Robotics and driverless cars are the first things that come to mind when thinking about process automation. Technologies that seemed impossible years ago are a reality today. Business Process Automation (BPA) uses these technologies to increase efficiency and improve the bottom line. This has made it the fastest-growing segment of the enterprise software market in the past few years.
More and more businesses have been increasingly automating their processes over the past decade. Nowadays, automation in business is only gaining momentum and shows no signs of stopping.
However, process automation is not just about removing humans from the picture. The automation of business processes using software solutions allows for a better allocation of resources and increases productivity.
This article explains how business process automation can simplify tedious tasks with just a few clicks.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation is the use of technology to replace human intervention on high-volume, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks.
Automating means shifting the responsibility for completing activities from humans to machines. As a result, manual efforts are minimized. This makes business processes more cost-efficient, error-proof, and consistent. Plus, the time saved can be used on more valuable business tasks.
What business processes can be automated?
Any workflow consisting of well-defined and repeatable steps can be automated. Almost all paper-based processes that don’t require logical thinking fall within this definition.
Most employees have a daily routine that often includes time-sensitive tasks – from the sales team to the accounting department. According to a McKinsey report, 60% of occupations could save 30% of their time with automation.
Some typical processes that can easily be automated to unburden employees, reduce costs, and improve transparency are:
With automation, the final objective will be achieved faster and free of errors. This will improve the service quality and delivery both internally and externally.
What are the benefits of process automation?
Automation eliminates bottlenecks that lead to lost time and revenue. The improvements in efficiency and control spread to every facet of the organization - from increased productivity and compliance to better customer experience and market performance.
10 key benefits of business process automation are:
1. It saves your employees' time
Saving time is the main benefit of process automation. A study revealed that office workers spend 2.12 hours per day on administrative tasks such as searching for information, approving paperwork, and processing documents.
Process automation software can complete these tasks much faster and error-free. Ultimately, process automation means employees can use their work time more efficiently.
2. It helps you reduce costs
Alongside the cost of labor ($2 trillion in total annual wages), there’s the cost of lost profit. Organizations lose 20 to 30% of revenue every year due to inefficient processes.
Switching from manual to automated business workflows allows for error minimization. That way, no time and money need to be wasted in fixing issues.
The reduction of operational costs is demonstrated by the fact that businesses that automated their processes drove down overall costs by 10% and increased overall profits by 8%.
3. It increases productivity
When cumbersome tasks are delegated to a digital solution, multiple processes can be handled simultaneously. This leads to higher productivity.
On top of that, BPA also improves employee experience by allowing your staff to focus on engaging tasks such as revenue-generating activities.
4. It makes business processes more efficient
A process is efficient when the best outcome is achieved with minimal effort. When a series of predefined steps are performed consistently, there’s no room for deviations. Plus, automation translates into improved quality and communication, greater visibility, and more efficient task management.
Notes, calls, and emails to pass on information can be replaced with more modern solutions, usually included in BPA tools. When the team has a dashboard to check the tasks’ progress, it gets easier to manage deadlines and improve collaboration. Furthermore, no details can get lost in translation.
5. It minimizes errors
It's not a matter of how capable and skilled your employees are. Erring is human; mistakes happen. Manual slip-ups, inefficiency points, and delays are inevitable. Removing the risk of errors makes the process smoother and helps avoid redundant operations. This being said, the likelihood of errors dramatically decreases when processes are automated.
6. It standardizes processes
A manual process involving many employees and stakeholders can be quite messy. Everyone has their own habits, filing methods, and multiple tasks to be on top of. For the process to be effective, it needs to be properly designed in the initial phase.
An automated process is performed as a consistent workflow, whose steps follow each other systematically until a standard outcome is reached every time. That’s why automation is a clever shortcut for standardization.
Of course, particular changes can be made for each individual workflow. But, in principle, harmonization is one of the key benefits of automating a process. No critical steps can be missed, and no document can get lost.
7. It provides auditable records
Alongside standardization, each phase of an automated process is always recorded in an audit trail. That makes it possible to:
track the documents involved
map their course
oversee who did what
check when each action happened
Such control not only improves accuracy and reliability. It also provides the organization with auditable records of each specific workflow. These records are easily retrievable might the need arise – for example, replying to customers’ inquiries or demonstrating regulatory compliance.
8. It ensures compliance
Automation is not just about defining a set of rules for routing documents. It also includes setting up:
As everything is traceable and under control, automation ultimately ensures better compliance with relevant regulations.
9. It delivers a better customer experience
Convenience and fast access to a service are key features customers are looking for when comparing different providers. The automation of a business process accelerates the service delivery for the end-user.
Automation enables faster, more accurate, and better-quality services for clients. Plus, it is much easier to assist customers when you can easily retrieve their information instead of wasting hours chasing down papers. Meeting the promised standard of operational excellence drives happiness and satisfaction, which in turn builds trust, loyalty, and competitive advantage.
10. It increases scalability
As the client portfolio expands and the number of employees increases, the scope of work also intensifies. Manually issuing 10 invoices is not the same as issuing 1000. The same goes for all other business processes - from hiring new team members to onboarding new clients and more.
