically to their manager for review. The employee’s records are updated once the request is approved.
Change Request Management
Any time you need to change or amend the scope of a project, you’ll need to submit a change request. However, managing these documents without the right process can be challenging.
To easily manage change orders, you can build and deploy electronic web forms. You can then connect these forms to your databases and even integrate them into an automated workflow.
Contracts outline expectations and provide legal protections for both parties. However, drafting new contracts and getting the necessary approvals can be a lengthy process.
Automation software eliminates the hassles of preparing contracts by hand. Features like revision control enable you to see the entire history of a contract. What’s more, you can enforce business rules for greater oversight.
Purchase Order Request
A purchase order request is an internal document that employees create and submit to the purchasing department. It breaks down needed goods or services that a team or individual wants to buy.
Automating this process eliminates the majority of the paperwork. You can also set up instant routing to ensure that purchase order requests don’t get lost or misplaced.
And these are just a few examples of processes that you can automate in your business. Now let’s take a look at how you can get started with BPA.
How to Get Started With Business Automation
Business process automation can be a complete game changer for your company when done correctly. Follow these steps to get started.
1. Get Buy-In From Your Team
Automating your processes is a massive undertaking, which is why it’s important that you get key stakeholders on board. Otherwise, your automation efforts won’t gain any traction or may even fail outright.
Identify one or two processes that take up a lot of valuable time and resources. Then break down how automation will help streamline these processes. Examples can include reducing data entry and making steps more transparent.
Building a compelling case for automation will help increase buy-in. If you can demonstrate a positive ROI, you’re more likely to get support from key stakeholders.
2. Audit Existing Processes
Before you can automate your process, you need to have a clear understanding of each. Look at each of your processes. What are the tasks involved? Who is responsible for them?
Auditing your existing processes will help you uncover any inefficiencies and identify tasks that you can automate. Consider seeking input from those involved to get their feedback. Note down any challenges or bottlenecks that they frequently encounter.
3. Identify Organizational Requirements
Before you start looking for an automation solution, you should first identify any requirements that it must meet. This will help you find the right software.
For example, if one of your automation goals is to reduce manual data entry, you’ll want to look for software that offers capture recognition technology. This will enable you to digitally capture and input data into your systems with ease.
4. Choose an Automation Solution
The next step is to choose a solution to automate your business processes. Of course, this is easier said than done as there are countless options on the market.
Consider assigning an automation project manager to help with this step. Their responsibilities will include evaluating individual vendors and scheduling product demos. They will also serve as a point of contact for internal stakeholders.
5. Start Small and Involve Your Team
Companies make the mistake of trying to automate everything at once. The problem here is that making too many changes can overwhelm your team.
Start with just one or two processes that you can automate. Choose a process that follows a set of defined steps and gets repeated often. It should also deliver a financial benefit when it’s automated.
For example, if your accounts payable team is spending a lot of time processing invoices, optimizing this process can help lower processing costs and reduce turnaround times.
As you start automating your processes, don’t forget to document and communicate those changes. Consider rolling out changes in phases to avoid overwhelming your team.
7. Measure and Monitor Your Processes
Finally, it’s important that you track key metrics and compare them against initial baselines. This will help you measure the effectiveness of your automation efforts.
Let’s say that one of your goals is to process invoices faster. If the data shows a positive impact on turnaround times, you know you’re on the right track. Continue to monitor your process and look for areas of improvement.
Start Automating Your Business Processes Today
Business process automation is all about making your process more efficient. It can help you eliminate repetitive tasks and free up more time for employees to focus on higher-value work.
With automation software from DocuPhase, you can improve your processes by building robust workflows that are tailored to meet your business needs.
Ready to get started?
Request a demo to see how DocuPhase’s business process automation software can help you eliminate paper-based processes. Our automation experts are available to answer your questions.