Exploring Business Process Automation (BPA): Definition, Processes, and Benefits

Posted On June 13, 2024

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Process automation uses technology to automate complex business processes. It typically has three functions: automating processes, centralizing information, and reducing the requirement for input from people. It is designed to remove bottlenecks, reduce errors and loss of data, all while increasing transparency, communication across departments, and speed of processing. Process automation uses technology to automate complex business processes. It typically has three functions: automating processes, centralizing information, and reducing the requirement for input from people. It is designed to remove bottlenecks, reduce errors and loss of data, all while increasing transparency, communication across departments, and speed of processing.

Business process automation (BPA) is the use of advanced technology to complete business processes with minimal human intervention. A business process is an activity, or set of activities, used to accomplish a specific organizational goal, such as producing a product, assimilating new employees and bringing on new customers.

A business process typically spans multiple business departments, often beginning with an action. For example, in employee onboarding, the HR system could trigger a set of predefined workflow steps to send out a welcome email, configure security credentials and set up financial details in the compensation system. Automating the workflow steps in the business process typically improves the efficiency and accuracy of each step.

BPA takes advantage of a variety of advanced technology, including automation tools, process intelligence capabilities and cloud platforms. Moreover, BPA capabilities are often incorporated in popular enterprise apps such as enterprise resource planning software, human capital management systems and other tools that enforce industry best practices.


Process automation overview

What’s keeping today’s business leaders up at night? For one thing, it’s the fact that competition is fiercer than ever. Another worry is the lightning speed at which customer and market demands are shifting and evolving. To compete and thrive, businesses need to seize upon every possible edge to not only become more competitive and profitable, but to increase their resilience and agility. That's where process automation comes in.

Increasingly, businesses are turning to process automation as a powerful tool in their fight to drive their competitiveness and profitability. In fact, according to a recent Gartner survey of global industry leaders, 80% of respondents cited automation as one of their core business priorities and tactics for success.


Process automation definition

Process automation is defined as the use of software and technologies to automate business processes and functions in order to accomplish defined organizational goals, such as producing a product, hiring and onboarding an employee, or providing customer service.

Process Automation is a simpler, faster way to enhance business efficiency and agility. In this demo, you'll see how you can build workflows and automate tasks without coding, and get started quickly with pre-built content.


Understanding process automation

Process automation involves substituting manual human effort with technology in carrying out a series of tasks. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of business, where software automates various corporate activities. Starting from simple functions like data entry and expense approvals to more complex, cross-functional tasks, process automation encompasses a wide range of applications. Examples range from automating customer service responses to employing artificial intelligence for candidate screening in recruitment.


Process Automation vs. Business Process Management (BPM)

Business Process Management (BPM) focuses on the holistic management of business operations, including the behavior of people, information, and systems. Process automation, however, is a component of BPM, concentrating specifically on automating individual elements within these processes. While BPM forms a strategic framework for automation, process automation operates within this framework to enhance specific tasks or processes.


Advantages of process automation

Implementing process automation brings numerous benefits, including increased productivity, enhanced agility, improved customer experience, heightened compliance, cost reduction, better staff utilization, and reduced errors.


Use cases and examples of process automation

The applications of process automation are diverse and span various business functions like finance, HR, marketing, and more. Examples include automating tasks in accounting, appointment scheduling, data analysis, document management, and customer service.


Process automation examples

An example of process automation is the use of software to manage and process customer service requests. In this scenario, when a customer submits a request or inquiry through a company’s website or email, an automated system categorizes and routes the request to the appropriate department or service agent. This system might also generate automated responses to common inquiries, schedule callbacks, or update customer information in a CRM system, thus streamlining customer service operations and reducing manual workload.


Process automation types

There are various types of process automation available, which include:


Business Process Automation

Business Process Automation involves the use of technology to execute recurring tasks or processes in a business where manual effort can be replaced. This is done to minimize costs, increase efficiency, and streamline processes. BPA can encompass a wide range of whole workflows within an organization, from basic tasks like data entry to more complex operations like customer onboarding.

Role in organizations:

  • Comprehensive efficiency: Enhances overall operational efficiency by automating end-to-end business processes.
  • Cost reduction: Reduces operational costs by minimizing manual intervention and speeding up process execution.
  • Error reduction and consistency: Improves accuracy and consistency across business processes, reducing the risk of human error.
  • Strategic resource allocation: Frees up employee time from routine tasks, allowing staff to focus on more strategic and value-added activities.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Facilitates scaling of business operations and offers the flexibility to adapt processes as business needs evolve.


