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Understanding Business Process Automation

Mar 1, 2021 12:28:13 PM

In today’s digitized economy, speed and convenience are of the essence. Tasks that used to take days or even weeks can now be completed within seconds. Email is an obvious example, where letters can be sent at the click of a mouse to anywhere in the world. However, in the digital age, business process automation has become increasingly sophisticated.  The art of automating business processes comes down to data management, which is the fuel of the digital economy. Getting a handle on the data can prove to be the difference between success and failure, and using the right API management solution can help guide companies towards the former. In this post, we will detail exactly how. 


Business Process Automation 

The term describes the processes businesses need to embrace to undergo digital transformation. In effect, it is a way of thinking and sums up the approach of a company. Automation can be applied to any aspect of operations, whether it is sales, marketing, accountancy, or manufacturing. The Gartner glossary describes it as: 

“Business process automation (BPA) is defined as the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies. It focuses on “run the business” as opposed to “count the business” types of automation efforts and often deals with event-driven, mission-critical, core processes. BPA usually supports an enterprise’s knowledge workers in satisfying the needs of its many constituencies.” 

The emphasis on “run the business” is key. It means to maximize the benefits of BPA, companies need to let the process completely transform the business rather than simply become a feature of it. In essence, BPA leads companies to: 

  • Digital transformation:
    Taking steps to automate key business processes is a fast ticket to digital transformation. This should be the overall objective for all 21st-century companies as data, and real-time information takes precedence. 

  • Standardized operations:
    A key advantage to digitized processes is they can all be recorded and repeated automatically, presenting an opportunity to increase efficiency. Even where human input is required, the same process can still be repeated with the same productivity regardless of who is running it. 

  • Clarity:
    With standardized operations in place, there will be greater clarity over employees and other stakeholders’ processes. In turn, this will lead to better-performing teams who know what they need to do and match expectations. 

  • Streamlined business:
    Bringing the three previous factors together would then result in a streamlined business, with automated and integrated processes while reaching digital maturity. A fully digitized company supported by strong data management and a BPA approach is well-placed to grow and prosper in the digital era. 

By embracing the BPA philosophy and putting it at the heart of operations, companies will serve their customers better and work more efficiently with partners. 


How BPA Molds a Business 

As Gartner implied, to fully utilize BPA, companies need to treat it as a cornerstone of business strategy. When deployed and used in the right way, BPA can positively impact every element of a business. Here are three examples of how automation works in real-world situations:  

  • Human Resources:
    One of the more overlooked challenges for growing businesses is onboarding new employees. The process naturally takes away resources typically committed to specific tasks as the new recruits get up to speed and settle into their roles. While automation will not completely replace the human element, it can be used to streamline the process. 

    For instance, the process can be standardized and fixed to an automated schedule, complete with automatically delivered training programs and forms. Mentors and line-managers can also track progress, plan their own schedules around the onboarding process and minimize disruption. 

  • Sales Management:
    To state the obvious, sales management is critical for any business. However, the processes involved can be surprisingly complex as companies use different systems for lead generation, CRM, and financial management. 

    This can be seen in the use of Salesforce for CRM capabilities and Netsuite for accounting and ERP solutions. Taking the BPA approach, companies can use an advanced API management solution to integrate the two platforms to simplify and automate the sales process.  

  • Operations Management:
    At a more general level, operations management is a crucial component for successful businesses. Projects and operations often involve multiple stakeholders across different teams, and keeping track of progress are essential.

    Embracing BPA will enable companies to keep track of progress with real-time visibility and updates automatically. A classic example is logistics and the movement of products. Using software like SmartTurn’s warehouse management solution gives businesses the ability to track items, set up automatic replenishment alerts, and ensure products are delivered to the right destinations. 

These are just three examples of BPA at work in real-world situations. The key is to proactively implement the strategy in order to achieve digital maturity that sets up a company for the digital era. Through the utilization of the latest technology and ensuring employee take-up, companies have an opportunity to gain a competitive edge. 


Using API Management Software 

The digital transformation of businesses needs to be handled with structure and careful planning, implemented in stages, and managed by a dedicated team. As the automation of processes is completed, companies can use an API management solution to integrate the data flows and synchronize the processes. 

By using an API solution, teams will be able to manage the data from multiple sources on a single, secure, and accessible platform. This helps companies overcome data management challenges, such as formatting, duplicates, and filtering out errors.  

Software like Universal Adapter allows companies to map data and connect data silos from different programs, saving significant time and costs as the process is completed automatically using cloud technology. In turn, multiple business processes become more streamlined and efficient, with time to revenue dramatically reduced and customer satisfaction increased. 


Foundation for Digital Transformation 

The overall purpose of BPA is to digitize businesses through the use of technology to automate key processes. As the “internet of things (IoT)” era takes hold, the role of data and digital will become ever more critical. The companies that embrace BPA today will be the ones that thrive in the future economy.  

In some industries, BPA has already reached the next stage - robotic process automation (RPA), which effectively describes process automation being updated in real-time. It uses AI to complete repetitive tasks with minimal human input, enabling professionals like CIOs and other leaders to focus on more high-value work. 

The advance of RPA illustrates the speed at which technology is moving and the challenge for companies to keep up with it. Digitized businesses are the best-placed to deal with those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. 

Peter Edlund

Written by Peter Edlund