Although computers are ubiquitous these days, there is still a significant amount of manual operations being carried out on a daily basis in businesses around the globe. This can affect all areas of business, from production and sales, to support marketing and IT.
Since tedious manual tasks can often be subject to human error, it is advisable to reduce them as much as possible. Here, process automation can be the answer! With process automation you can optimize the day-to-day workflows executed in your departments, streamline operations, minimize mistakes, reduce security risks, and boost productivity – and all of this at once.
This guide, provides you with an in-depth understanding of the “what”, “why”, and “how” of process automation. We’ll also provide links to important resources that can help you implement process automation in your organization. Whether you’re new to the concept or a seasoned pro, this guide has everything you need to know about the benefits of process automation.
What is (process) automation?
Process automation is the use of technology to automate low-value, repetitive tasks so that employees can focus on more meaningful and impactful activities.
Although automation is a known concept that’s been around in different shapes for ages, it wasn’t until a few years ago that it started exponentially rising in demand and becoming the prevailing solution for freeing up of human resources and boosting of operational efficiencies.
From simple support and departmental processes to more complex, cross-functional activities – the premise of business process automation remains the same: leveraging of advanced software technologies to complete the desired tasks with minimal to no human intervention.
Why is process automation important?
There are several reasons to automate your processes. For example, process automation can improve customer and employee satisfaction by reducing the time and effort required for repetitive tasks. This, in turn, allows employees to focus on more meaningful and value-adding activities and will enable customers to receive their services and products faster.
Automation can also help to reduce costs by eliminating the need for manual intervention and reducing human errors. Automated processes are often more reliable and robust, leading to fewer mistakes and wasted resources.
Furthermore, automation can increase transparency across the organization by making it easier to monitor and analyse processes. Automated processes are often more consistent and aligned, making it easier to identify and resolve issues, and improve efficiency overall.
Last but not least, automation can also greatly benefit compliance by allowing for the implementation of checks and controls in automated processes. These controls are important for internal control systems and overall compliance, as they provide the required proof for regulators and customers. Automated processes also make it easier to document these controls, ensuring that all compliance requirements are met and documented accurately. By using automation for compliance, organizations can improve their processes, reduce errors, and ultimately, enhance their overall compliance posture.
Which processes are good candidates for automation?
Process automation is often seen as a solution for achieving operational excellence. However, it is important to remember that not all processes are suitable for automation. Businesses need to analyse their processes first to determine the best-fitting means for automation and their optimization potential. This is truly a crucial step, as automation can amplify inefficiencies when applied to inefficient processes.
Prior experiences have shown that good automation candidates are often highly repetitive, rule-based, mature, and stable processes with high ROI potential. In the context of an organization, the usual suspects for automation initiatives can be found among the support processes, since these processes usually encounter many problems.
If you are interested in how you can select the right processes for your automation initiative, then check out our blog post about this topic.
In the case of overly complex processes, process mining can serve as an excellent approach for discovering the actual state of the organization’s business processes, highlighting the best candidates for process optimization and automation, as well as allowing the comparison of the process before and after the automation initiatives.
Which Process Automation Methods can be applied?
Different technologies can be used for successful process automation depending on the organization’s goals and resources. In the following, we have outlined the top 3 methods for you.
Robotic Process Automation
A relatively new technology that quickly became quite popular is Robotic Process Automation, allowing the programming of bots to mimic the actions of a human user, such as logging into applications, entering data, and moving files. One of the main advantages of RPA is that it can significantly increase efficiency and productivity by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
However, RPA also has its drawbacks. First, it requires significant investment in time, money and resources when it comes to implementation, as well as ongoing maintenance and technical expertise to keep the system running smoothly. In addition, once automation is in place, it can be difficult to change or adapt. This can be a problem if business requirements or processes change over time. And lastly, errors or delays in the process can occur if the software is not configured properly.
ERP Process Automation
ERP systems have been a staple in the IT landscape of many organizations for decades, playing a crucial role in automating processes in areas such as accounting, materials management, procurement, and more. This approach has many benefits, such as providing a centralized platform for managing and automating business functions, thus enabling streamlining of processes, subsequently lowering human errors, and improving process efficiency. On the contrary, excessive costs for procurement and implementation, a steep learning curve for users, and additional costs for ongoing adjustments, particularly in the case of process changes, can detract from the perceived benefits of ERP systems.
