Business process automation (BPA) and business process management (BPM) are enterprise-wide organizational methods that are growing more and more popular. However, the difference between the two goes beyond a single letter in an acronym. They are two distinctly different practices. But first, we need to understand how each of them works.
BPA is an organizational approach that employs automation. It streamlines business processes via technological solutions meant to make repetitive tasks easier. It allows employees to reallocate time to more pressing matters while repetitive work is done automatically in the background. This method focuses on reducing the number of individual tasks. This results in increased productivity and efficiency.
There is a number of tools and applications developed with that goal in mind. The chance of human error during processes such as data input is eliminated along with other potential bottlenecks.
Examples of BPA in different areas of business:
BPM is a broader and more general approach. It doesn’t focus on automation, but rather on the optimization of business operations. Its goal is reaching the maximum value and efficiency in day-to-day tasks. It’s usually implemented as an organization-wide policy. It involves a continuous search for new ways to optimize and further improve the workflow of the company.
It’s often confused with the previous approach since it’s also closely connected to technology. However, this practice combines the technological solutions and the people into a complete continuously improving system. If it turns out to be inefficient it is re-engineered from the ground up.
The basic business process management life cycle looks like this:
As you have noticed the goals of both practices are the same. It is the optimization of business processes and extracting more value out of your workflow. However, the way they go about it is different.
BPA strives to enhance productivity via technological means. It doesn’t modify the core of the processes but makes them easier and more streamlined. BPM, on the other hand, seeks to disrupt the workflow itself to reach the goal of increased performance and optimization.
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Naturally, time needed to put these practices into action is reflective of the scope. You don’t need to dedicate as many hours to configure the automation apps as you would need for the transformation of entire methodologies.
The difficulty of implementation is another major difference. Adopting BPM is a huge effort. You’ll probably have to readjust the business philosophy for yourself and your team. BPA has a simpler setup. It often comes as software that you just need to configure for your needs.
Since BPA is, in essence, a software-based approach, it is highly dependent on technology. It converts manual tasks into automated ones with it. BPM, on the other hand, is not limited by technology. Technology is often just one aspect of many. It touches upon the methodology, workflow, and philosophy of the organization as well.
The impact that both of these practices can have is often different in each situation. At the surface level, it may seem that BPA will have less of an impact since it’s less complex. But, that isn’t always the case. It’s possible to greatly increase your profits by automating one simple process. And at the same time, it’s not unheard of for companies to completely disrupt their way of doing business only to see no measurable results.
There is a number of misconceptions about both BPA and BPM. First of all, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to get the highest value out of them, they need to be implemented together. A lot of enterprises treat such software as a quick solution that will easily fix all bottlenecks without any extra work. However, this approach can result in confusion and further decrease efficiency.
Trying to bring business process management into your company without any technological solutions is also short-sighted. Since this method focuses on optimization, there is no reason to disregard automation software.
By combining both BPA and BPM into the workflow of the organization, you make the most of both practices. Automating time-consuming and laborious jobs helps employees focus on improving other business processes. At the same time, knowing how to take advantage of the time that was saved by automation is just as crucial. Therefore implementing some form of both BPM and BPA in conjunction should be a goal for any company.