Business process automation was gradually building momentum until, in 2020, the massive disruption caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and everything that followed forced speedier adoption. Companies rapidly realised that in order to cope with these changed circumstances, they would need to digitalise rapidly.
Digitalised business processes can be relatively easily automated, helping managers ensure work gets done to the appropriate quality when employees are out of sight, at home. Business process automation essentially enforces standard processes that move through the correct steps, thus eliminating many of the slip ups that delay or derail them.
Because they are entirely systems-based, automated processes are much more transparent, so managers can also get a better overall picture of the business unit or the company as a whole.
But there’s much more to business process automation than this—its multiple benefits do not depend on work style.
When you tot them up, the benefits of automating repetitive business processes are significant:
- Save employees’ time, freeing them up to do more valuable work and so enhancing productivity. Office workers are estimated to spend around 2.12 hours a day on administrative tasks, including processing documents—$5 trillion in lost productivity each year. Another study found that businesses lost 20%-30% of annual revenue due to inefficient processes. An added bonus: repetitive work is demotivating, so employee engagement is likely to increase.
- Improve the efficiency of processes, reducing the amount of time and money needed to correct mistakes. Automation also standardises processes so that they are consistent and no steps are left out.
- Achieve greater accuracy. Manual processes are an invitation to error. Minimising errors makes the process run much more smoothly.
- Improve governance. In the wake of Zondo, surely no South African needs persuading that governance is vital. An automated business process can be designed to tick all the governance and compliance checkboxes; it provides a credible audit trail that can be retrieved easily.
- Improve security by building security procedures can be built into the automated process.
- Enhance the customer experience via easy-to-use automated processes that work. Customer queries are handled more easily too because all the information is centralised and immediately accessible.
- Ensure scalability. Manually issuing an extra 50 invoices is no mean task, but it’s immaterial to an automated system.
Getting automated—it’s all about the platform
One could argue that the case for business process automation pretty much makes itself. For that reason, we are seeing the emergence of hyperautomation, defined by Gartner as a disciplined process for identifying, assessing and automating as many business and IT processes as possible. “Hyperautomation involves the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools or platforms”, which include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, business process management and low-code/ no-code tools, to name a few.
But business process automation does not happen in a vacuum—each process exists in the context of the overall business process architecture and overlapping software applications. Thus, while Gartner nominates hyperautomation as one of the top technology trends for 2022, it predicts that by 2024, diffuse hyperautomation spending will increase the total cost of ownership by a factor of 40, making adaptive governance a differentiating factor in corporate performance.
We believe the answer is an automation platform that sits on top of all the enterprise applications, effectively providing overarching governance for the hyperautomated environment. The platform obviously needs to be designed to enable easy and quick integration with all the systems.
Equally important, the platform needs to be able to integrate easily with cloud service providers like Azure. In this way, the platform can access cloud services like artificial intelligence and machine learning so that the automation becomes self-learning.
Intelligent automation is also suited to event-driven automation, which essentially means that one can move away from the traditional request-based model (Please invoice the following client) to one that is triggered by an event, such as, for example, month-end or the signing of an employment contract. Event-driven automation takes us closer to the ideal of automating the entire business process end to end.
An automation platform should ideally be cloud-based as the subscription model is highly advantageous and the solution can be scaled easily.
Business process automation at scale—hyper-automation—can transform a company by making it more efficient and able to do more because its most valuable resource, its people, are freed from performing repetitive tasks. The result: reduced costs and an improved customer experience. A company that has embraced automation intelligently is also better positioned to respond to shifts in customer or market demands.
Need I say more?
- André Cloete, Chief Information Technologies Officer, 4Sight Holdings