What is business process automation? Tips to eliminate busywork

Изображение участника из команды AsanaTeam Asana20 июля 2022 г.7 мин. на чтение
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Summary

Business process automation (BPA) is the automation of complex business processes through the use of advanced technologies. By implementing automation solutions, your team can eliminate busywork and increase productivity. Discover the tasks you can automate with BPA.

Looking for ways to eliminate busywork while improving team efficiency? Automation might just be your answer. Automating recurring tasks can save your team time and can even help prevent small day-to-day errors. And when it comes to efficiency, there’s nothing more valuable than getting time back in your day.

In this article, we’ll go over the process of business automation, including what an automation solution is, the benefits of implementing a system of your own, and examples of common tasks you can automate. 

What is a business process?

A business process is a set of activities that help a business reach a shared goal. When used in connection with automation, a business process usually refers to a repeatable task executed by a software tool.

Business processes can include anything from invoicing to onboarding new employees to payroll. Having processes in place is essential to ensure individual tasks align with shared goals.

What is business process automation?

Business process automation (BPA) is the use of technology-enabled automation to replace manual effort and more efficiently complete a business’s recurring tasks. While that may sound complicated, implementing BPA is doable—and worth it. Essentially, it’s the process of delegating tasks to a tool instead of a team member. The real trick is implementing the tool in a way that best fits your business needs.

[inline illustration] What is business process automation? (infographic)

Business process automation often focuses on critical core processes that affect team productivity. 

How does BPA relate to BPM?

Business process automation often gets confused with business process management (BPM)—and for good reason. After all, business process management is the umbrella term for various automation techniques.

BPM is defined as the discipline in which people use various methods to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, and automate business processes. That means that BPA is just one small part of BPM.

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How does BPA relate to RPA?

While BPA and robotic process automation (RPA) are similar, there are some differences between the two terms. BPM is a holistic approach that uses technology-enabled automation, while RPA is a specific approach that uses software robots and artificial intelligence.

How does BPA relate to business process analysis?

Business process analysis is a subset of BPA and focuses on analyzing business processes. It uses various automated approaches to map and understand existing methods.

In the manual approach, process experts typically interview subject experts and users to create a process map. The automated approach uses technologies, like process mining, process capture, and process intelligence, to create a similar result. 

What business processes should you automate?

Now comes the exciting part: BPA solutions. What processes are you able to automate? In reality, there is an infinite number of tasks you can automate. The tricky part is knowing just how to do so. 

[inline illustration] What business processes can you automate? (infographic)

It’s best to start simple and slowly work your way to more complex automation processes. Common tasks that organizations automate include project deliverables, data entry, sale orders, and even payroll—all of which can save your team time and money. 

Here are some of the most common tasks you can automate using business process automation. 

Project tasks

Most projects you work on will result in a number of manual tasks that need to be created, otherwise known as dependencies. While some teams use automation to create better to-do lists, others prefer methods such as Kanban boards or Gantt-chart like timelines. Whatever method you prefer, automation can assist in the creation of these tasks and even the closure of tasks in some cases.

You can use automation for project tasks to:

  • Move tasks to the correct project

  • Assign tasks to the right teammate

  • Notify stakeholders of project dependencies

  • Set and shift due dates

  • Hand off work at the right time

By automating busywork like managing project initiatives, you can auto-assign team members, easily shift due dates, and notify stakeholders of changes. 

Communications

Automating communications is another way to streamline recurring tasks. From project reminders to weekly team updates, these little (but time-consuming) tasks can be a great first step to create a more intelligent business process. 

You can use automation for communications to:

  • Send project reminders

  • Send team updates

  • Send post-meeting minutes

  • Send customer-facing communications

  • Send post-purchase email series

Based on the above examples, you can see there is a wide range of capabilities when looking to automate communications, each of which can assist with both internal and external updates and customer support.

Data entry

Most organizations look to automation as a means of completing data entry. It’s a repetitive and tedious job, and a very time-consuming one at that—usually requiring monthly or weekly work. 

You can use automation for data entry to:

  • Reduce duplicate data

  • Import forms

  • Flag and prevent data inconsistencies

  • Route data to appropriate stakeholders

  • Store customer information

Along with these capabilities, automated data entry can help lower operational costs on tasks that would otherwise be done manually. 

Sales orders

With the right CRM in place, automation can help collect and route customer sales order information. This can be helpful for a number of reasons, like servicing customers and personalizing marketing campaigns. 

You can use automation for sales orders to:

  • Service customers

  • Personalize marketing campaigns

  • Forecast product success

  • Track market trends

These capabilities will not only give time back to your team but can also help your organization compete in the market and assist with future growth strategies.

