Appropriate Uses of Business Process Automation
<p>Don’t waste your time automating all of your business processes. Some of them are better suited for this practice than others. Do it smartly.</p>
If you want to do it, do it right. The same is the case with business process automation (BPA). There are tasks that are more suitable for automation than others. In the same way, there are elements of the workflow that simply can’t be digitized effectively. This is why before beginning your foray into BPA you should first learn where it works and where it doesn’t.
Before you rush into BPA, you need to keep some things in mind. Its initial implementation is comprehensively covered by another one of our articles. Here are the basics: While it is indeed a major disruptive technology that is able to transform and optimize the workflow of an organization, it’s not a magic wand that fixes all problems. However, if put into practice correctly, it can substantially improve the productivity of your staff and the efficiency of the business as a whole. There also is a question of BPA or BPM, but it’s a whole other topic.
As well as the benefits mentioned above, there is also a reduced chance of employee burnout. Repetitive tasks and lack of engagement are major reasons for it happening. Therefore, implementing BPA helps you not only to streamline your workflow but also keep your staff engaged with their work.
Business process automation also eliminates downtime. Software solutions can operate regardless of the time of day and don’t get tired or distracted. This makes this approach a solid support for the operations of your business.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The efficiency you get largely depends on the processes you decide to automate. That choice is more important than you may think and could lead to the success or failure of the entire practice. Let’s look at it in more detail.
When to Implement It
As a rule, there are 6 indicators that signal that a process can be automated:
- Anyone is able to do it with no required skills
- Straightforward, but tedious
- Takes up too much time
- Repeated the same way daily or weekly
- Frustrating and annoying
- Needs to be done exactly on time
The most obvious time you should use BPA is when the processes are repetitive and take up a lot of time. If something can run in the background while other work is being done, it’s a prime candidate for automation. This streamlines the workflow as a whole. For example, this eliminates the need for night-time IT operations with tasks like batch processing being done without any need for human intervention.
Monitoring no longer needs to be done by managers. There is a number of workflow tracking solutions that run in the background and give you detailed reports on the productivity of staff.
Self-service solutions eliminate unnecessary communication links and allow people to do tasks quickly. This approach also eliminates the constant need for approval for menial jobs.
Statistics and Calculations
Research may be aided by BPA as well. When it comes to the gathering of statistics, calculation of percentages and other types of mathematical analysis, automation makes high effort processes nearly instantaneous.
Another area where BPA makes business more streamlined is document management. Obviously, dealing with digital documents is way more convenient than physical copies, but it can be optimized even further. With such solutions, they are automatically updated across all necessary platforms. Requests, approvals, order processing, signatures, etc. are all aspects that can be streamlined.
One of the processes is already automated for most businesses often without them realizing – the alerts and notifications. Imagine a huge company where every single person needs to be told explicitly to visit an important meeting. It’s substantially easier to send them a notification. It’s not hard, it saves a lot of time, and most businesses already do some form of this practice without even realizing that it’s a part of BPA.
Difficult Objective Decisions
Sometimes things like decision making can be automated as well. It gathers the data and runs an analysis based on statistics. It’s not the way to go 100% of the time, but it illustrates the benefits of different options and provides you with a comprehensive risk evaluation.
A more physical approach to business process automation comes in the form of machines doing manual labor. It’s especially relevant if the tasks at hand are risky or impossible for a human to do.
When to Leave It to the People
The most obvious type of business processes that don’t require automation is the ones requiring creative thinking. Human brainpower is something that cannot be replicated by any machine (yet). That’s why if your job consists of brainstorming for new ideas or creating innovations or art, it’s better to leave it to the staff. It should be pointed out that there are tools attempting to digitize this area too. They may be used for inspiration, but more often than not they are a novelty rather than a replacement.
Tasks requiring very specific or unique skills also can’t be easily automated. One example is the knowledge of a language and its nuances. Sure, the translators keep improving every day, but this type of translation is easily noticeable and almost never looks natural. Also, it’s hard to automate rare skills simply due to the fact that it’s harder to replicate them accurately.
Speaking of language, you should never automate in-person interactions. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use technology such as chatbots. However, if you start presenting automated messages as a real person, it is not only dishonest but may also lead to misunderstanding on both sides. Also, it’s obvious that face-to-face conversation is practically impossible to automate effectively. We wouldn’t bother.
Cybersecurity is always relevant. That’s why in most cases anything involving sensitive information should be handled by humans. You don’t want to put such processes in the background only to discover that, for example, a glitch has corrupted the data. These matters always require human oversight.
Difficult Subjective Decisions
The same reasoning can be applied to difficult decisions. While we mentioned before that it’s helpful when it comes to numbers and statistics it always depends on the situation. Tough subjective decisions, especially ones impacting other people, are better made by people with their own perspective and judgment.
Low Return on Investment
And of course, you should keep in mind the return on investment. If it doesn’t bring you any benefits, doesn’t save you time, can’t be performed without human oversight and/or requires just as much effort, there simply is no reason to automate this process.