Shifting business needs and changing regulatory requirements can be effortlessly addressed thanks to automation. As a result, automation helps improve scalability performance.
How can business process automation software help?
Getting started with business process automation might seem challenging. Some prefer to invest in building in-house solutions. However, this requires much more time and resources. Others rely on third-party software, whose effectiveness is already proven by their success on the market.
Using third-party BPA software has considerable advantages. What's more, the wide range of choices allows companies to find the best tool for their specific business needs.
The three main benefits of adopting a business process automation software are:
Ease of setup: there’s no need for an IT team to build, install, and keep the software running. The software provider takes care of all these things.
Online access & flexibility: an internet connection is all you need to have full control of your processes. It’s the provider that hosts the software on their own servers and makes it accessible on all your devices.
Higher security: if hackers were to infiltrate your network, your business processes and data would not be affected. Whatever happens, you can ensure business continuity and the ongoing good performance of your services.
How does a business process automation software work?
A business process is simply a set of tasks performed in a specific order to achieve a goal. Therefore, you have to start by defining your goal and the steps to achieve it. The software allows you to set up user-defined rules to build a conditional workflow that triggers the steps.
Example: A contract has to go through an approval process before being routed to a number of signatories. The signed document is then returned to the original sender. In event of missing approvals or signatures, the document can be set to follow a different route.
All you need to do is create dynamic rules such as listing the signers in the order needed. The software takes care of the rest.
If done manually, such a process could take up to a week - and much longer if the parties are in different countries. BPA software reduces processing time to just a few hours.
Documents and information will be automatically routed to the right persons at the right time.
You will always be able to check the progress status, with full traceability of sent, opened, and signed documents. There’s no need for calls and follow-ups, nor back-and-forth over email to clarify details.
You can notify participants, set a due date for the documents to be sent out and received back, or schedule automatic reminders to ensure you get the approvals needed in no time.
Business process automation examples
Let’s look at a couple of examples to better understand the potential of BPA.
1. Employee onboarding
Did you know 58% of organizations admitted their onboarding program is more focused on operations and paperwork rather than on people and performance?
1 in 5 HR professionals said their hiring paperwork was inconsistent, informal, or disjointed
1 in 3 feels that this disorganization negatively impacts their ability to perform daily tasks
Manual employee onboarding often involves the collection of data through insecure channels, violating GDPR requirements. Needless to say, this poses a high data exposure risk.
HR processes are great candidates for automation. Dedicated software can proceed with the secure collection of new employees’ data, eID authentication, and sharing of onboarding materials. Once the identification phase has been completed, the contract can be sent automatically and signed digitally. Eventually, employment contracts and attached documents will be safely stored, easily accessible, and GDPR compliant.
Saving time (76%) and money (30%) are the top benefits mentioned by HR departments after the employee onboarding automation.
But that’s not all. HR automation can also be used throughout employment for various purposes such as:
sending bonus agreements to a handful of people
new company policies and guidelines that need to be signed by the entire company
Plus, you can keep track of the status of each document and send automatic reminders to the employees who have not yet signed their agreement.
2. Audit reports and attestation services
The audit report is a process heavily reliant on documentation. Many different documents need to be shared, signed, and collected. Moreover, auditors are obliged to meet AML and KYC requirements. Therefore, they need to ask for IDs at the beginning of any business relationship.
With manual audit reports, 2% of the revenue is spent on paper, printing, and filing every year.
When tons of administrative paperwork get in the way, precious time is easily wasted. Engagement letters, letters of representation, and management statements need to be shared and signed in the right order and stored securely. A BPA software ensures the steps of the audit-report flow are executed automatically - with utmost security and compliance.
In the last 3 years, 70% of auditing and accounting firms have implemented a new IT system or application.
3. Client onboarding for banks and financial services
Did you know manual client onboarding processes represent about 1/5 of the total cost base of banks?
This costly procedure has traditionally been carried out offline. However, today, business process automation is digitizing the KYC procedure to make it more cost-effective and compliant.
With KYC process automation, you can find and verify the identity of the beneficial owner in just a few steps.
Automate your business processes with Penneo
Penneo helps companies optimize document-based processes. Our platform allows you to set up unique routing scenarios for your document transactions that can later be re-used for similar cases.
The individual archive provides a managerial overview and progress status of all documents. On top of that, automatic reminders notify delays and keep you on track with deadlines.
The workflow automation we provide includes managing documents and data according to the user's data processing policies. This means that, in Penneo, you can establish procedures for the retention and disposal of customers and business data.
Here are a few of our customers’ favorite features:
Safer sharing and collaboration: Penneo lets you create teams, assign roles and privileges, ease task delegation, and streamline communication.
Compatibility with existing software: Penneo’s partner integrations allow you to use it together with your existing software.
Data protection: We have top-level measures in place to protect our users' information. Data can be encrypted to secure content integrity and prevent alteration. Plus, documents are stored in data centers within the European Union.
Full paperwork elimination: The elimination of paper processes leads to more efficient resource distribution. What's more, it reduces the company’s carbon footprint and improves CSR.