Digital transformation is sweeping through organisations at a rapid rate and Business Process Automation (BPA) is an important part of this tide. BPA is making a name for itself at every turn as companies see the benefits.
To kick off, here are some definitions:
What is the difference between Business Process Management, Business Process Automation, Robotic Process Automation and Workflow Automation?
This is a good question as these terms can sound interchangeable, but although they are related, they actually differ.
What is Business Process Management (BPM)?
BPM is managing business processes - so what is a business process?
A business process is a business activity that forms part of a chain of activities that has it's end in providing a service or product to a customer. Examples include invoicing, shipping, budgeting, advertising, etc. They can be physical, administrative, managerial or procedural, in fact, every activity contributing to the companies purpose.
Business Process Management aims to streamline and evaluate processes from end-to-end to create a well-oiled, efficient business where everything is working optimally. It provides a wholistic view of the entire business and how each part works together with the others.
Phrases such as "operational excellence" and "business agility" are often associated with BPM.
What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?
Business Process Automation is simply using software to systematically facilitate Business Process Management from start-to-finish, including analytics and reports. Processes that were handled by humans are now taken care of by the applications, with employees being freed to make strategic decisions rather than being distracted by routine tasks.
BPA systems include solutions such as Contract Management and Procurement Management software which use workflow, business analytics, business rules, etc. to perform essential activities.
Although BPA is rooted in technology, it goes a long way to helping people work better and feel more fulfilled in what they achieve.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Robotic Process Automation uses low-code solutions, which a non-programmer can build, to create bots that automate labour-intensive, high-volume and repetitive manual tasks.
What would take a person many hours to do, such as moving hundreds of files to a new folder, the bot can perform quickly and automatically.
RPA is not intended to replace BPA as their scopes are different. BPA has a much broader view of the company whereas RPA can even be a stand-alone function, although the small apps often form part of the BPA mandate.
What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow Automation takes a chain of tasks and automates them using a programmed application. These were often previously completed by people slogging away at manual tasks. It's simpler than BPA in that it's not a whole overview, but a more linear flow of events.
Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) defines Workflow as "An automation of a busines process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules."
These areas of focus are not in conflict with each other, but rather they should be used in a combination approach, depending on your organisation's needs. They work together to achieve digital transformation success.
The Benefits of Business Process Automation
When all is said and done, the sum total of all the benefits of BPA is more profitability.
Business Process Automation -
- Eliminates the burden, inefficiency and inaccuracy of repetitive manual tasks - not hindered by human weaknesses, absenteeism, etc.
- Reduces time and cost
- Improves information flow internally and externally:
- right information at the right time helps employees to work smarter
- more competitive and agile in managing the business processes
- integration across software platforms and departments
- Customise and standardise business processes to suit specific needs, especially with low-code or no-code systems.
- Gives Cloud access at all times to multiple employees (SaaS)
- Provides portability via smart mobile devices
- Results in more productive staff:
- engaged employees are more productive and innovative
- fewer frustrations as employees are more in control
- fewer errors and more consistency
- better use of time
- Ensures better management of compliance, business rules and governance
- Generates real-time data and data analytics to enable business decisions, anticipation, responses and improvements
- Improves visibility and transparency along the process chain which enhances control and monitoring
- Provides greater data security
- Improves document management
- Improves customer satisfaction and supplier relationships
- service is more efficient with fewer errors and delays
- better communication of the process
- digital optimisation in all departments, e.g. finance, sales and support gives consistent service
Saying "But this is how we've always done it!" or "Our processes are too complex for a computer!" or "It costs too much!" are not good reasons to avoid digitally transforming your company. The argument "for" is overwhelmingly more convincing than the argument "against".
Written by Jeannie De Vynck
Edited by Julia Lee