Digital transformation – it’s on everyone’s mind. As machines and software get faster and smarter, every organization understands that it cannot afford to get left behind. Where to start?
Look around you at what people are doing everyday from 9 to 5. Automating those core operational processes is the crucial first step and the very foundation of digital transformation. Otherwise, your people are still wasting time on manual processes. You’ll probably need to worry about being disrupted and becoming irrelevant.
What is Business Process Automation?
Everyday business processes are the lifeblood of all organizations. From approving purchase orders to authorizing travel to on-boarding new hires to processing student applications, these processes define what employees do everyday. They might be 3 simple steps or may be a complicated 10-step workflow with conditional routing but the general principle is the same: deliver information from Point A to Point B with all the required signatures, approvals and authorizations in place.
Business process automation helps organizations transition these key activities online. Think of it as a GPS system for your business routing documents and tasks to the right people at the right time. It ensures that only authorized users can comment, modify and sign documents and forwards them to the next destination in a timely manner. It also ensures that key business standards cannot be bypassed.
Why implement Business Process Automation?
Manual, paper- or email-based processes don’t belong in the modern workplace. If you’re still relying on Excel spreadsheets or PDF documents or actual paper forms in your organization, employees end up wasting a percentage of their time on unnecessary activities.
It’s like imposing a tax on your business.
If you see any of these signs in your organization, you need to prioritize process automation immediately:
- “Where’s my approval? Did my manager approve it already? Is it stuck with the VP?” Time spent chasing down signatures is 100% wasted. Worse, it slows your business down as employees must wait on a key purchase, or delay a new hire.
- “Didn’t I already do that?” How often have you seen medical forms, student forms, or new hire forms that ask for the same information over and over again? Employees manually entering parts or customer data from the SQL or CRM system into an Excel sheet? It’s another example of extreme inefficiency. Worse, data entry mistakes lead to errors and further delays.
- “My manager was traveling.” When authorizations are held up due to travel, work is delayed. Customer service may be affected or new opportunities go by. In our modern mobile-enabled world, it’s completely unnecessary.
- “The instructions were confusing.” Business processes in organizations are complex. Excel spreadsheets with lengthy instructions are common. Inevitably, employees get confused and skip a needed approval or send it to the wrong person. The process takes twice as long as everyone is scrambling at the last minute to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
What are some example processes to automate?
Look first to the routine things your people do on a daily basis. They’re the core of your operations and typically provide ripe pickings:
- New Hire Onboarding Process: For every amazing person you hire, there are a million things to get done. An automated workflow can move them through HR, equipment provisioning, card access, benefits enrollment and more.
- Purchase Orders and Requisitions: These are critical internal processes for spend management. Automation speeds up internal approvals for purchases. If employees don’t have to wait for key items, they’re likely to meet deadlines and you won’t be left scrambling.
- Time Off Request Forms: This is one of the most common processes in every organization. It’s also relatively easy to automate since it’s typically simple e.g. requires approval from a manager and entry into the HR system.
- Travel Authorizations: Business travel is already tedious. Automation makes it just a bit easier for your employees by ensuring that they don’t have to chase approvals and get reimbursed in a timely manner.
- Consent and Emergency Contact forms: Free up teachers, faculty and staff from paperwork so that they can spend more of their time on what’s important – students.
- Student Applications: At most Universities, the majority of students do everything on their mobile devices. Make it easy for them to register for classes, request transcripts, fill out food- service surveys and the dozens of college workflows by automating them on mobile devices
- Patient Intake/Referral: Being a patient already means you aren’t having the best day. There’s no need to make them fill out endless forms, especially with repeated information. Automated, streamlined processes make it easier on patients and can also reduce wasted doctor time.
How to implement Business Process Automation
There are three main approaches to embracing automation for your business processes.
- Custom solution: If your business relies on a number of legacy systems that don’t link to other systems via APIs, you may be forced to rely on custom-built solutions. Newer solutions like Robotic Process Automation can help but they’re simply band aids that extend the life of your legacy system. Custom-built solutions are obviously tailored to your exact needs but they are very expensive to build and even costlier to maintain. Talented programmers are extremely difficult to find, even harder to retain and the chances are that you have better things for them to spend time on. This should probably be your last choice or, at best, employed in rare situations.
