Process automation is applying technology to formally model, execute, measure and improve the processes that support the operation of our organization. These tasks are part of the Business Process Management (BPM) discipline.
In plain English: process automation means replacing the manual distribution and execution of tasks with a specialized software that do it automatically, making them more efficient, measurable and predictable.
Process Automation is a key asset to achieve digital transformation. Indeed, they are used to increase service quality, improve service delivery and reduce costs.
Example: a manual sales process would be receiving leads and registering them in an Excel spreadsheet. Salesperson sends the quotation over email, and the next version, and then the final version. If you are lucky, he does a follow-up or two. You don’t know how many quotations are in the street, neither which is the real “final version”. You don’t have Key Performance Indicators to measure sales team performance.
Workflow and Business Process Automation are trending topics when talking about competitiveness and efficiency because they address all these issues.
Business Process Automation implies graphically modeling it (using a standard notation like BPMN or any other) and implementing it in software. The graphics model helps you understand, discuss and improve the process (read also: Process Modeling Fosters Collaborative teams). Let’s see the sales example:
The sales team now has every lead in a unique place. Quotation’s versions are there too. The BPM Suite will automatically generate KPI‘s to measure sales team performance. All these tasks are part of the Business Process Management discipline, or simply BPM.
Integration is another key element when talking about Workflow and Business Process Automation. You can integrate your existing cloud systems. For example, to display the list of your customers in the workflow, brought from another cloud app (see Integration with Zapier). But you also may want to send data to your legacy systems. For example, when closing the sale, you can send the data for invoicing via Web Services.
Challenges for process automation in large enterprises
The benefits of Business Process Automation are obvious and many… but what about the difficulties in achieving them? In large companies, the main difficulties to automate processes are:
- Slow decision making, requiring the involvement of different departments (IT, Finance, etc.).
- Difficulty to obtain a budget if it wasn’t previously approved.
- Refusal to incorporate more technological assets and their subsequent management.
Naturally, there are many more elements that can make it difficult to automate a process. These 3 are the most common. The good news is that you can mitigate or completely eliminate them using software as a service. A cloud BPM Suite like Flokzu, with a reduced monthly cost and no initial investment to purchase software licenses, allows a faster decision. IT should approve the initiative, as no software will be installed in the organization and state-of-the-art technology will be used. Those two characteristics, typical in SaaS, lower the entry barriers.
Challenges for process automation in small and medium businesses (SMB’s & SME’s)
We believe that in order for any company to grow, it must improve its processes. That is why we believe that the principles of Business Process Automation play a fundamental role in SME’s and SMB’s They need to compete, better serve their customers and ensure their future survival. The main difficulties in Business Process Automation in small and medium enterprises are:
- Cost of software licenses. Obviously money is always scarce in an SMB.
- Cost of consulting services, many times higher than licenses, and extended over time.
- Lack of manager’s time to define and work on the implementation of the new software.
The first two reasons are quite obvious and common among these types of companies. Leasing licenses at a reduced price solve the first problem. A cloud-based BPM Suite like Flokzu offers an affordable price because it has thousands of subscribers.
A tool that is sufficiently agile and simple, not requiring technical consultancy, solves the second problem. Likewise, when you don’t need to develop software, you reduce time and costs.
The third point is often overlooked, although it is as important than the others (or more). Managers often have little time. They do not have 10 hours per week for 3 months to identify, model, automate, implement, re-design and develop each new process. Using a standard notation to model as BPMN that they understand immediately is key. So is the ability to “push a button” and have the process ready for use, testing and adjustment. This is achived using a BPMN Engine.
Process Automation is key for any organization to make it more efficient, compete better and grow. Benefits are countless (see Productivity through Workflow Automation. 8 concrete Tips.). However, there are big challenges too.
Cloud BPM tools like Flokzu allow you to automate your processes in an agile and inexpensive way. Automating a process can only take hours, both in large companies and SMEs. As a result, you can achieve and show results with a very low investment of time and money.
You can schedule a work session here to model a real-life process in your organization together, and see the benefits immediately.