Understanding Business Process Automation

The term “Business Process Automation (BPA)” is thrown around quite a lot these days. However, if you’re like me, you’ve often asked yourself the following questions: Can BPA software clean my desk? What does business process automation actually mean? What aspects of my business can be successfully automated?

We will discuss the answers to these questions in the following article. But first, let’s get question number one out of the way – yes, BPA software can theoretically clean your desk, but that’s not what we want to focus on.

So…What is Business Process Automation?

In theory, BPA is the technology-empowered automation of services or activities that accomplish a specific function or task in a specified workflow. Business processes can be automated in a wide array of segments related to company activities, including supply chain, sales management, human resources operations, and even IT.

Business process automation comes in many shapes and sizes, from assembly lines in the fashion industry to self-service soda machines. Basically, anything in today’s world that can be done in old school pen and paper can also be done digitally. Automation is the digital supervisor that determines what a specific workflow area needs, and then meets those needs as required without ever taking a break.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of how BPA can improve a business’s workflow.

Example 1 - Contract Management

Situation: A business managing large amounts of contracts.

Before BPA:

Let’s call our company Contractors Unlimited. Imagine that Contractors Unlimited manages 600 contracts a year for its 16 partners that range from supermarkets to retail stores. Without BPA, many deadlines are being missed, which is resulting in an increase of penalty fees. Contracts are currently being printed and distributed via old school fax – a process that sometimes takes weeks and months to complete. The company had to hire assistants to properly direct the contracts and generate reports.

After BPA:

Contractors Unlimited decides to hire a reliable IT company to implement BPA in their out-dated workflow. With the new upgrades, contracts have become completely electronic from start to finish, meaning forms are now standardized. As a result of this, there are no more scanning costs, and clumsy faxes are gone. The routing of contracts is done automatically, so the workload of administrative assistants has gone down, which means the company can focus on better customer relations.

Contractors Unlimited has realized that their new workflow automation software is not just a convenient, but also a necessity if they wish to stay ahead of their competitors.

Example 2 – Paystubs

Situation: An exporting company has issues managing their paystub.

Before BPA:

Exporting Unlimited processes 250 to 300 paystubs every single week. Each paystub that they process has to be printed and delivered personally to employee after employee. Each paystub also requires a signature. It can take up to 14 weeks before all paystub are delivered and signed. The work often gets stalled, and it is difficult to monitor the status of each paystub. Sometimes they get lost, causing employee dissatisfaction.

After BPA:

Now that the company has implemented a BPA process for their paystubs, each single step is automatically recorded so that supervisors can easily keep track.

Messy paper paystubs are gone. An enterprise content management (ECM) system handles everything electronically. The software houses all the information, and it electronically sends the paystubs to different employees for review. Each time a paystub advances in the review process, the approver receives confirmation.

Every step of the process is recorded, so both employees and managers can see the history of paystubs. There are no loss checks, and fewer errors are made because the system automatically handles all the information. The company now processes its paystubs significantly faster, and saves around $8,000 a year on paper costs.

As you can see, business automation software is cutting the time and money spent on completing the out-dated processes of these companies. Today, BPA software is being used by businesses to not only reduce costs, but also create more accurate processes that get the job done quicker and more efficiently.