What Is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

Larissa Lewis August 31, 2020 Automation Business Process


A recent survey of workers revealed that employees waste approximately one-third of their annual work days entrenched in administrative tasks. ‘Busywork’  isn’t just a productivity time drain, but it quickly piles up into significant revenue losses to the tune of nearly $534 billion per year. How are smart organizations getting out from under these productivity barriers?  With business process automation – or for short, BPA.

What Is Business Process Automation?

Business process automation (BPA) is a technology that helps organizations make more time for the work that matters. BPA automates repetitive, day-to-day activities, shifting the responsibility for completing the task from human to machine.

BPA can help your team: 

  • Reduce the time it takes to run everyday operations
  • Make informed decisions more quickly
  • Eliminate process bottlenecks that drain time and revenue
  • Reduce regulatory risks 
  • Accelerate your overall digital transformation by moving away from paper-based processes

From sales to human resources, process automation can have a dramatic impact on every aspect of your organization. Imagine a human resource representative who spends at least an hour each day manually calculating employee leave requests and preparing paperwork for the approving manager. Additional time is spent re-emailing managers who had not yet replied to yesterday’s requests. Finally, they manually update a spreadsheet with the progress of each submission, reminding themselves who to follow up with again the next day. 

Automation can help your team streamline activities like these into more efficient, fast-moving workflows. Instead of trudging through outdated and archaic processes, you can automate repetitive tasks to banish busywork for good. 

Tasks best suited for automation – and not

We pack our lists with tasks each day, constantly re-prioritizing to make sure we get the most done. But the sad facts are in: 9 out of 10 people fail to finish their daily to-dos

Business process automation can help your team dig out from the crushing weight of a never-ending to-do list. By automating many of the repetitive tasks, you can free up more time per day for core revenue-generating activities like business development, lead generation, and relationship nurturing. Look out for these common time-draining activities: 

  • Frequent and repetitive tasks
  • Copying and pasting data between systems
  • Manual forms or applications
  • Compiling reports
  • Scheduling of sales outreach
  • Coordinating approvals

While automation is a powerful tool, there are some processes that just don’t fit the bill. For example, any updates to your customer experience should create a faster, more user-friendly process. An automated phone tree might sound appealing at face value, but if it prolongs a customer interaction into a long, convoluted and frustrating process, it might save your team time, but it will ultimately lead to a loss in customers.

Frequency is another important factor. Some processes may be time-consuming, but if they’re not performed frequently, they’re not a great candidate for automation. You want to select processes that will save significant time throughout every workday as opposed to one that’s only performed once a quarter. 

Get Started with Business Process Automation Today

How to get started with business process automation

Now that you’re armed with a brainstorming list of excellent automation ideas, it’s time to take at how you can best execute them. Firstly, BPA cannot be a conversation locked behind boardroom doors. Introducing a new technology requires a choreography of every stakeholder within the organization—including the very employees responsible for completing the task. 

What tasks take the most amount of time? Which are productivity bottlenecks that prevent employees from moving onto more critical job functions? To find out, you’ll have to step outside the C-Suite. 

Schedule interviews with fellow team members to identify the tasks most ripe for automation. In some instances, it may help to quietly observe them as they move throughout their day. Pay special attention to tasks that meet the following criteria: 

  • Level of data handling: Does the task require the manipulation or handling of data? For example, an employee spends an hour simply pulling numbers and data from an internal portal onto a reporting spreadsheet. 
  • Degree of repeatability: Is it a task that requires the same exact steps every time? Tasks with easy-to-follow rules are ideal to transition over to automation. 
  • User experience: Is it a task where you can create a more powerful user experience by shifting responsibility over to the customer? For example, an online portal where a customer can fill out their own application creates a more convenient and accessible experience, while also saving time for your team. 
  • Margin of error: Did you know that 90% of spreadsheets contain errors? Some tasks have less flexibility for error. For example, having to retype a customer’s social security number into different databases is critical to maintaining accurate records—it must be correct 100% of the time. 

You don’t want your automation plan to wind up amongst the cobwebs of forgotten business initiatives. Collaborating with your entire team not only helps build a comprehensive automation wishlist, but increases the likelihood that your team will back the new strategy. By increasing the feeling of project ownership, your team is more likely to embrace new process models. 

What’s an example of a collaborative automated business process?

Business process automation is a powerful way to implement a business process improvement strategy & encourage collaboration across every department within your organization. Tasks should not live in their own silo, but easily connect between all of your systems to provide the best experience for your customer.

Here’s an example of how you can automate the responsibilities of sales, accounting, and customer service when it comes to onboarding a new client: 

Sales teams spend a significant portion of their day on administrative tasks. Compiling reports, creating lead lists, and assembling contracts contributes to a daily loss of nearly six out of nine working hours. One aspect of the sales cycle ripe for automation is contract generation. 

  1. Without automation, a sales team must manually prepare the final agreement once it’s time to close a new account. First, they must log in to their CRM to copy and paste client data into a pre-formatted Word document. 
  2. Next, they call the accounting department for the agreed upon payment terms. They then type this data into a few different fields in the contract. 
  3. They then print the contract and walk down the hall to the manager’s office for final approval. 
  4. They then must email the customer’s final information over to the accounting department who can then set up the necessary accounts into the separate accounting software. 
  5. Finally, the information is sent to the customer service team so they’re aware of the new client just in case they phone in with troubleshooting issues. Unfortunately, they mistype the account number so the sales manager is not even informed of a serious issue down the road. 

An automated series of tasks not only cuts down on the overall number of manual steps, but using BPA, you can connect all of your disparate systems to ‘speak to one another.’ 

  1. At the click of a button, you can quickly create contracts by pulling in data onto a pre-formatted template. 
  2. This triggers a sequence of tasks that run parallel to one another. A new profile is automatically created in both the accounting and customer service software. The system automatically adds a step that will alert the account manager if there are ever any customer service calls from that company. 
  3. The contract is automatically distributed throughout the approval ladder. Managers have the opportunity to click ‘Approve’ within the body of the email without even having to leave their email client. 

While an onlooker may clock the manual process at thirty or sixty minutes, this is time a sales person could have spent closing another hot lead. Using automation, you can free up the time of your best sales people so they can use their talents to do what they do best—close sales.

Business process automation is a powerful way to accelerate your team’s productivity. If the processes within your business are fraught with paperwork, unnecessary emails, tedious spreadsheets, and the manual collection of physical approvals, employees have little time to spend on their job functions that truly impact the growth and success of your organization. BPA reversesthe pattern by cutting down on manual tasks and boosting the meager 25% of time employees currently spend on high-value activities. 

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