LUTZ BUSINESS INSIGHTS
business process automation: 6 things you need to know
Steve schaffeR, operations manager
Company leaders are always on the lookout for ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. One of the most common ways to achieve both objectives is to leverage business process automation. Let us discuss what this term means and six things you need to know before implementing it for your own business.
What is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation has been defined as the “process of managing information, data and processes to reduce costs, resources and investment. [Business process automation] increases productivity by automating key business processes through computing technology.” In simple terms, business process automation is all about automating repetitive, consistent tasks and improving operational efficiency.
6 Things You Need to Know
Prior to implementing automation tools, it is important to understand six key elements of business process automation.
1. Map out your current workflows.
The first step in business process automation is an end-to-end review of existing business processes. Start by mapping out and clearly defining each stage of the workflow. Once the workflow is laid out, determine the stages that require human intervention and which ones have consistent, repeatable tasks.
2. Start small.
After identifying the stages of the workflow that have consistent, repeatable tasks select a single step or sequence and focus on transforming that step — and only that step — into an automated process. There are several benefits to starting small including easier testing of the automation before moving onto other sequences and perhaps more importantly, reducing the drastic change for staff that comes with altering a business process. Starting small also makes it easier to communicate a clear and tangible goal i.e., “we want to go paperless and automate file transfers.”
3. Select an RPA or BPA platform.
Determine whether a robotic process automation (RPA) or business platform automation (BPA) is more suitable for the task at hand. In some cases, you will be able to build your own automation tool; in others, you will need to work with a third party. There are several examples of platform automations that you can research as you make your own decision. Of course, there are also many platforms and automated solutions from which to choose.
4. Run a cost-benefit analysis.
Next, review whether adding an automation tool is saving enough time or money that it’s worth the investment. As a simple example, imagine that you run an e-commerce business and you have deployed an automated email sequence to customers that place an order with your store. If you subscribe to an email marketing platform, are you seeing enough return business and/or cross-sells to justify the monthly fee?
5. Take an incremental approach to automation.
It is much better to tackle one step or sequence at a time rather than try to take on the entire process at the beginning. As mentioned previously, this gradual approach will help your team with the transition over to a more automated operation. Moreover, it is generally a better approach in terms of budgeting to slowly transform your processes instead of instantly replacing them.
6. Communicate and train.
Before, during, and after the establishment of the new automated process, it is vital to keep the lines of communication open with your team. For instance, clearly explain the plan for automation to employees ahead of time and how their job duties and workflow might adjust as a result. Provide a timeline for automation deployment to keep everyone on the same page.
At the same time, it is important to invest in ongoing training for your staff. This is especially vital if the automated process requires regular human intervention to set it in motion or audit it. A very simple example would be a spreadsheet that is preprogrammed with all the correct formulas but still requires a human to input the relevant data for calculation.
In summary, business process automation has many moving parts and needs to be deployed with care. However, it can yield several tangible benefits to a business in terms of cost reduction and gains in productivity. If you have any questions about business process automation and how your company could leverage it for increased profitability, please contact us today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
STEVE SCHAFFER + OPERATIONS MANAGER
Steve Schaffer is an Operations Manager at Lutz with over eight years of relevant experience. He is responsible for assisting the Chief Operating Officer in leading internal operations, gathering and analyzing firm data, as well as consulting with management on internal business plans.
AREAS OF FOCUS
- Internal Operations
- Data Analysis
- Financial Reporting
- Process and Technology Efficiency Consulting
- Internal Business Plans
- BA in History, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
- MBA, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
- NextGen Lincoln, Board Member
- Lincoln Leadership Fellow 2020-21
- Nebraska Make-A-Wish, Young Leaders Council
- Lincoln Young Professionals Group, Member
- Ronald McDonald House, Volunteer
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