- Scripting, hot-wiring, point-to-point integration: This kind of solution allows you to automate pieces e.g. using Zapier to automatically create a Salesforce record from a spreadsheet reduces data entry in that one case. They can be quite effective if you need automation in just a few places. The downside is that you can quickly end up with a hodgepodge of integrations that are very difficult to understand and maintain.
- Visual, low-code automation software: Modern software like frevvo is easy to use, provides drag-and-drop tools to design forms and workflows, connectors to integrate with systems, built-in mobility and enables you to focus not just on individual tasks but the process as a whole. You can even work with custom-built solutions for specific cases or use Zapier to connect online frevvo forms and workflows to Salesforce or Quickbooks. Watch the short 6m video above to see how easy it is.
What are the benefits of Business Process Automation?
BPA provides substantial, even transformative benefits.
- Focus employees on productive tasks: Talented people are your most important asset. Don’t waste their time on manual processes with workarounds. Let faculty focus on teaching, doctors on patients, H.R. on talent acquisition and retention. That’s what you hired them for so stop burdening them with unnecessary paperwork.
- World-class customer service: Over-delivering on customer service is the single most important thing you can do to increase the top line. Customers, especially millennials, are becoming more and more demanding. They expect instant responses online and get frustrated if they have to wait. Process automation brings your operations closer to the customer, gives them 24×7 access to information when they need it.
- Accelerate business speed: Automation simply makes everything go faster. Documents get routed to the right person at the right time, notifications and reminders ensure that approvals are sped up, and integration and validation reduces data entry and the resulting errors and the need to go back for corrections. The speed of modern business is ever-increasing; automation is a key arrow in your quiver to make sure your business keeps pace.
- Dramatic cost reductions: It’s often hard to see how much those paper- or email-based workflows really cost you. Automating even a simple 3-step process that’s performed daily can save you more than $50,000 or 57% of your costs and provide net positive ROI in less than 2 months. Iterative optimization and digitization of your processes cuts big costs from your operations and you should aim for 50% or greater savings.
- Enhanced Visibility: Every BPA software will let you track the status of your processes so it’s easy to see where your approval is currently held up. Reporting and analytics help you identify bottlenecks and address them so that key processes run faster.
- Enable Mobility & Scalability: Modern process automation tools like frevvo include drag-and-drop designers that create responsive user interfaces. Your forms and processes will automatically work on mobile devices, look natural and provide a pleasing user experience. They’re available 24×7 and performance automatically scales to meet higher demand during peak periods.
How should you choose the right process automation software?
You may be tempted to jump right in and automate everything in sight. It’s wise to consider your unique requirements before you pick any software. Here are some considerations:
- Focus on the user experience: UX is crucial. It’s the #1 factor in picking automation software. Unless your online processes look amazing and provide snappy performance, no one will use them.
- Mobility: The system should support mobility without specialized coding. And, it should be designed with features specific to mobile such as slightly larger buttons, breaking long forms into multiple pages etc.
- Flexible deployment: Cloud-based deployment has major benefits and it’s mature enough that you should probably consider cloud by default. Business processes are unique – they are simply more useful if they can connect to your internal system data. Sometimes, that’s not possible from the cloud and you need to take that into consideration. Perhaps, a connector will need to be deployed in your DMZ or you may have to choose an on-premise, private cloud deployment.
- Integration: As mentioned above, processes need to access data in your internal systems and databases. Make sure that the system has hooks into SQL databases, Active Directory and other core software deployed in your organization.
- Visual tools: Like everyone, your I.T. Department is probably underwater. Make sure that the software includes a visual, low-code platform that allows “citizen developers” not just coders-by-trade to drag-and-drop to create forms and workflows. Even if I.T. will create most workflows, you should still look for visual tools. The earlier you involve business users in the process, the more likely you are to create an automation that meets needs and gets adopted.
Why should you consider frevvo?
Hundreds of customers are already using frevvo’s easy-to-use, visual workflow software for their automation needs. Our solution is secure, is available in the cloud or on-premise, and provides all the capabilities mentioned above.
World-class Customer Support and Training is a high priority for our team. We go to great lengths to make sure that your process automation projects are rolled out successfully.
Interested? Request a free demo below.