Workflow automation is the utilization of software to streamline the flow of tasks and information between different systems and people. This can encompass automating tasks such as document approval and routing, task assignment, and progress tracking. It offers various benefits such as reducing human errors, improving compliance, and enhancing transparency across the organization. Additionally, workflow automation can save time and costs by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. However, implementing it could be challenging, particularly for complex processes, and requires investment in terms of time, money, and resources. Additionally, similar to RPA, adjusting the workflow may prove difficult if business needs or processes change over time. Workflow automation can be applied to various types of workflows including production and industrial, office, human, and document-centric processes.
The disadvantages of workflow automation can be addressed with low-code/no-code automation, which is a technology where no written code is required, but drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built templates are used instead. This approach is designed to make automation accessible to a wider range of users, including those without programming skills, such as citizen developers.
Low-code/no-code automation offers an easy-to-use and quick implementation, automating a variety of processes such as data entry, document management, scheduling, and more. It reduces development time and costs, allows for faster implementation and quicker return on investment, enables non-technical employees to automate processes for improved efficiency and productivity, and is easily customizable for specific organizational needs. However, low-code/no-code automation is currently only limited to handling basic processes or portions of processes, leading to the creation of smaller applications.
What are the steps for successful process automation?
There are different steps for successfully implementing process automation initiatives within the organization. No matter what technology for process automation the organization chooses, these initiatives can be well embedded in the existing management cycles and practices, such as the Process Management Life Cycle (PMLC). A detailed list of the steps can be seen in our 7 Steps to Successful Process Automation blog post or free poster.
Who should participate in process automation initiatives?
To ensure the success of process automation initiatives, a wide range of organizational stakeholders must be involved and work together. The most prominent roles to keep in mind are:
- A Project Manager, who is responsible for leading the process automation initiative, setting project objectives, and creating a roadmap for achieving them. They are responsible for ensuring that the project stays on track and that all stakeholders are informed and engaged throughout the process.
- A Business Analyst, responsible for understanding the business processes and identifying opportunities for automation. They work closely with stakeholders to gather requirements, analyse data, and identify areas for improvement. They also play a crucial role in designing and testing the automation solution to ensure that it meets the needs of the business.
- A Technical Lead, who is responsible for the technical aspects of the automation initiative, including the design, development, and deployment of the automation solution. They work closely with the Business Analyst to ensure that the automation solution meets the needs of the business and is technically feasible.
- Operations, in charge of the day-to-day running of the business. They are often the ones who will be impacted by the automation solution the most. They are responsible for testing the automation solution, providing feedback, and ensuring that it is fit for purpose.
- The IT team, responsible for the technical infrastructure and support of the automation solution. They work closely with the Technical Lead to ensure that the answer is correctly integrated with existing systems and that it is secure and compliant with relevant regulations.
- Enterprise architects who bring a holistic view to the project, ensuring that the process automation solution integrates with other systems and processes, and that the organization is prepared to adopt and effectively use the new technology. In short, enterprise architects play a key role in ensuring the successful implementation and adoption of process automation in an organization.
- The Compliance department that ensures that the automation solution complies with relevant regulations and industry standards. They work closely with the project team to ensure that the solution meets all the requirements and is adequately documented and auditable.
- Last but not least, change management, responsible for managing the organizational impact of the automation initiative. They work closely with the Project Manager and Business Analyst to ensure that stakeholders are informed and engaged throughout the process and that the necessary changes to processes and systems are made smoothly.
In conclusion, process automation can be a highly valuable investment for organizations looking to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase their operational productivity. By considering the right approach, assembling a competent team, and carefully selecting the right targets for automation, organizations can ensure the success of their process automation initiatives and reap the full benefits of automation technologies.
If you want to get the most out of process automation, make sure you have the right tools for the job. Get to know our customers’ favourite ADONIS Process Automation module and find out how you can leverage it to seamlessly and directly execute your workflows with an integrated workflow engine.
To gain a more comprehensive understanding of process automation, be sure to check out our related resources provided below. Don’t miss out on what we have to offer and give your business the boost it needs!