Business Process Automation 101 - Types of BPA & When to Use Them

Introduction to Business Process Automation

Companies can save time spent on monotonous daily procedures by implementing business process automation to streamline operations.

From hiring and training new employees to regulating stock purchase orders, data entry in these repetitive tasks can take up a company's valuable time and capital. By utilizing process automation software, organizations can fast track supply chain operations and designate management time to more intricate projects.

What is Business Process Automation?

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Business process automation (BPA) is a workflow management technology that automates procedures and can be executed with little to no human intervention. This solution seeks to cut operating and labor costs.

A Forrester study shows that automation software can reduce total operating costs by up to 90%.
Data entry alone can be time-consuming, especially when handling several systems. Business automation transfers data across all necessary platforms, freeing up employees from drawn-out clerical work. Instead, workers can focus their efforts on more complex company projects, such as business expansion ventures.

Aside from document management, BPA aims to enhance established workflow software through integration. By collaborating automated systems, businesses can easily maintain various operations such as employee onboarding, human resource projects, and reporting analytics. Workflow automation can also execute more complicated tasks, from system management to email services.

BPA regulates all integrated solutions by launching troubleshooting actions and alerting users when a technical error has occurred. The BPA software can also be programmed to send scheduled internal, third-party, and marketing emails, allowing employees to work and plan ahead. With process automation, enterprises can enhance their overall efficiency by increasing service speed and reducing human error.

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There are several types of BPA solutions available that differ in project management capabilities. The four standard models that progress in complexity include-

1. Basic Automation - A basic automation tool streamlines simple business procedures, such as department messaging, and provides a centralized database to access all information on one interface.

2. Process Automation - This process management retains task records to enhance data transparency and consistency throughout a company. For example, a company can use process automation to transfer files between departments.

3. Integration Automation - As a more complex model, integration automation enables machines and software to mimic how users perform operations to repeat their actions.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Automation - AI is the most advanced BPA technology as it makes data-based decisions from its own analyses. Implementing AI in manufacturing operations allows the solution to digest data and execute plans to reduce supply chain errors. For example, companies are using this solution to detect risks in shipping such as delays and potential damages using shipment sensors. This allows the system to alert users to take corrective action in the case of an incident to minimize operational delays.

Examples of Business Process Automation

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BPA services have extensive functionality and can be implemented in various supply chain and business phases. Companies can begin streamlining daily procedures, such as-

1. Employee Onboarding

Hiring new employees is not a straightforward process, as it includes extensive paperwork and training. Filling out applications, information forms, benefits agreements, and setting up new accounts, among other procedures, are very time-consuming. Without an automation solution, forms can be misplaced, filled out incorrectly, or completely forgotten.

Therefore, implementing BPA software can streamline the employee onboarding process by-

  • Reducing paperwork with electronic data sharing
  • Ensuring all forms are complete by identifying empty fields
  • Increasing service speed
  • Improving productivity
  • Promoting employee satisfaction
These advantages ensure that introducing and training new employees is a smooth transition.

2. Purchase Orders
Completing purchase order requests is a repetitive task conducted between companies and third-party suppliers. First, an authorized staff member fills out an order form that needs to be reviewed and approved by the financial department. Upon approval, the form is sent to the appropriate vendor and inventory team. This process can take days to weeks to complete manually.

However, using a process automation service fast tracks the purchase order procedure by-

  • Promptly transferring paperwork to desired parties
  • Enhancing productivity
  • Ensuring all forms are complete
  • Alerting users when errors occur
  • Alerting staff on delivery updates
These BPA features enhance staff accountability and data transparency through efficient information sharing. It also retains all forms and communication in the case of audits or discrepancies.

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3. Demand Forecasting
Demand forecasting requires consistently updated information on sales and inventory so managers can make data-based decisions on stock orders, logistics, and marketing. Without an integrated automation service, designated employees would have to navigate through numerous software and reports to aggregate all of the appropriate data. By continuously pulling data from POS systems as transactions occur, quantities are automatically entered into the forecasting system to estimate future demand and monitor sales trends.

By implementing a BPA solution that integrates with point-of-sale (POS) systems, inventory management, and forecasting software, companies can-

  • Increase data transparency
  • Streamline orders and marketing campaigns
  • Make informed decisions
  • Access real-time data
  • Generate detailed reports
These functions give companies a competitive edge in their industries and allow them to stay ahead by accurately predicting customer demand.

4. Inventory Control
Traditional inventory control methods require continuous manual cycle counts, which can lead to a high likelihood of human errors. Miscounted stock and discrepancies can lead to over and understocking, negatively impacting profit margins and the bottom line by inadequately preparing for consumer demands. However, automation methods such as scanners and software can streamline inventory counting.

By automating stock control with inventory and BPA software, organizations can-

  • Increase inventory accuracy
  • Improve supply chain efficiency and productivity
  • Save time and operation costs
  • Define reorder points
This automation ensures companies can avoid stockouts, overstocking, and inventory discrepancies, positively impacting their bottom line.

When to Use Business Process Automation

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Modern automation practices are so advanced that they can sometimes completely take over an operation. However, some tasks still require human intervention and critical thinking. It is essential to understand which procedures can be enhanced by BPA solutions and which are better with hands-on effort.

When is BPA a Good Idea?

