Process Automation – Reasons for It and Steps to Execute It
Businesses are under constant pressure to employ process automation. The benefits of automation in your business could be huge. The positive outcomes of automation can be experienced across all business functions, as research and statistics like the following confirm:
- McKinsey & Company estimate that 45% of current paid activities can be automated. That’s equivalent to $2 trillion in annual wages.
- Repetitive administration tasks take the average worker around 69 days to complete each year, costing the global economy around $5 trillion annually, according to research carried out by Unit4.
- Locating a file takes an average of 18 minutes, with professionals spending as much as 50% of their time searching for information.
- According to researcher company IDC, inefficient processes cost organizations between 20% and 30% of their annual revenue.
What Is Process Automation?
Process automation is the execution of repetitive or recurring tasks by replacing manual intervention by technology. An example of a process that could be automated is the purchase order process.
A team fills out a purchase request. This is sent for approval to check against budgetary constraints. If rejected, the request is reverted to the requesting team. It is revised, and returned for approval once more. When approved, a purchase order is created and sent to the requesting team and the supplier.
Manual intervention has the potential to create errors, delay approval, produce poor records, and create purchase orders with errors. Automating this process removes these potential errors, delays, and costs.
Other examples of process automation include tasks:
- that are high-volume and/or repetitive
- in which several people become involved in the process line
- that are time-sensitive
- that are subject to high levels of compliance
- that impact other business processes
5 Reasons to Automate Your Business Processes
There are many reasons to seek ways to automate your processes, not least of which are:
1. To improve reliability and trust
With fewer errors, your processes become more reliable. This reliability translates into trust within your organization and externally – delivering greater satisfaction in the workplace and more loyal customers.
2. Greater potential to focus on strategic goals
With greater reliability and less time taken to complete work tasks, employees’ time will be freed to spend on more innovative, creative tasks and problem solving. Process automation allows senior staff to focus on strategic planning and exploration of business opportunities, or on coaching and mentoring employees with potential.
3. Greater business resiliency
Automation reduces human error. Your data becomes more accurate, and can be sourced and accessed in real time, delivering greater business transparency and efficiency. Inventories are more accurate, and overspending and wastage are avoided.
4. Improved business insight
As your data becomes more accurate, transparent, and accessible, the insights available to the business increase in relevance, becoming more meaningful in strategic decision making.
5. Improved customer satisfaction
Satisfied customers become loyal customer and brand advocates. Reducing errors and accelerating delivery of customer solutions are major factors in developing and improving customer loyalty. You’ll win more orders and more referrals.
5 Steps to Automate Your Business Processes
Not all business process automation follows the same course. Each process that can be automated is unique in nature. Some are relatively easy. Others are more complex. However, there is a general automation process workflow to follow:
- Define the goals of process automation – define them in terms of time, efficiency, cost, reliability, etc.
- Understand the task in detail – every single step, who is responsible, when each sub-task is to be executed, and the impact on other processes. This is harder than you may think, but is necessary to program software and machines to undertake tasks for your business.
- Phase-in automation and measure progress – don’t try to complete automation in a single stage. A phased approach allows you to identify process frailties and adapt fluidly to achieve your desired and expected outcomes.
- Invest in training – ensure that your employees are adequately trained in the new business process. They will need time to adjust. It may be pertinent to dual-run manual and automated processes for a period. Not only will this test the automation quality, but it will also demonstrate the benefits to employees.
People Are the Key to Successful Process Automation
To execute process automation successfully, you need people. Your current employees must be engaged in the project. A good project manager will be able to inspire and enthuse their people in the automation project, eliminating resistance and delivering motivation by answering ‘what’s in it for me?’.
You will also need talented business analysts, programmers, and developers. Top-quality individuals with the skills and experience to analyze your processes and deliver solutions.
What processes could your organization automate? How do you plan to automate them? What has been your experience of previous process automation projects you have executed? Get in touch and let us know – we’re keen to share knowledge and help businesses and the economy benefit from shared experience.