How Business Process Automation reduces cost and increases efficiency

ecs-admin 27th November 2015

In today’s technologically-inclined business landscape, there’s more pressure on companies than ever before to deliver faster, more efficiently, and without compromising on quality. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that this pressure is even more pertinent to organisations that depend on IT for their critical business processes. In sectors like healthcare, telecoms, banking and many others high volume manual processes are commonplace and the perfect candidates for Business Process Automation.  In this blog, I’ll look at a few ways that BPA can help companies increase efficiency and reduce costs, and what you should consider when it comes to implementing it.

First things first: a concise definition of Business Process Automation.

A business process is broadly defined as a set of activities that aim to achieve a particular organisational goal. There are several different approaches to managing business processes, but process automation represents the most cutting-edge among them. Gartner defines Business Process Automation 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.” Business Process Automation can be applied to many areas of your organisation, from sales and the supply chain to human resources and IT.

A quick look at some different approaches to business processes: BPA, BPE and BPM.

There are a few schools of thought around business processes, which are similar in most respects but have some key differences that are vital to get a handle on. The differences between BPM, BPA and BPE are best summed up as follows:

Business Process Engineering (BPE): The rationale behind BPE is that before any business process can be considered for automation, all the business processes running within the organisation must first be defined. Once this has been done, individual processes can be redefined and optimised as necessary, which may include automation.

Business Process Management (BPM): The crux of BPM is that before processes can be automated, it’s necessary to first define all business processes running within the domain of endeavour . Once these have been defined, they can be re-defined, optimised and automated.

Business Process Automation (BPA): In contrast, BPA takes the stance that there is no value in defining a process before it has been automated, citing the rapid cycle of business change as a primary reason for this, as well as the value to be gained from creating immediate benefit rather than performing lengthy, and possibly costly, analyses.

How to go about implementing best practices for Business Process Automation.

As with many facets of a DevOps implementation, the specific way Business Process Automation happens in one organisation will almost certainly be different in another. However, there are some general best practices that should be kept in mind as rules of thumb:

  •  Start Simple – automate non-business-critical and move in from there.

 Some tasks are better suited to automation than others. As a guideline, processes that require little creativity to follow, happen on routine or in predictable intervals, and carry a large margin for human error are prime targets for automation, and most of these will naturally fall on the perimeter of business-critical processes. It’s advisable to start with non-critical functions and move inwards, to safeguard against the chance of damaging vital business processes.

  •  Involve stakeholders

 Another invaluable lesson that carries over from DevOps into process automation is the need to involve all stakeholders from the outset of your business automation journey. The ultimate objective of process automation is to benefit your entire organisation, and that will only be possible if you have buy-in among all your stakeholders.

  • Document as-is processes

 There’s no sense in setting out to reach your destination if you don’t know where you started. Tracking the progress of your business process automation journey is only worthwhile if you have a clear snapshot of your processes pre-automation to refer back to as you deliver each milestone. This way, you’ll be able to precisely measure the value of your automation efforts compared to your old processes.

  •  Define desired state of outcome

Conversely, you can’t set out on any kind of journey without a destination in mind. Process automation is no different here: having a clearly defined goal at the beginning of your automation journey will provide an easy way of determining how well your system is performing, and how close you are to achieving your desired state.

  • Define ROI of automation

Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – or rather in the case of automation the proof of success is in the ROI. At the start of the automation initiative it is critical to define the ROI associated with the “Desired State Outcome”.  Periodically reviewing the metrics you’re getting from your process automation is essential to understanding how well each process is performing.  Comparing the ROI achieved incrementally against the desired ROI will enable you to track the overall progress of the initiative and decide if any changes are required to ensure the end goal is achieved.

ECS Digital has been implementing DevOps in a number of organisations across a wide variety of industries globally over the last 12 years. The experience we have gained gives us a truly unique insight into what makes a DevOps implementation work. For more information on our DevOps consultancy and training services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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