Process Workflow Automation

Process Workflow automation involves the use of rule-based logic to manage and execute the flow of tasks and data between different tools and systems in an organization. This focuses on the automation of individual tasks and sequences within broader business processes, often involving document management, approvals, and notifications.

Role in organizations:

  • Streamlined operations: Simplifies complex workflows, ensuring tasks are completed in the correct order and timeframe.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Facilitates better collaboration and communication within teams by clearly defining roles and responsibilities in workflows.
  • Visibility and tracking: Provides transparency into the workflow processes, enabling better tracking and management of tasks and responsibilities.
  • Reduced delays and bottlenecks: Automates the hand-off between different stages and team members, reducing delays and bottlenecks.
  • Customization and control: Allows for the customization of workflows to fit specific business needs and provides greater control over task execution.


Business process automation (BPA) and digital transformation

Business Process Automation was initially a single aspect of the greater overarching area of business process management (BPM). BPA was focused on improving back-end productivity by taking over time-consuming and repetitive tasks. Today, however, BPA is no longer simply a component of BPM, it has become the driving force behind it and a central cornerstone of any digital transformation journey. Digital transformation – powered by technologies such as AI and machine learning – means that the scope and scalability of modern business process automation is almost boundless. Modern BPA solutions can now be integrated into both back-end and front-end applications, streamlining processes from supply chains to HR, finance, customer service, and beyond.


Business process automation examples

Ad-hoc or one-time activities or tasks are not the ideal candidates for process automation. This technology is more suitable for repetitive tasks with formalized steps, sequences, and rules. Automation ensures the business process is done right every time – involving the right people, in the right order, considering the right information, and within a specified timeframe. A planned and modeled business process is the first step to improving efficiency by reducing redundant tasks and activities. While process automation priorities will vary from business to business, below are some areas that often benefit from process automation. 

  • Recruitment: Process automation tools can help streamline various recruitment activities including the ability to upload résumés and references quickly and efficiently, and to rapidly process assessments, rejections, or follow-ups so you can find and scoop up the best talent.
  • Employee onboarding and training: From records processing to compliance and training, process automation can help simplify recruitment and onboarding tasks. This leads to quicker development of an engaged and productive employee.
  • Payment and payroll processes: The past few years have seen a big rise in the number of gig workers and remote employees working in multiple regions. Automated processes can help businesses streamline both regular payroll activities, as well as payment of contractors and external vendors.
  • Workforce scheduling: It is a struggle to manage employee scheduling – especially across multiple locations and departments. The ability to sync time off requests and business trips across departments means that absences get covered, and HR and payroll teams can better automate admin tasks.
  • Simpler and more consistent invoicing: While invoice generation should ideally be the remit of accounting departments, this is not always the case. Automated invoicing processes can help to alleviate errors, accounting mix-ups, and even legal risk.
  • Customer experience: In a competitive climate, it’s easier than ever for your customers to bounce away if they experience hassles and delays. Process automation helps to create a more personalized customer experience and move customers quickly and accurately through process flows.
  • Compliance and regulatory tasks: It is essential that a variety of business processes adhere to compliance and regulatory requirements. Process automation solutions log files and leave a visible data trail, making it easier to monitor and review these activities in real time. For example, before maintenance crews are given access to power plant workings, managers can confirm that all potentially dangerous systems have successfully completed and logged the necessary shut-down safety protocols


Core business process automation technologies

Robotic process automation and workflow automation solutions are at the center of any digital automation transformation.


Robotic process automation (RPA)

RPA doesn’t refer to physical robots like you might see on an assembly line. Rather, RPA tools and bots are integrated into business systems for the purpose of automating and simplifying various tasks and interactions. RPA is a primary component of BPA. It describes software and bots that are programmed to emulate and copy human actions to complete repetitive business tasks. RPA software robots can navigate systems, read and enter data, and perform a wide range of rule-based tasks.


Process Automation vs. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a subset of process automation that uses bots to perform rule-based tasks. RPA is different from AI as it relies on structured inputs and predefined logic, whereas AI processes unstructured inputs and develops its logic. Robotic Process Automation is efficient in automating tasks but doesn't change the underlying business process.


Workflow automation

Workflow automation is often used interchangeably with RPA but that is not accurate. Workflow automation can be defined as making the flow of tasks, documents, and information across work-related activities perform independently in accordance with defined business rules and refers to specific tasks within an entire workflow. 


