Guide to Process Automation

Guide to Process Automation

Published By : salientprocess August 16, 2023
Guide to process automation

Did you know that 80% of business leaders believe they can use automation for business decisions? More companies are seeing the benefits of automation — better decision-making, agility, productivity, reduced costs, and enhanced customer experience. Spending on automation is expected to increase by 17.5% in 2023 as businesses seek to free up employees’ time to focus on more strategic work.

As the trend towards digitalization continues to grow, business leaders are increasingly interested in leveraging automation to enhance operational efficiency. This guide will explore the advantages of process automation and provide insights into its implementation within your organization.

What Is Process Automation?

Process automation uses technology to automate repetitive business processes, systems, and tasks, optimizing business processes to meet business goals. Process automation is ideal for mundane tasks that are essential but don’t require creativity or strategizing.

Using process automation, you can free up your staff from performing these repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the core of your business. By removing the human element from these procedures, you also decrease the time it takes to complete them, increase accuracy and remove bias.

The following are examples of tasks that businesses often automate:

  • Recruitment activities: Automation can make onboarding and employee training simple and quicker.
  • Payroll activities: With the rise in remote employees, automation has helped businesses to streamline their payroll.
  • Employee scheduling: If you have staff across various locations, you can easily sync scheduling and time off requests.

Benefits of Process Automation

Process automation has a range of benefits for your entire business. When implemented well, it can help to improve productivity, increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs, among other advantages. 

Process automation can cut up to 90% of business costs

  1. Removes bottlenecks: Repetitive manual work, such as data entry, slows productivity. By automating these activities, you increase efficiency and enhance the scalability of your business. Freeing your staff from manual, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks gives them the capacity to focus on strategic activities and customer service. Automation takes these tasks and integrates them into a single streamlined workflow.
  2. Saves time: Consider how much time you spend on low-value tasks in your day. Many jobs can automate at least some parts of the associated work, saving employees time to spend on high-value tasks. Automation enables you to manage your time better so you can spend it on the most critical areas of your business.
  3. Reduces errors: Human error is inevitable. While mistakes can happen, they can become problematic for your reputation when it begins to affect your customers. When staff perform mundane tasks that require very little engagement, the risk of errors increases. Automation reduces the human element from processes, increasing accuracy and reducing the need for unnecessary rework. 
  4. Minimizes cost: Businesses can reduce costs when using automation to standardize and digitize processes. Research shows that process automation can cut up to 90% of business costs. As costs decrease because of automation, businesses can earn more revenue — 73% of business executives expect their revenue to increase.
  5. Improves quality: If you’re looking for ways to increase the quality and speed of your customer service, automating can help you to improve your standards. You can take on new business with the reassurance that you can provide quality service and outcomes for your customers.
  6. Enhances Agility: Automating data collection, aggregation, and synthesis, especially for large data sets, can help business leaders to make more informed and faster decisions. It also improves data quality — bad data from human error costs businesses $12.9 million annually. To make sound business decisions, leaders need quick access to high-quality data.
  7. Increases compliance: Many businesses have regulations and standards with which they need to comply. Automation enables you to carry out operations and processes with precision and regularity that matches the requirements you need to meet. Whether it’s your internal policy or an external regulation, automation allows you to integrate them into workflow capabilities. You can also set up monitoring functions to stay on top quality instead of doing manual spot checks.
  8. Improves customer experience: Modern technologies can speed up your customer service response. For example, businesses can use chatbots to answer customer queries quickly and sort and escalate them without any human intervention.
  9. Makes employees happier in their roles: As automation frees up your staff from repetitive tasks, it allows them to spend their time on creative, strategic work that adds value to your business. Using automation, 66% of workers say it allows them to focus their time and energy on creative tasks and projects. It ensures that employees spend their time well and increases employee satisfaction. Employees who are happy in their roles are more likely to perform better.

Types of Process Automation

There are three types of automation you can implement in your business to reap the benefits:

1. Business Process Automation 

People often use the terms “business process automation” and “process automation” interchangeably. Either way, it refers to using tools and technologies to automate an entire business process from start to finish. This automation spans multiple functions, roles, and systems.

For example, a business may automate how they onboard a new customer, capturing and storing their details. Employees with access to the information can then auto-populate invoices and other documents for clients instead of manually entering details.

2. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

People often misunderstand this automation as physical robots taking over jobs from humans. In reality, RPA involves using automation technology for repetitive tasks in software applications. It works best for high-volume repetitive tasks such as data entry that require intense manual labor.

RPA bots continuously work on the tasks they automate, usually triggered by a specific action or a predetermined workflow. These bots bring several benefits to a business’s workflow — they allow companies to complete tasks quickly and efficiently and improve team agility, saving time and reducing errors.

RPA is just one part of the automation process as it focuses on automating a single or handful of tasks. Using this form of automation alone still leaves some gaps. For example, RPA can’t learn over time as artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can, and it doesn’t solve the data silos that can get in the way of business automation.

RPA is part of the overall process automation strategy

While robotics process automation is essential, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Businesses need to see RPA as part of their overall process automation strategies.

