We can probably also agree that forcing employees to do mundane things that they don’t like doing over and over again is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, it’s a recipe for high turnover. You can hire an employee to send prefabricated emails, update spreadsheets or send invoices, and that employee will grudgingly do the work because he needs the paycheck — until he finds a more interesting use of his time. But this is not the best use of his talent, and you both know that. You may even be doing these things yourself but, executing monotonous administrative tasks is likely not your greatest passion and not why you started your business.
If the above sounds remotely familiar to you, imagine a scenario in which you and your brilliant team members get to spend your time and energy working on the most important aspects of your business, such as high-level strategy, innovation and improving the customer experience — the things that add more value to your business.
This is where business process automation (BPA) comes in.
BPA is a way to eliminate manual, time-consuming and costly tasks within an organization and replace them with automated processes that are more efficient and work faster, while also reducing redundancy and overall operating costs. Implementing BPA helps enable teams to focus on moving the business forward instead of simply managing it. It’s the foundation of creating a sustainable, scalable, sellable business.
How Business Process Automation Works
Business process automation is essentially the engine that powers all the internal tasks that keep your company running. At its core, BPA is a sophisticated form of if/then logic. When you create an automated internal process, you control what you want to happen based on all the possible scenarios, and the automation platform takes it from there. This allows you to create dynamic, unique paths that deliver the right results and remind team members to take the right actions at the right times.
Every business can benefit from automating its most repetitive and mundane tasks – things that are generally done much faster and with more accuracy when done by a computer rather than a human. As your business grows, these types of tasks only increase, as does the likelihood that inaccuracies and mistakes will occur.
What Types of Processes Can You Automate?
Essentially anything requiring a routine intake, notification, approval process or manual handoff can be automated. Automation-friendly tasks are those that you perform repeatedly, that are the same every time you do them and that don’t require critical thinking to complete.
Examples of processes you can automate include:
- Appointment scheduling
- Marketing and sales outreach
- Customer communication
- Record keeping and management
- Employee recruiting and onboarding (HR)
- Events and media outreach (PR)
- Drafting and sending proposals and bids
- Payment and billing processes
All of that said, it’s important to carefully consider which actions are best left to people, which are OK to delegate to automation and which should be a hybrid. With the right combination of automated and non-automated tasks, you’ll find that you and your team will be able to focus on the most important aspects of your business without sacrificing quality.
How BPA Can Improve Your Business
Efficiency, by definition, describes the extent to which time, effort and cost are effectively applied for the intended task or purpose. Business process automation reduces the time, effort and cost it requires to complete a task.
If you are critical of automating business processes because you are afraid it will replace the people who do them, it is important to understand that these virtual processes are used to assist rather than replace their human counterparts. In fact, it’s a win-win situation. Automation handles multiple tasks at a time, makes fewer mistakes than people do and works around the clock. And, without mundane tasks on their plates, employees can focus on more strategic and creative tasks.
This can help to increase your ROI by allowing employees to focus on what’s important rather than being mired with items that drain time and energy. One study found that implementing automation in the workplace generates 30-200% ROI in the first year, mainly in labor savings. This means that automation can increase your revenue by allowing your team to take on a greater workload without the added cost of more employees.
BPA can help utilize the true talent of your team. It’s all too common that talented people get hired for a job that requires specialized skills but end up spending much of their time doing monotonous or time-consuming administrative tasks. Few people want to spend their days on manual tasks that have nothing to do with their background or career goals.
Business automation can virtually eliminate those tasks from their workload, freeing your talent to do what it is they do best (and what they enjoy most). This increases employee satisfaction and retention in the long run.
Accuracy and Quality Control
A large percentage of processing mistakes are typically user-generated errors. These mistakes arise when manually inputting data and can be as simple as inverted numbers or typos. Automation ensures that every action is performed identically – resulting in high-quality, reliable results.
Since automation completes your business processes exactly the way you tell it to, it creates a level of consistency that allows you to spot trends or patterns and learn precisely how long tasks take. Similarly, it allows you to identify and fix gaps in your processes that you might not have otherwise noticed. You can then use that information to effectively plan ahead in your business.
Consistent Customer Service Experiences
Although BPA handles the internal tasks that are necessary for your company to run, many of those operations still contribute to your customers’ experiences. If you automate your customer service follow-up process, your customers will consistently experience the same level of service from your business. For example, when customers call in, their specific account information can be pulled up from the digital database within seconds. This makes it easier for customers to depend on your brand and makes working with your company far more user-friendly.
Whether it’s an automatic reminder to a team member to pay commissions to referrers or an automation that handles customers’ requests to change their stored credit card information, business process automation ensures that your customers are getting the most consistent positive experiences possible.
Accountability and Compliance
Business process automation gives you a better view of what’s going on with your projects and staff at any given time. You can track whether a team meets milestones or if they’re going to miss an upcoming deadline. The improved visibility also shows you whether you are over or underutilizing your human resources.
BPA can help you optimize your teams’ productivity over time so everyone works at peak efficiency. By design, this makes BPA a great tool for managers to have oversight of tasks completed, the amount of time spent on a project or any other metric they would look at for reviews, planning vacation time or setting goals. Documented and automated processes also allow managers to keep track of which employees are top-performers and which ones need coaching.