03 Aug Business Process Automation (BPA) – A Step by Step Guide
In our previous article we discussed the importance and benefits of Business Process Automation (BPA) and gave some examples of where it can be applied. In this piece, we discuss how to start applying BPA in your business. It may seem that applying this technology can be difficult and expensive, but the truth is it has never been easier!
Read on to get a step-by-step guide on applying BPA in your business.
Identify repetition or routine
Firstly, it’s important to get a lay of the land, that is, to see opportunities where BPA can be applied. These areas will include processes and tasks that are repetitive and concrete. Where there are explicit rules for processing inputs (e.g types of data) into outputs, based on a defined process or workflow.
Map out or create your business processes
If you have not mapped out your processes in detail just yet, it’s important to do so in the context of BPA. This is because if there are omissions in the data or instructions that a BPA programme needs to complete a task, it will not be able to carry out those steps.
Ensure that all steps in your processes are documented by taking the time to map them out, perhaps by using a flowchart. New processes that you want to deploy can also be developed, but they will need the same amount of thorough planning to ensure that they function well.
When laying out the processes, variables must also be taken into account. For instance, if an invoice lands into the hands of the automated system for processing, but is of a particularly high amount, would you want to have it confirmed by a person?
Automation tools and triggers
Finding a programme you like and feel comfortable with using to start this process, is the key to success. There is a plethora of options to choose from, ranging from free-to-use, to paid subscription. If you’re a Microsoft 365 user, you may already have access to their Power Automate tool with your licences.
The trigger for each of the automated procedures is what you should search for next. The automation programme will need defined triggers to initiate and carry out workflows to their completion. For example, the system may be linked to an email address for processing invoices, that triggers the system when an invoice arrives, setting the cue for the invoice to be checked, verified, and processed.
Automate data sharing
Because they are so linear, data exchange tasks are excellent candidates for automation. The collecting and distribution of data can be automated, making it one of the simplest processes to start with. You might have them automatically gathered, entered into an email template, and sent to a mailing list each month; for instance, if you collect the Google analytics data for your website each month and share it with specific individuals, an automation tool can do this for you.
Streamlining communication and task management
Having an automated system in place for understanding what duties you have to perform and receiving feedback on these activities is quite paramount in our modern age. In particular, where there are defined compliance goals, a BPA tool can scan for defined criterion in work documents and systems to ensure the compliance criteria is being met. If it isn’t, the automation tool could notify the person responsible for meeting it or a manager to correct the situation.
Making document sharing easier and faster
To try and distribute documents to everyone who needs them can be inconvenient. Nonetheless, this is another operation that is simple to automate. Anyone who requires documents can sync them to their computer from the cloud by using a software like OneDrive to save all of the files onto a cloud file system. As everything is backed up to the OneDrive servers, there is no need to waste time emailing files to individuals, attempting to exchange files one at a time, or even risk losing work.
Potential Client Correspondence
It’s beneficial to have a contact page on your website where potential customers can inquire about or try to sign up for your business, but handling all of the information yourself can take a lot of time. It’s also possible to automate this. All correspondence you receive can be answered immediately, adding all of the information provided to wherever you save all of the customer contact details.
Tools For Business Process Automations
Business process automation is baked into some platforms such as Microsoft 365, which not only automates some processes by default, but it also has a dedicated Power Automate tool for crafting your own automations across your MS 365 infrastructure.
Aside from this, there are dedicated BPA tools on the market that you can use. If you have internal software development capabilities, this can be a particularly useful way to create bespoke and sophisticated automations in your business. You can rely on a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to help you to automate your processes.
We hope this article has been useful for getting started with your process automation journey. Remember, as businesses increasingly use AI to empower their efficiency and productivity, it will become ever-more important to keep up and ideally, get ahead of the curb. With BPA, you can drive profitable efficiency that gives you an invaluable competitive edge.
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