Payroll

Payroll is a necessary task for every business. If you’re still manually working on payroll, you’re missing out on the benefits of automating the process. Similar to other business processes we’ve outlined above, automation can prevent errors, create faster procedures, and keep you from sitting in the back office for hours on end. 

You can use automation for payroll to:

  • Submit payroll

  • Create payroll reports

  • Provide pay stubs to team members

  • Adjust hours for PTO

  • Assist employee tax filing

  • Make changes to open enrollment benefits

If there’s one task you automate, payroll is a strong contender when looking at the amount of work you can take off your team’s plate. 

Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is another great process to automate if you have the right technology. This can be in the form of email programs such as a welcome series or reactivation series, or content promotion like targeted ads. 

You can use automation for lead nurturing to:

  • Create campaign workflows

  • Share relevant content to potential customers

  • Send lead nurturing emails

  • Store personalized lead data

While there are a ton of ways to use automated lead nurturing to your advantage, be sure to continuously improve campaigns based on key performance indicators (KPIs). The worst thing you can do is set a campaign and forget it, so be sure to continue growing from past performance. 

Business process automation examples

Now that you know some of the most common tasks to automate, let’s look at tangible use cases of BPA in action. A good plan should keep both business users and the customer experience in mind. 

Here are a couple of business process automation examples to get a better idea of how you can use automation.

[inline illustration] Business process automation (example)

Example 1: Automating project tasks

Scenario: You’re working on a new project and you notice there is a task overdue. You reach out to the team member to check on the status of the task and they tell you the task is complete but that they forgot to close out their dependency. Because of this, multiple sub-dependencies are now late.

Solution: With the help of automation, you can set task reminders when due dates are approaching without any intervention from you. This would have prevented tasks from going over their due date in the first place. It would have also given back the time both you and the stakeholder spent talking through and resolving the issue. 

Example 2: Automating team communication

Scenario: Your head of operations asks you to include them in the new product launch so they can stay in the loop. You schedule a team meeting to go over your work breakdown structure with team stakeholders. You check your head of operation’s calendar but they’re not available for any of the times the rest of the team is. 

Solution: With automation, you can easily add followers to tasks to keep them in the loop with project changes and upcoming due dates. Not only will they be automatically notified, but they can also adjust their own notification preferences to coordinate with the work most important to them. 

Benefits of business process automation

You may be wondering why automation is so important to implement in the first place. It’s a valid question that should be discussed early in your research. 

[inline illustration] Business process automation solutions (infographic)

BPA can offer these benefits and more:

  • Create higher efficiency

  • Streamline processes

  • Standardize operations

Not only can it offer these benefits, but BPA can lead your organization to higher overall business intelligence through enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the use of various application programming interfaces (API). Both of these are digital transformation systems that can help streamline your team’s workflow automation.

Let’s dive into each of the key benefits of business process automation. 

Create higher efficiency

One of the most beneficial results of BPA is that it helps improve efficiency, empowering your team with more time to do their very best work. For example, you can save time and prevent errors by automating a daily agenda reminder for project stakeholders. 

Not only does this improve productivity, but the additional free time can also contribute to higher quality work. It’s a true win-win. 

Streamline processes

Business operations can be tricky for both large and small businesses. That’s because there are so many different processes in place. From planning and budgeting to human resources and employee onboarding, there are numerous repetitive tasks that happen behind the scenes of nearly every business. 

With the help of BPA, you can use automation to streamline your processes using machine learning to enhance both employee and customer experience.

Standardize operations

Along with streamlining tasks within business operations, BPA can help your team standardize them. There are a number of ways to achieve this, including automating the routing of information to stakeholders. 

This is important for maintaining consistency throughout each of your internal procedures. In turn, this keeps errors and busywork at a minimum and organizational direction clear. 

Business process automation software

In order to create an effective business process, you first need to have the right automation software in place. A good process automation tool should give you the ability to create custom workflows, deliver fast results, and easily make changes when needed. 

[inline illustration] BPA tool capabilities (infographic)

While there are numerous features that can enhance your organization’s technological intelligence, there are a few that stand out the most. 

Your tool should be able to:

  • Streamline workflows

  • Visualize work 

  • Secure data

  • Provide a simple user interface

  • Set priority and dates

  • Create custom steps

  • Reduce busywork

All of these capabilities will not only help build reliable workflows but will also reduce bottlenecks. While they may seem small in the moment, they accumulate over time, resulting in efficiency issues. Thankfully, with the right BPA software in place, you’ll be prepared.

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Streamline your workflows with business automation

Business process automation is the key to creating a more efficient team. From catching inefficiencies to preventing human error, it all starts with automation. It can improve everything from your onboarding process to customer satisfaction.

Looking for additional ways to improve efficiency? Try a template.

Create a business process management template

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