3. Digital Business Automation

Digital Business Automation uses a variety of automation tools and technologies, such as robotics process automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, to speed up the automation process across an organization. These technologies make it easier to identify areas where automation can improve efficiency. Digital Business Automation capabilities aim to create a better work environment where employees can easily apply their skills and knowledge for better performance while optimizing processes and reducing risks.

An example of Digital Business Automation is if a business scans documents instead of manually entering information, uses technology to extract information, populates the areas with the relevant information, and inputs it into a data management system. Employees then receive notifications if there is information that they need to act upon. 

report from Gartner highlights that Digital Business Automation is well worth the investment. It helps to decrease errors dramatically, improves efficiency, and frees up employees to do work that has a significant impact on an organization.

Steps to Automate a Business Process

Getting started with the automation process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. All it takes is some preparation and planning. Using these steps, you can get your process automation underway:

Steps to automate business processes

1. Align Tasks and Business Goals

When you’re choosing areas in your business to automate, it’s essential that they line up with your business goals. Start by identifying the areas that will have the most impact in enhancing your business operations. In many cases, the processes that require the most human effort and intervention will benefit the most from automation and have the biggest impact.

Get clear on your motivations and goals by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you want to automate processes?
  • What would you like to achieve through automation?
  • What timeline do you have to achieve the results?
  • How much of your budget have you allocated to automation?
  • What will successful automation look like for your business?

When you’re clear about your goals and why you want to automate your processes, you’ll choose the best solutions and tools to help you get there.

2. Map Processes

You’ve decided where you want to start and what your end goal is — it’s now time to map out your process to get there. Creating a process map will help you illustrate the steps involved in the automation and what you must do to achieve your results. A process map enables you to document your workflow, recording the following: 

  • The people who carry out, approve, and handle or move work in the process from one point to another.
  • The specific actions and tasks you need to complete in the process.
  • The systems and software that hold the work needed for the process.
  • All information, such as forms, documents, files, and other data.

To create a process map, start by going through your standard operating procedures. Identify the activities in the process, write out the sequence of events, and populate your flowchart.

3. Prioritize Tasks

Your process map will help lay out your processes and tasks. With this information, you can identify and prioritize the tasks and processes that are good candidates for automation.

If you’re starting from scratch, there are likely several processes you can automate. It’s wise to divide these areas into different sections — the most complex, the ones that waste human resources you can use elsewhere, and the essential processes that add value to your business.

The tasks that are ideal for automation usually have the following features:

  • Repetitive: They require the same steps and inputs every time. They also use up employee brain power you can dedicate to other essential work.
  • High-volume: Employees need to repeat these tasks often, several times an hour, a day, or a week.
  • Recurring: These are activities you need to complete according to a regular schedule.
  • Dependent: Another event or action triggers the activity. 
  • Time-sensitive: When employees need to complete tasks within a specific time frame, automation can perform these tasks on time.
  • Simple: These activities aren’t complex and don’t require strategizing or decision-making.
  • Predictable: The task occurs in the same manner at the same time.

When you choose a process to automate, remember that other subprocesses are often involved. For example, if you decide to automate your supply chain, you may have other subprocesses, such as order approvals and goods receiving. It’s important to note that some tasks are better candidates for automation than others. There will be processes in your business that require a human element, which looks different for every organization.

Create a list once you’ve identified the tasks you want to automate. Businesses commonly automate activities such as composing and sending emails, team member notifications, and task updates.

4. Assess Capabilities and Use Process Automation Software 

To make automation happen, you need the right tools. Start by assessing your capabilities — you need tools and process automation software that make automation simple to implement and manage. If you need additional support, it’s wise to partner with a process automation provider to equip you with the appropriate tools for simple and complex processes. There are various tools for every function, task, and user level — a provider can advise you on the best tools to use for each.

5. Configure Automation

Once you’ve chosen the processes and tasks to automate, set your process boundaries, and identified the best tools and software to get the job done, it’s time to get started with your automation. Your chosen software should make planning and configuring automation in any of your workflows easy. All you’ll need to do is decide what will trigger the automation and what it will do.

6. Measure and Monitor

Monitoring your automation over time and measuring its success is important, especially as your business evolves. Choose what key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll track. You can base your KPIs on cost savings, time savings, and employee productivity. To know if the automation is working and helping you achieve your goals, you’ll need to define what success looks like and track it over a specific period.

By monitoring the KPIs, you can also identify areas for improvement. Make sure to budget for regular updates and maintenance. As your business grows, your software needs to stay integrated and work well on all interconnected platforms.

Automate your business processes with Salient Process

Automate Your Business Processes With Salient Process

Process automation is no longer something that’s nice to have for organizations. It’s transforming how we do business and ensuring the best use of human expertise in teams. From reducing errors and costs to improving productivity and efficiency, companies are seeing the benefits of automating. Creating a detailed strategy and plan ensures you choose the right software and tools for your business.

At Salient Process, our purpose is to enable your business to reach its technology goals. With our business-driven Digital Business Automation services, you can automate processes across your organization with the right process automation software and tools that scale well. Speak to an expert advisor — contact us today to learn more!