October 02, 2023

Understanding Process Automation

Process automation involves the substitution of human efforts with machine-driven sequences of activities. This term is most commonly associated with the business world, where software programs take charge of various activities within the modern digital enterprise.

The scope of process automation is vast, encompassing anything from simplifying support or departmental tasks like data capture and expense approval to automating intricate, cross-functional activities using advanced technologies to manage mission-critical core business processes.

To bring automation into your business, you can utilize process automation software, software robots (often referred to as bots), and software scripts. For instance, it can mean automatically routing customer inquiries to the appropriate service agent or using AI to generate a shortlist of candidates for a job opening.

Distinguishing Process Automation from Business Process Management

Business Process Management (BPM) is the practice of designing, executing, monitoring, and optimizing various aspects of a business or business function. BPM takes a comprehensive view, examining the behavior of people, information, and systems within an organization.

In contrast, process automation has a narrower focus, concentrating on automating specific elements within those processes. BPM serves as the framework for automation strategies and investments, ensuring alignment with the overall business strategy.

In this article, we will explore:

  • The Difference Between Process Automation and Business Process Management
  • Process Automation Examples
  • Process Automation vs. Robotic Process Automation
  • Benefits of Process Automation
  • Best Practices for Implementing Process Automation
  • Challenges of Implementing Process Automation
  • Finding the Right Solution for Your Process Automation Needs

Process Automation Examples

Process automation thrives when applied at scale, making larger, time-consuming, and manual tasks prime candidates for automation. Typically, enterprises do not automate individual activities or small-scale processes.

Here are some examples that illustrate the wide array of applications for process automation:

  • Accounting and financial procedures
  • Handling contracts and consent forms
  • Collecting, analyzing, and assessing data and risks
  • Managing documents
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Managing event RSVPs
  • Processing financial aid and grant applications
  • Enrolling employees and facilitating new hire onboarding
  • Conducting email marketing and managing social media
  • Processing and fulfilling orders
  • Handling patient intakes and referrals
  • Managing performance evaluations
  • Processing purchase orders and requisitions
  • Managing recruitment processes
  • Handling student enrollment and registration
  • Managing time-off requests
  • Tracking time and attendance
  • Handling travel requests
  • Providing chat support
  • Analyzing websites and retrieving data
  • Implementing OpenAI and LLMs for data classification and segmentation.

Process Automation vs. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a form of process automation that employs software robots to perform rule-based tasks. These bots replicate human actions, such as extracting data from screens or insurance forms. While RPA is often associated with artificial intelligence (AI), it operates on structured inputs and logic, merely following instructions.

However, RPA is increasingly combined with AI-based automation tools featuring cognitive abilities.

These bots can recognize natural language and interpret unstructured data, enhancing their accuracy and capabilities. By eliminating human factors like fatigue or lack of training, RPA can reduce errors significantly. RPA software is already prevalent in sectors like financial services, where it streamlines paper-based tasks.

Unlike process automation, RPA does not alter the tasks or business logic but focuses on automating processes at the user interface level. This makes RPA a rapid automation method, but it can exacerbate issues if the underlying processes are flawed.

Benefits of Process Automation

Process automation, whether implemented partially or holistically, offers numerous advantages to organizations when executed correctly. These benefits encompass:

Improved Productivity: Process automation enhances efficiency by automating manual, time-consuming tasks and integrating multiple processes into a unified workflow, eliminating bottlenecks.

Greater Agility: Automation streamlines data collection and analysis, facilitating faster and informed decision-making, particularly with large datasets.

Enhanced Customer Experience: Streamlined processes enable efficient query handling, while modern approaches like chatbots expedite customer progression through various stages.

Increased Compliance: Automation ensures precise and consistent execution of processes, addressing internal policies, standards, and external regulations.

Reduced Costs: Digitizing and standardizing processes, especially repetitive, human-intensive tasks, can reduce operating costs by up to 90%, according to Forrester.

Optimal Staff Utilization: By eliminating repetitive tasks, employees can focus on value-added activities, improving satisfaction and business outcomes.

Fewer Errors: Process automation minimizes the risk of human errors and reduces the need for rework, preserving valuable time.

Best Practices for Implementing Process Automation

Implementing process automation successfully involves the following key steps:

Establish Clear Goals: Begin with well-defined objectives for your process automation initiative, such as cost reduction, improved customer satisfaction, or enhanced productivity.

Identify Opportunities: Identify areas within your organization where process automation can make the most significant impact, particularly in resource-intensive processes.

Select the Right Tools: Research and choose the appropriate process automation tools based on your goals and opportunities. Compare solutions and align them with your specific needs.

Embrace Change Management: Communicate the changes to your teams, involve employees from the outset, and ensure they understand the purpose and benefits of automation.

Monitor and Evaluate: Continuously assess your automation initiative to ensure it aligns with your business goals, measuring its effectiveness and making necessary improvements.

Challenges of Implementing Process Automation

Process automation is not a one-time solution; it requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation to maximize return on investment (ROI). BPM monitoring helps identify duplications, repetitive tasks, and performance issues, guiding improvements and tracking progress.

While the possibilities for automation are vast, not all processes are suitable for automation, especially those requiring a human touch. Many processes necessitate some level of human oversight or intervention, making user-friendly tools and interfaces crucial.

Gains from automating single department processes are limited. Real benefits emerge when automating and optimizing cross-functional processes that span departments and silos. However, balancing ease of use, sophistication, and affordability remains a challenge, as many process automation tools are department-focused, while comprehensive BPM tools can be complex and expensive.

If you're looking for the right solution to automate your business processes, be sure to get in touch with one of our sales agents by clicking on the following link. Azar Consulting's team of business automation experts can identify what processes give you the highest return on investment (ROI) with the shortest time needed for implementing an automation process.

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