What Is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

What would you do with an extra 2.5 hours in your workday? For most people, the question is pointless. “Finding more time” is a nearly impossible feat.

But there is a strategy top business leaders are using to turn back the clock to start gaining back hours of lost productivity. Enter: business process automation (BPA).

Researchers conducted a study on 2,000 workers. The study revealed that on average, workers spend more than 142 minutes each day on administrative tasks, paperwork, and data entry.

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We’re so busy with busy work, that 90% of us don’t have time in our day to focus on creative business ideas. And it costs organizations dearly. Busywork piles up into losses of over $534 billion per year.

Business process automation enables us to shift the responsibility for these productivity-draining tasks over to technology. Instead of spending 15 weeks each year on mundane tasks, we can use software to do them for us.

Not only are organizations simply boosting productivity, but with intelligent process automation and hyperautomation, businesses are able to complete faster and better than ever.

an illustration of a screen

What is business process automation?

Business process automation (BPA) is a method for organizations to simplify their core processes using a platform. With BPA and intelligent automation, organizations can reduce their reliance on human intervention by automating a range of repetitive tasks.

As organizations get bigger, there are more people, teams, departments, and tasks to coordinate. Relying on people and checking on them later leads to issues and magnifies small mistakes. This can cause significant problems.

Compared to a simple task management platform, BPA helps you create, control, and manage complex workflows at scale. The strategy centralizes all of the processes that churn through your organization into one portal.

Here are some commonly automated tasks within a workflow:

  • Content marketing approvals
  • Onboarding new employees or offboarding departing staff
  • Reviewing time-off requests
  • Preparing sales contracts
  • Auto-populating agreements and other documents with information from your CRM
  • Filling out spreadsheets
  • Preparing reports
  • Submitting a query to an online database
  • Validating data
  • Assigning tasks

McKinsey says automation can help unleash the untapped potential of your best team members in digital transformation. By freeing them from manual tasks, they can focus on more revenue-generating activities that drive company growth. The researchers at McKinsey predict that automating tasks can increase productivity by 20-25% in your organization.

How? In general, business process automation helps organizations:

  • Accelerate everyday operations
  • Make informed decisions faster
  • Eliminate process bottlenecks
  • Reduce regulatory risks
  • Eliminate manual/paper-based processes

Gartner predicts that automation will fully automate 69% of routine work by 2024, considering its numerous advantages.

How does business process automation work?

BPA enables multiple apps to “speak” to each other. For example, a marketing team member can stitch together a few apps to streamline portions of a workflow. This could include a new email address to the CRM and a separate email marketing platform.

An effective BPA strategy includes more than a handful of automations performing tasks scattered across your organization. It’s a company-wide initiative that extends the benefits of automation into every role and team. Almost half of workers are too busy with administrative tasks to do their actual jobs. This highlights the importance of giving every employee the ability to use automation.

To manage a large-scale BPA program, organizations turn to business process management.

an illustration depicting different departments in an organization

BPA vs. BPM: What’s the difference?

To better understand business process automation, let’s look at its not-so-distant cousin: business process management (BPM). BPA is digitizing and automating tasks, while BPM is managing and monitoring workflows from start to finish.

From a software standpoint, BPA performs the automation. A BPA platform offers the comprehensive architecture needed for an organization to manage every process it automates. It helps route tasks through various individuals, departments, and software tools. BPA platforms also give you the ability to cohesively monitor their progress from a central hub.

A process automation platform should be low-code, meaning workers of all proficiency levels can wield it. By using simple drag-and-drop apps, sales managers and customer service representatives can collaborate on workflow design. These “citizen developers” can easily pull advanced technologies like intelligent document processing (IDP) or artificial intelligence into the fold to extend automation beyond basic data pulls. Also known as digital process automation, these AI-infused platforms:

  • Connect legacy systems to third-party software to enhance process automation
  • Leverage third-party AI integrations machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA) to perform more complex jobs like reading and extracting information from documents
  • Make sense of unstructured data
  • Learn and improve from experience
  • Improve the customer and employee experience
  • Reduce operational costs and drive revenue

a graph depicting business process automation platforms

Digital process automation injects AI into all of your systems to minimize manual data handling. Using faster software can speed up decision-making and information processing in your organization.

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Business process automation in action

Sales reps traditionally spend a significant portion of their workday on administrative tasks—from compiling reports to creating lists to generating contracts. Let’s look at one common scenario, contract generation for sales teams, to see how BPA can free up valuable time.

Before Automation:

  • Manual information hand-off
  • Extensive data entry
  • Maneuvering between multiple apps
  • Re-emailing managers to check in on approvals

After Automation:

  • Automatic distribution of information to the right parties
  • The contract is routed to an approving manager
  • Autonomous data entry

Contact generation without automation:

  • Sales reps manually prepare the final agreement once it’s time to close a new account. This multi-step process requires logging into their CRM, copying client data, and pasting it into a preformatted document.
  • Sales reps contact the accounting department to share the contract terms. Someone else then enters the pertinent data into a few different fields.
  • Sales reps send the contract to their manager for approval. Then they go to the accounting department to create customer accounts for payment processing.
  • Finally, the sales team shuttles the information to the customer service team. The support team had to spend a lot of time and effort due to an incorrect account number. They had to search for the caller’s account.

Contract generation with automation:

  • With the click of a button, a sales rep pulls data into a pre-formatted template to create a contract.
  • This triggers a sequence of tasks that run in parallel. For example, a new profile is automatically created in both the accounting and customer service software.
  • The contract is automatically sent up the approval ladder. Managers can approve the contract within the body of an email without leaving their email client.
  • The system adds a step to alert the account manager when the customer contacts customer service. They can step in and handle any concerns with white-glove treatment.

Using BPA, organizations don’t just reduce the number of manual steps required to get things done. They also integrate various disparate systems to form one well-connected and highly efficient machine.

How to get started with business process automation

Embracing business process automation can be daunting. We recommend three steps: start small with one process, define your business logic, and choose an automation platform that can meet the needs of the business not only as it is but as it grows.

Chat with one of our intelligent automation experts to start your automation journey today.


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