Repetitive Tasks

The supply chain consists of repeated operations from manufacturing to order fulfillment, not to mention the procedures necessary to manage the employees and facilities. Studies show that 90% of employees are burdened with repetitive operations that could be handled through BPA. Therefore, businesses can implement automated systems to handle the following-

  • Management Software Updates
  • Security Monitoring
  • Time Tracking
  • Ordering Fulfillment
  • Inventory Control
  • Shipping
  • Purchase Orders
  • Billing

Sensor-Based Tracking

Organizations are starting to implement the Internet of Things (IoT) technology such as sensors, scanners, and networks to optimize their automated processes. With BPA software, companies can monitor all system activities and performance to ensure that operations are executed efficiently. This is especially true when it comes to handling stock both inside and outside of the warehouse, including-

  • Cycle Counts
  • Monitoring Reorder Points
  • Tracking Shipping Containers
  • Monitoring Temperatures for Sensitive Products
  • Reporting Damaged or Lost Goods
  • Tracking Deliveries

Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks are booming for both the front and back of the house operations. Customers can use kiosks at hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, retailers, and even healthcare facilities to place orders, scan products, or check in. On the other hand, businesses are implementing this technology to streamline employee training and monitoring work schedules. Workers can use the kiosks to punch in and out of shifts and verify hours, reducing the time it takes to manually track employee schedules.

IT Back Office Processes
Automating IT services optimizes employee productivity during working hours and continues to monitor data after hours. BPA services can be programmed to only alert IT managers if an error occurs and needs human intervention. This eliminates the need to hire additional staff for 24-7 monitoring.

Research and Content Management

Automated information technology gives companies access to big data as well as their internal records to provide a broader scope of operations. This allows users to conduct research and pull information regarding-

  • Criminal Records
  • Legal Cases
  • Case Studies
  • Insurance
  • Risk Management Analysis
  • Demographics
  • Competitive Pricing Strategies

When is BPA Not a Good Idea?

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Customer Interaction
While customers appreciate the automated confirmations on bookings, purchases, and reservations, other forms of automation can be more frustrating than helpful. Personal interactions, such as greeting and connecting phone calls, should be carried out by employees as automated phone systems take longer than manual efforts.

During this robotic process, customers are forced to wait for their options in order to leave a message or be transferred to a representative and at times their commands may be misinterpreted, leading to unsatisfied callers. Therefore, trained employees should handle incoming phone calls to adequately assess the question and transfer the call to the appropriate department.

Customer Support

Along the same lines, when consumers have a problem with a service or product, they want to hear from an actual representative, not a robotic voice or automated email response. Automatic responses do not ensure that their concern is addressed and often entails a long wait time until an employee can reconcile the issue. These solutions make the customer feel like they are not being heard or valued.

4 Phases of Business Process Automation Implementation

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By dividing a BPA system into four phases, project management can better understand and monitor its processes. The four stages include-

1. Analysis - Managers should review data and reports to assess the company's operational efficiency and overall performance. Then clear objectives, goals, and solution requirements should be outlined to determine what BPA architectural design and model best satisfy their needs. At this point, management should consult with the IT department or software developers to get their input.

2. Implementation - Once the BPA system is chosen, and the necessary components are customized, it is time to implement the new technology. All system documentation must be on hand so the developers can accurately record features, functionality, and vital information. After the installation is complete, employees can begin training on the new database.

3. Integration - IT is also responsible for integrating the new technology with existing software to create a connected database. This enables all services to communicate and share data efficiently. It is also essential to have proper documentation on all systems to ensure the integration is following all protocols without disrupting other servers.

4. Maintenance - Once the software is in place, it is essential to perform routine maintenance checks to ensure all functions are updated and operating correctly.

The Benefits of Implementing Business Process Automation

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The advanced features that BPA offers businesses have endless potential. Besides its ability to increase operational efficiency, automation provides businesses several advantages, including-

  • Digital Transformation - Transforming a company with modern solutions ensures that its operations can grow with the evolution of technology and expansion efforts.
  • Enhanced Clarity - Having access to big data provides organizations with a broader scope of their performance so they can see what operations need improvement. Through detailed reports, analyses, and process mapping, management can implement changes as needed.
  • Streamlined Processes - With automated processes, all communication, audits, reports, and data sharing are streamlined. This heightened functionality promotes employee accountability, turnaround times, and overall efficiency.
  • Tracked Compliance Records - With a centralized database, all records and reports are recorded and retained for user access, simplifying internal audits.
  • Standardized Operations - Automating operations ensures all processes are regulated so businesses can expect a standard outcome, increasing production reliability and stability.
  • Enhanced Customer Satisfaction - Consistently meeting standards ensures customers receive high-quality service and goods on time, increasing satisfaction.
  • Increased Productivity - BPA services regulate all operations, so they are running accurately, on time, and at a minimum cost. This ensures deadlines are met and human errors are reduced.
  • Reduced Time and Costs - A study disclosed that companies are losing a collective $140 billion annually from wasted time, resources, duplicated operations, and disconnected data. By not requiring human intervention, automated systems reduce fulfillment time and costs, ultimately promoting the business's bottom line.

System Integration and Business Process Automation

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System integration and BPA are very similar and hold much of the same goals. While integration is a standard function of BPA software, it is not the primary goal.

First off, system integration is the process of connecting several individual subsystems and applications to create a network of tools and functions. This eliminates the clutter of redundant features and information while establishing an extensive database. Software integrators connected to outside servers also allow external parties, such as customers, clients, and vendors, to track certain operations. By aggregating data, integrated systems can streamline internal and/or external communication.

On the other hand, BPA's foremost goal is to automate standard procedures to enhance overall productivity. However, many times this entails interacting with established systems. When automated processes are integrated with other software, efficiency is further improved through data sharing and faster communication. BPAs that utilize system integration can increase their service speed and gain access to real-time data.

Therefore, companies focusing on business scalability, functionality, and productivity should implement BPA solutions with integrated systems to streamline daily operations.