As businesses come to rely on digital devices to enhance services, they can easily automate other processes to bolster their bottom lines.
In an age when the customer journey has been simplified to just a few touches, businesses are likewise seeking to refine their internal workflows. One of the most powerful ways this has been accomplished is through Business Process Automation (BPA), which, simply put, automates activities and services through the use of digital tools.
Already, its impacts have spanned multiple industries, and its benefits have been felt far and wide — it has refined manufacturing processes, streamlined the retail supply chain, and reduced the cost of finance through automated payments processing between businesses. If you’ve ever wasted time on a menial business task, the upsides of BPA will be readily apparent.
Rapid and Tangible Growth
This trend has been backed by some impressive numbers — from 2012 to 2014, 69% of companies with advanced technology use significantly increased BPA, and 88% of large firms used BPA strategies for either most or nearly all areas of business. And within BPA, areas like automated marketing are expected to grow 50% by the end of 2015.
And nearly all major players have jumped on board — companies like Walmart have revolutionized their supply-chain processes through automation and information-sharing, and Visa recently launched its automated payments processes between businesses.
If you can picture the leap from fax machines to emails, BPA is the next logical step in the digital trend. It allows organizations to streamline their intra-company communications and routinize otherwise laborious supply chain processes. Instead of sending out ten messages to necessary parties, an employee need only finalize a digital task, and notifications and information will be sent automatically. Similarly, this helps reduce needless human errors, especially when dealing with things like order shipments.
It also helps businesses to deliver accountability. For each stage of a process or workflow, there can be a clear owner with a well-defined approval hierarchy. With steps clearly outlined, workers are forced to cover their bases completely. A client-services firm like a creative agency, for example, may have a standard process for onboarding new clients. Before business process automation, this onboarding may have entailed having the sales rep send various emails and contracts to confirm the onboarding, and then the account manager would have to liaise with the client to start a kickoff call, and then ensure that the designers or copywriters are providing the necessary collateral at the necessary times. WIth an automated system, each member of the team’s task for a routine onboarding would be templated out and pre-assigned, so the need for complicated and inefficient communication would disappear.
And just as processes are able to happen more quickly and efficiently, their costs are equally mitigated. BPA reduces the man-hours necessary for a variety of tasks and greatly increases the accuracy with which they’re performed.
But these benefits need not be strictly limited to the business side — many processes involve direct consumer interaction, which means they can be easily improved and integrated. This can be as simple as a consumer opening a new account through a digital app, which triggers a series of separate activities like a welcome email to the new client, an alert to the nearest branch of the bank to schedule a welcome call, and sending the new customer a bank card. Or if an insurance customer files a claim, an automated system could guide the customer through the process while providing alerts to the proper departments at the insurance carrier to signal when human intervention is necessary.
And in a time when consumers expect seamless and informed services, these types of automations are mandatory. The more that customer interactions are tied to other operations, the more it empowers them to make confident choices from a single location, such as an app. From there, they can leverage new insights about customer engagement while improving the processes that underpin it.
Realistically, BPA is never a one-and-done kind of operation — companies must use and learn from the gleaned insights to constantly iterate on automated processes. While many pain points are obvious and can be alleviated relatively easily, others will emerge through intelligent trial and error. Towards this end, testing and analysis is your best friend and should always have a consumer focus.
Well thought-out testing and subsequent pain-point identification is most readily achieved through proper visualization — most commonly customized business dashboards, which include data visualizations, charts, graphs, and process flows. This method allows for easily digestible and presentable insights into either particularly hindered processes or very efficient ones. Obviously, the digitization and automation of these processes must be scaled properly, which will largely depend on your company needs and goals. But in all cases, BPA allows companies to spend more resource on growth initiatives by eliminating bottlenecks and increasing ease of operation across the board.