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Business Process Automation: A Guide to BPA

Human ingenuity is often the key driver in groundbreaking innovations, effective work, good communication and many other elements that contribute to success. However, despite this central and fundamental role, the human aspect of a company’s operations has downsides. The potential for costly errors always exists. Human workers can become bored, tired or otherwise disengaged from their work, especially when tackling complex multi-step processes.

Business process automation is the key to addressing these concerns and building stronger businesses that can capably achieve better results without negatively impacting the bottom line. While robotic process automation technologies are a good launchpad for redefining how you work, it is ultimately only a low-level part of the equation. To modernize your business and fully embrace the potential of the digital age, you must expand your scope to consider BPA too.

What’s the difference? RPA exists to automate tedious and repetitive tasks within one or more extensive business processes, such as sending an email reminder to accounts payable as invoices reach a certain age. Business process automation links procedures that may span different software systems or departments. RPA can be a part of BPA as a tool for the latter, enabling you to “stitch together” a larger automated workflow.

Explore our overview of the procedure for embracing this philosophy and its related technologies by looking at the following topics.

Understanding BPA and Its Benefits

Why should any business consider an exploration of automating business processes? The obvious benefit is that a worker might be freed up to do something more valuable or strategic than that process. Still, there are numerous benefits to investing in a mature platform for building a new automated business process workflow.

The Key Reasons to Invest in Business Process Automation

Blog 37 - Some Key Reasons to Invest in Business Process Automation

The goal of automation in the workplace is not to replace or push out human employees. Instead, blending human creativity with well-defined automated routines makes it possible to achieve more with less in the short and long term. With such a hybrid workplace, companies quickly begin to unlock advantages that include:

  • Improved process efficiency from end to end, enabling faster, better results.
  • Error-free, repeatable workflows by minimizing opportunities for manual human error.
  • Improved cost-effectiveness and efficiency, leading to growth opportunities.
  • Enhanced employee morale by redirecting talent into more skilled efforts.

No matter your industry, there is an excellent chance that there are workflows you use right now that could undergo effective automation.

What Workflows Aren’t Suitable for BPA?

While BPA has comprehensive applications owing to the diverse technologies that enable it, there are occasions when completely automating a process is not feasible. This is often a technical limitation. There are some elements to specific workflows, particularly those that involve human decision-making, that we cannot currently adapt to software.

Understanding these limitations will ensure your teams don’t waste time in areas that won’t produce valuable results. Typically, a process is unsuitable if it involves one or more of the following:

  • Some customer-facing applications where less personal chatbot solutions can negatively impact service quality.
  • Upper-level decisions and authorizations, such as anything that would require direct input from management.
  • Complex workflows with a large number of potential exceptions to the routine.

The First Big Step: Process Identification and Automation Planning

With an understanding of where you should focus automation efforts, you can take the first concrete steps towards building and deploying such solutions. At this stage, your team should focus on analyzing existing business processes and identifying opportunities for process transformation. How should you go about this?

There are several methods you can choose to blend. Speaking directly with employees and investigating where they have identified inefficiencies is a great place to start. Gathering and reviewing data on process efficiency is also essential for insights. Only once you’ve identified strong candidates for automation can you begin to identify the software that will let you achieve your goals.

Choosing BPA Solutions with the Right Features

Blog 37 - How do you know when a platform aligns with your goals

With no shortage of solutions on the market today, all claiming the best and easiest way to automate, this can be a confusing space to explore. How do you know when a platform aligns with your goals? Consider some of the following key features to look for during this early phase:

  • Broad capabilities for integrating multiple systems, even in diverse applications.
  • Excellent security integration to keep data safe as it moves automatically between computer systems.
  • Real-time metric tracking and efficiency analysis.
  • AI and/or ML-enabled tools for higher-level process automation, adaptability and scale.
  • Document intelligence solutions for integrating paperless workflows.

Committing to an Automation Platform

Once you’ve identified systems and processes that are ripe for automation, it’s time to commit to software that can support your goals.

The right tools can make the difference when investing in business operations automation. The key to your success in this space is software that lets you build bridges between disconnected systems, acquire advanced document intelligence and more. Just as importantly, however, you must choose a platform that provides you with the space to scale your automation up to the level of the entire company.

