12 Highly Effective Business Process Automation Strategies

12 Highly Effective Business Process Automation Strategies

Business process automation (BPA) is becoming imperative for companies to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. Implementing the right automation strategies can lead to increased productivity, enhanced data accuracy, and better customer experiences. However, automation adoption requires careful planning and execution. This comprehensive guide outlines 12 proven strategies to successfully automate business processes and drive digital transformation.

Identify Functional Areas Of Operations

The first step is to categorize the various functions within your organizational structure. Common functional units include:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Customer Service
  • HR
  • IT
  • Production
  • Procurement

Analyze the workflows within each function. Identify processes that have high transaction volumes, involve repetitive tasks, rely on multiple systems and data sources, or have scope for significant optimization. This exercise will help determine automation priority areas that can deliver maximum impact.

Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) document steps required to complete key processes and activities consistently. Well-defined SOPs are pre-requisites for successful automation.

SOPs should delineate process inputs, outputs, handoffs, exceptions, tools utilized and personnel responsibilities. Refine existing SOPs before automation to remove redundancies and inconsistencies. This forms the blueprint for configuring automation tools with optimal efficiency.

Map And Analyze Processes

Process mapping involves creating visual flowcharts of steps, decision points and stakeholders involved. This helps uncover process bottlenecks, redundant efforts, data gaps and improvement areas.

Tools like Microsoft Visio, LucidChart, SmartDraw and Creately are useful for process mapping. Additionally, undertake data-driven analysis using process mining software to quantify process performance based on metrics like – processing time, cycle time, wait time, service levels, quality ratios and more.

A crucial aspect of process mapping is identifying decision points and exceptions that require human judgment. While the routine aspects can be automated, key decision nodes must involve subject matter experts. Capturing these nuances during mapping provides clarity on orchestrating automation handoffs and human interventions seamlessly.

Choose The Right Automation Tools

When evaluating tools, ensure adequate support and training capabilities are available, either through internal teams or external partners. Factor in costs of system integration, customization, maintenance and tool upgrades during planning. For long-term success, the chosen platforms must have robust product roadmaps aligned to your future needs.

Evaluate leading platforms like UiPath, Blue Prism, Pega, Automation Anywhere, Microsoft Power Automate and Zoho Creator. Assess options based on:

  • Features aligned with use cases
  • Ease of integration with existing IT landscape
  • Scalability to handle increasing process volumes
  • Security and compliance
  • User-friendly interfaces for citizen developers
  • Robust process analytics capabilities

Refer to IT Visionists’s services on Automation and Integration to aid your decision.

Identify Repetitive Tasks

Repetitive, rules-based tasks are ideal starting points for automation. Common examples include:

  • Data entry and processing
  • Report generation
  • Invoice creation
  • File transfers
  • Email responses
  • Customer service chats

According to research by Business Wire, up to 69% of employees’ time is spent on mundane repetitive tasks. Automating these can enable substantial productivity gains.

Prioritize Areas To Automate

While there could be dozens of processes suitable for automation, it is important to prioritize based on:

  • Processes with highest manual effort
  • Pain points impacting employee or customer experience
  • Areas with sub-optimal service levels or quality
  • Quick win scenarios to demonstrate automation benefits
  • Adopt a phased rollout approach for long-term success and ROI.

Prioritize Data Security

End-to-end data security should be central to your automation blueprint, especially when confidential customer information is involved.

  • Implement role-based access controls and multi-factor authentication
  • Encrypt data during capture, processing, transfer and storage
  • Integrate automation tools with secure data warehouses like Azure SQL
  • Perform exhaustive cybersecurity testing pre-implementation
  • Ensure compliance with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA
  • According to Forbes, data protection should be a top priority even after initial automation implementation.

Involve Stakeholders And Employees

A collaborative approach is vital for organization-wide automation adoption.

  • Educate leadership on long-term benefits of automation
  • Train employees on using new tools through workshops
  • Address concerns transparently around potential job impacts
  • Highlight opportunities for upskilling and focus on value-adding tasks
  • Celebrate early automation wins and user contributions
  • Getting team buy-in will smoothen rollout and drive innovation.

Test And Iterate

Unlike traditional software solutions, BPA needs more iterative development.

  • Start with controlled pilots to test workflows before enterprise-wide deployment
  • Observe automation in action to identify enhancement areas
  • Continuously gather user feedback to fix glitches and improve interfaces
  • Refine processes through multiple test cycles before go-live
  • Rigorous testing minimizes disruptions during actual implementation.

Monitor Performance Metrics

Ongoing monitoring provides data-driven insights to further optimize automated processes. Relevant KPIs include:

  • Cycle time reduction
  • Processing cost decrease
  • Volume throughput
  • Error rate decline
  • Increase in capacity to handle higher loads
  • Improved SLA compliance
  • As per research highlighted in ISO Journal, leveraging data to continuously improve processes is key to automation success.

Digital Transformation

BPA is a core element of digital transformation – the integration of digital technologies across functions to modernize operations, engage customers, and compete effectively.

Automation of document-intensive processes using AI/ML, adoption of cloud-based automation platforms, and leveraging automation to enhance customer experience are key focus areas.

According to McKinsey, companies that embrace digital transformation through innovations like automation achieve 3-4x more revenue growth than industry averages.

Foster A Culture Of Innovation

To sustain competitive advantage, companies must continually identify new automation opportunities and implement them rapidly.

  • Encourage employees at all levels to provide ideas for automation
  • Leverage process mining tools to uncover hidden improvement areas
  • Dedicate resources to proof-of-concept testing for promising use cases
  • Ensure transparency and recognition for innovation contributors
  • Netflix, Tesla, Amazon and other disruptive companies that embed innovation into corporate culture through automation will thrive in future.

Improve Your Business Process Automation With IT Visionists

To recap, modernizing business operations through intelligent process automation calls for meticulous planning and phased execution. Companies must review processes end-to-end, implement right-sized tools, prioritize high-impact areas, and invest in continuous improvement. Leveraging automation strategically, while ensuring security and employee buy-in, will chart the path for success. Partnering with trusted advisors like IT Visionists can further accelerate your automation journey in line with business objectives. The time to lay the groundwork is now – before competitors disrupt your industry.