Business process automation, also known as business automation or digital transformation, refers to the use of technologies and software to reduce or enhance human effort within a specific business process. A business process is a sequence of steps intended to produce a specific outcome. The primary goal of business process automation is to streamline each step to help save time, reduce errors, and produce consistent outcomes.
“To Be, or Not to Be, That Is the Question”
Increasingly, businesses are turning to process automation to drive competitiveness and profitability. Digital transformation, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies, can enhance the scope and scalability of business process automation to be almost limitless. If questions about automation are popping up at your business, soon it may no longer be a question of “to automate, or not to automate” but, rather, where else can automation be applied?
Reasons to Consider Automating Business Processes
One of the challenges many organizations face today is how to retain job and process knowledge in a world where the average employee tenure continues to decline. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study in September 2022 that shows the average employee tenure has decreased by more than 9% when looking across all age categories between 2012 and 2022. Further, among younger age groups, that number has decreased by as much as 12.5%.
Median Years of Tenure
|Age||January 2012||January 2022||% Change|
|25 years and over||5.4||4.9||-9.26%|
|25 to 34 years||3.2||2.8||-12.50%|
|35 to 44 years||5.3||4.7||-11.32%|
|45 to 54 years||7.8||6.9||-11.54%|
|55 to 64 years||10.3||9.8||-4.85%|
|65 years and over||10.3||9.9||-3.88%|
What the data highlights is a growing need for organizations to answer this question: “How are we addressing this while maintaining productivity and preventing mind share loss?” It can be a challenging question to answer. Sure, you can mandate that every process is documented to the nth degree, but one assumption you may be making is that your team has the time to complete adequate documentation.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, you may hear the cliché, “You must do more with less!” In theory that’s a great concept, but in practice that’s not always easy. So, how can organizations put up guardrails to help lessen disruption when an employee leaves?
One way to help reduce the impact of mind share loss is to assess if business process automation can replicate the steps the employee did as part of their job. AI can perform human tasks like recognizing file types, synthesizing data, identifying patterns, and even making decisions—making it useful in handling repetitive tasks.
Other examples of processes that can be automated show up in many business areas, including operations, supply chain and logistics, human resources, sales and marketing, customer service, and business analytics. In general, tasks with the characteristics shown below may be well suited for automation:
- High volume
- Time sensitive
- Involve manual data entry, unstructured data, multiple people, or compliance
- Require audit trails
Examples of business process automation include:
- Document routing
- Invoice processing
- Transaction monitoring
- Employee onboarding
- Data entry
- Data deletion
- Sending templated emails
- Capturing form and email data
Potential Benefits of Business Process Automation
Time Savings – Business process automation can help employees create efficiencies and save time. By using technology to complete recurring, rule-based tasks, employees can free up time to work on higher-value activities.
Higher Productivity – By automating business processes, you can help increase productivity and save resources. For example, instead of manually mail merging and emailing forms to vendors and then manually uploading and updating the information, you can use Microsoft SharePoint and Power Automate to send personalized emails to your vendors, process the responses, and update Dataverse with response data. Automating time-consuming tasks like this can help speed up processes and reduce errors.
Greater Efficiency – With a secure and scalable platform like Microsoft Dataverse, you can streamline processes and use all your available data—from every source that’s connected. This can include accounting, payroll, human resources, sales and marketing, service and business management databases, and more. Having this automation in place can help you avoid operational bottlenecks and redundancies and complete workflows faster. Automation technologies can help your organization gain efficiencies and meet an ever-changing business landscape.
Standardized Processes – Business process automation can help you standardize processes, especially when multiple employees are involved. Automation always follows the same steps to complete tasks and adheres to the rules you create—so critical steps are not missed and consistent outcomes can be achieved.
Reduced Errors – Humans sometimes make mistakes. To reduce the risk of errors, incorporating automation can help significantly decrease the likelihood of incorrect updates and avoid redundancies at the same time.
Auditable Records – Automation technologies can record each step of the process in an audit trail. An audit trail is important because it can help verify and validate financial, software, and business transactions and heighten data security.
Streamlined Compliance – By configuring security controls such as role-based access, automation tools can help companies meet data protection requirements. In addition, automatic data deletion can help organizations follow data retention policies.
Enhanced Scalability – Manual processes carry greater risk. Mind share loss, employee errors, and resource management can impede scalability. Automated processes are scalable and help reduce risk because the technologies used can perform multiple tasks simultaneously and efficiently while having the capability to handle workload and database growth.
Improved Morale – Administrative burden diminishes employee productivity. When employees are no longer expected to complete monotonous tasks, it’s likely that morale will improve. Imagine telling your sales team they no longer have to log notes into a customer relationship management system. Or, informing your human resources staff there’s a faster, more secure way to distribute annual compensation updates, obtain employee signatures, and process response data. You might just be hailed as employee of the year with news like that.
How to Get Started
With any business process automation project, it’s critical to understand how an existing process works, why it may be a good fit for automation, and how it can be improved. In addition, your team should be mindful that there can be multiple outcomes when considering whether to automate a process.
The first outcome may be that the entire process can be automated and human effort can be greatly reduced. Second, maybe the entire process cannot be automated but a portion of it can. Third, a particular business process isn’t an ideal candidate for automation.
Next, consider what is a win for your organization. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to automate an entire process. However, if you can gain back 5 to 10% of an employee’s time by automating even a fraction of the person’s job responsibilities, that could be a win for the organization. By shifting the responsibility of completing routine tasks from humans to technologies, business process automation can help provide employees with more time to focus on higher-value activities.
Lastly, not every process should be automated. A holistic view is required because automating an inefficient manual process just gets you the same results faster. A best practice is to start small and focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. Assess “quick wins” for your organizations and build the business case for automating processes.
How FORVIS Can Help
If you’re ready to explore how your organization may benefit from business process automation, the Insights & Automation team at FORVIS can assist with:
- Advisory engagements
- Power Platform assessments
- Power Platform automations
- App-to-app integrations
- Outsourced citizen developer services
We have certified experience with Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Solver, Dataverse, and Azure. We are a Microsoft Dynamics Gold Partner and 2022-23 recipient of the Microsoft Inner Circle award, in addition to the Solver Evangelist of the Year award.
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