The Kofax Intelligent Automation Platform contains the complete suite of solutions today’s process engineers demand. With an array of powerful tools that pave the way to effective low-code automation today and vast opportunities for scale in the future, this platform is ideal for BPA efforts at any stage.

Discover more today about the many systems you can leverage with the Intelligent Automation Platform to transform the way you work.

Deploying and Maintaining Effective BPA

With advanced tools in hand and ready for deployment, you can instruct your team of automation professionals to produce the solutions that will transform your business. Let’s look at what the broad strokes of this process look like in practice. How do you go from deciding to automate to watching those systems work on their own?

Document Processes with Step-by-Step Breakdowns

Identifying suitable candidate processes in your business is only a preliminary step to building a new automated workflow. Once you’ve selected a routine, such as employee onboarding in HR or overnight job processing in IT, you need to think about how to automate it—and that means understanding every step that goes into the workflow.

Document your processes thoroughly by breaking them down into every constituent step and potential branch. You can develop low- and no-code solutions that replicate these actions using this framework. It’s essential not to overlook any step, no matter how minor.

Clearly Define the Goals of Your Automation Program

Understand the goals of your project early on to measure your progress and gauge your eventual success. Do you want to reduce the amount of time it takes for accounts payable to process invoices? Do you need to reduce IT costs by eliminating errors requiring on-call employees to respond to problems?

Identify the problems you need to solve and the outcomes that would rate as a “win.” This will help you formulate key benchmarks for understanding how much automation improves or impacts your work.

Break Up Automation Development into Manageable Chunks

While it can be tempting to set up a large team that drives towards end-to-end automation tirelessly, that’s a recipe for endless bug testing and poor quality control. Instead, define your project with clear milestones corresponding to different process elements undergoing a rebuild. Testing individual parts allows you to identify failure points and make corrections early before troubleshooting the whole system.

Conduct Extensive Testing in Non-Live Environments

It might seem obvious, but not every business investing in automation spends enough time in test environments before taking their new systems live. It’s natural to be eager to see a quick ROI from a new investment in technology. However, prioritize a thorough testing phase to minimize the chance of any negative impacts on your business. A real and important workday isn’t the best environment for bug testing.

Collect Data About Process Efficiencies Before and After Automation

Before you automate, be sure you’ve gathered metrics relating to employee performance and process efficiency. Once you’re ready to deploy automation in a live environment, start looking for signs that you have achieved the speed and accuracy improvements you hoped for at the start. Solutions such as the Kofax Intelligent Automation Platform include tools for just this kind of work, including the in-depth Kofax Monitor. See processing statuses and performance metrics in real time.

Educate Staff and Achieve Buy-In Before Live Production

Buy-in is essential for the success of automation efforts, especially when we consider that research conducted by Pew indicated that barely a third of respondents thought automation would lead to better jobs. Prepare to explain to staff why the process they know will soon change and how it will benefit them.

Many automation projects fail not because of poor development, but because of a lack of buy-in from the teams that will work alongside automation. Explore how it will make their workday easier and offer opportunities to redirect their skills into more valuable operations for the business. Now is also the right time to provide training and insight for those directly impacted by the change.

Deploy Your New Processes

With testing complete, staff trained and everything in place, it’s time to take your new process live. While real-world conditions will always mean some necessary adjustments, you will now be able to reap the rewards of better technology in an ideal scenario. The job doesn’t end here, though.

Monitor and Maintain

Don’t overlook the importance of automated process management. Monitoring these processes continually is crucial. Unexpected failures can and will happen. Having a team ready to respond to these situations is vital for keeping your new processes running smoothly.

Process management for automation also ensures that you achieve those benchmark goals you set at the beginning of the project. Over time, analyzing automated process data can even reveal additional opportunities for automation. You may find bottlenecks that were invisible to management until more data became available.

Embrace the Essential Benefits of Business Process Automation Today

With increasing complexity and a high degree of pressure on companies to be as lean and competitive as possible, the broader use of business process automation applications has fast become an essential element of success. Identifying the workflows that would benefit the most from a reduction in human error and an increase in speed is an ongoing effort, too. As businesses grow and processes evolve, so must the way you automate and connect disparate systems.

With solutions such as the Kofax Intelligent Automation Platform available, adopting a clear strategy for automation “wins” is easy. Consider where your teams and departments might fall short of their potential and start exploring the advantages of business process automation today. With it, you can set yourself up to effectively work like tomorrow.

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