Over the past decade, business process automation has moved from nice-to-have to essential. Driven by increased demand and a fiercely competitive commercial landscape, automation is a must for organisations seeking sustainable long-term progress and growth.
Those sceptical of automating tried-and-tested manual processes need only look at the benefits of flexible automation to realise its value. From improved customer retention to increased cost savings, efficiency, and ROI; replacing labour-intensive processes with automated processes is a transformative step for any enterprise.
100% of recent Intact iQ customers report that automation and process improvements have eliminated a lot of time and effort previously wasted on their old system.
To further convince you of the merits of automation, this post will explore the topic in depth, offering insights and guidance on why it’s the right next step for your business.
In this guide, you’ll learn…
- What is Business Process Automation and Why Do You Need It?
- Prioritising Automation: Where Can Automation Make an Immediate Impact?
- What Makes Business Process Automation Flexible?
- Business Process Automation: Where to Start?
Business process automation is the adoption of digital software to streamline processes and tasks, with the ultimate goal being to remove the need for human intervention. It’s a core part of digital transformation, requiring businesses to leverage technologies that reduce manual actions.
For SMEs, embracing process automation can be a big step. Investing in and onboarding new technologies can present huge challenges, while utilising the software to its fullest can also prove a complex and resource-intensive process.
But with that said, automation is now considered a critical requirement to guarantee long-term commercial health and business growth. Automating processes releases you from the labour of manual input and data entry, so your time is better used acting on the information your system is providing, driving innovation and maximising revenue and efficiency.
Business process automation relies on scalable and efficient software infrastructure. SMEs seeking an affordable, easy-to-onboard solution tend to end up working with disparate systems that don’t work in sync with their main back-office system Fully integrated systems, incorporating APIs and cloud environments, are central to maximising the potential of process automation.
Automating business processes takes consideration, time and planning but there are some quick wins you can instantly implement with the right business software in place. For instance, the sending of customer invoices immediately upon an order being made or the delivery of scheduled reports so you don’t have to go in search of them.
While automation can deliver performance enhancements in all areas of your operation, its impact can be more keenly felt on a handful of key operational fronts. Let’s take a look at some examples of the types of processes and workflows that suit process automation:
- Financials, expense tracking and accounting – from expenses tracking to day-to-day accounting, including invoicing; automation can be used to streamline all manner of accountancy tasks, speeding up the process while guaranteeing maximum accuracy and efficiency. No more complicated spreadsheets and documents, just a streamlined system that does much of the hard work for you.
- Data entry, administrative duties, and other repetitive tasks – day-to-day admin and data entry processes account for much of the time, money and resources wasted by many businesses. Automation is a great way to free up time and improve the accuracy of data entry and other essential daily tasks. Rule-based automation can dramatically reduce the need for manual input, for maximum accuracy and efficiency. This also enables you to ensure your core business rules are being adhered to 24/7 and if new business processes arise, you have the control to enforce these via your system on an ongoing basis.
- Compliance and regulatory tasks – complying with industry-specific regulations can be a labour- and resource-intensive process. With automation, you can remove some of the manual tasks, paperwork and bureaucracy from this compliance-related admin, freeing your team for more important tasks. For instance, automate the sending of important regulatory documentation with the sending out of an invoice. Or if looking to retain tighter control of your perishable or date-sensitive inventory, you can automate a host of processes through serial and batch tracking functionality.
- Reporting and Real–Time Insights – Why spend time running reports when you can have your key performance measurements and tailored reports automatically sent to your team’s phone, email account, printer or on-screen? Or, an even easier way to keep an eye on your KPIs is to set up your on-screen control desk or dashboard to automatically show individual users’/department/role KPIs upon opening their system. Updated in real-time, this is an unquestionable time saver.
These are just a few examples of the types of tasks that automation can help to streamline, manage, and simplify. Generally, the more repetitive and high volume the task, the greater the positive impact automation can have on efficacy. But even for unique, human-driven work that requires input and expertise, automation presents a powerful tool that can assist day-to-day task management and delivery.
When it comes to business process automation, your central business system is key here. The majority of modern business management software or ERP systems include many automated capabilities as standard. But long-term success in business process automation requires flexibility. Your business software must be scalable, customisable and future-ready to take advantage of new technologies as they arise. This means you can adapt to changing circumstances or new ways of working as opposed to your business adapting to it.
So, what should you look for in a business management system that enables such flexible process automation? And which attributes demonstrate its flexibility?
- Modular – A baseline fully integrated business management or ERP system is a must for standardising workflows and automating processes across your organisation. But alongside your standard functionality, additional modules or add-ons such as, such as Nexus with Intact iQ, add greater value by allowing you to really take the noise out of your business. It works on the premise that one action will automatically derive a subsequent action, as set by your desired business rules. Better still, you have the autonomy and control to implement and improve them on a continuous basis. So, consider how well your platform can be configured to your requirements. If it’s too rigid or you have to change your business to suit your software, then it’s time to look for an alternative solution.
- Scalable – how well does the software support scale-ups? Can you add functionality in the future? And what development pipeline has the vendor put in place to ensure its product remains effective and scalable in the future?
- Composable – disruption is commonplace in the modern business landscape, so automated processes need to be able to adapt to changing market trends and conditions on the fly. For this, composability is key. For a business to be composable, its processes need to be resilient, agile, and adaptable. This requires a modular and customisable approach to automation, with teams able to reconfigure the software to meet changing goals and demands.
New to business process automation? Here are a few pointers to help get you started:
- Evaluate current processes to determine where automation can be feasibly introduced. Remember, not all tasks can be automated and require human input, so prioritise your goals and investment carefully.
- Start with processes that are set up for automation, including high-volume, repetitive processes or workflows that are a drain on time and resources. This ensures a greater degree of success.
- Always keep an end goal in mind when introducing and onboarding automation software. For example, “we aim to increase efficiency of ‘X’ by ‘X’%”. That way, you’ll know the type of setup required and be able to leverage existing capabilities to drive success rate.
- Set a firm budget for technology adoption and project management, identifying the budgetary constraints of the rollout and the results you expect for the investment.
- Assess the impact of automation. How will your teams and operational infrastructure be affected by changing processes? And how can you mitigate any negative after-effects? Automation may be viewed with scepticism by some personnel, so a transparent approach can help manage people’s expectations.
Have you enjoyed this guide to the importance of flexible business automation? Click here to read our guide on six business automation tools that can streamline your business.
At Intact, we see the positive change business process automation can bring to our clients and partners every day. So whatever stage of the journey you’re at, if your enterprise is ready to embrace automation, our experts can help make the transition a success. For more information or to learn more about our products, services and solutions, visit the homepage or get in touch with our team here.