Some techniques and terms used in process automation

Process automation can be simple and include only a few core tasks, or it can be part of a greater IPA and hyper automation journey. Below are some of the techniques and technologies that go into the best process automation outcomes: 

  • Hyper automation: Hyper automation is not a technology itself but rather a strategic initiative that the organization undertakes to identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible, as quickly as possible. To do this, hyper automation relies on the integration and orchestration of multiple technologies, tools, and platforms, including AI/machine learning, RPA, modern ERP systems, and low-code/no-code development tools.
  • Intelligent process automation (IPA): McKinsey defines IPA as “an emerging set of new technologies that combines fundamental process redesign with robotic process automation and machine learning”. It augments business processes with AI and next-generation tools that help to automate and simplify repetitive, replicable, and routine tasks. This means that not only can IPA mimic human activities and tasks – it can actually learn to do them. AI and cognitive technologies allow decision-making capabilities to be incorporated into rules-based automation, leading to improved performance of human workers, increased speed, reduced risk, and enhanced customer journeys.
  • Low-code/no-code automation: Low-code/no-code (LCNC) refers to application and integration tools that are equipped with drag-and-drop functionality, visual tooling, and lots of pre-built content. LCNC tools make it possible for someone with little or no programming or coding skills to automate processes based on their extensive relevant subject-matter expertise. However, LCNC automation technologies are also fitted with sturdy guardrails to ensure that IT teams can have overarching governance and make sure that any new automated processes or applications integrate well within the system – meeting the most strident security and compliance standards.
  • Big Data: Data is not categorized as “Big” simply because of its volume. Big Data is defined by a set of criteria related, yes, to its volume but also to its complexity and speed. Structured data is linear in format – like what you’d see on a spreadsheet. Everything fits into a column or a row. Unstructured data, on the other hand, can consist of less quantifiable information such as customer feedback, emails, videos, or images. Big Data can be integrated and directly used in business process automation, based on defined business rules, or by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. This integrated data can then be used to guide decision-making, speeding up the processes and providing relief from repetitive tasks and assessments.
  • Artificial intelligence: RPA technologies are built to best work with structured data but a lot of your most valuable insights and intel are held within semi-structured and unstructured data (in scanned images, webpages, PDF documents, and much more). AI technologies are able to process and convert that data into a structured format that the RPA will be able to understand and use.
  • Natural language processing (NLP): The best NLP-powered chatbots learn from the informational content of human speech but they also learn to interpret context, and tone. In process automation, NLP tools can help to better guide interactions, and answer standard inquiries both internally and from customers.
  • Machine learning: Big Data provides the large data volumes that machine learning technologies depend upon, to help them make decisions. When machine learning (and the algorithms that power it) is integrated with RPA, AI, and other tools like NLP, it brings the ability to spot trends and patterns, plus learn from both data and human users. This makes process automation even more accurate and useful.
  • Intelligent ERP systems: For years, businesses have relied upon ERP systems to manage and coordinate their day-to-day and financial tasks. But today’s ERPs have grown in capacity (with AI and machine learning technologies) to bring intelligence and support to almost every area of the business and its operations. Many automation functions are already part of modern ERP systems.


Benefits of business process automation

The biggest drivers for process automation have to do with the obvious benefits that come from increased speed and efficiency, and greater opportunity for agility and innovation. Those benefits include:

  • More agile and resilient business structures overall
  • More efficient operations including faster cycle times and first-time-right rates
  • Improved compliance through more visible data trails and monitoring
  • Reduced burden of slow, manual processes, creating greater freedom to innovate and grow
  • Real-time collaboration across an organization, building teamwork, and employee success/satisfaction
  • Improved customer service quality and response times.


Process automation: Next steps on your journey toward digital transformation

Achieving end-to-end process automation is an essential pillar in any successful digital transformation journey. McKinsey recently conducted a survey of industry leaders who had successfully met their business process automation goals. They found that in basically every case, those successes had three strategic components in common: 

  • Automation must be adopted as a strategic priority across the entire organization, not just tackled in silos as a way to address a few isolated processes
  • Process automation should centre on making the technology work for people, not the other way around
  • The market is particularly unpredictable at the moment so a focus on scalability is essential to sustained process automation success

Like all business transformation journeys, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. The most essential first step is to be prepared to manage change and to communicate clearly defined goals and milestones across your entire workforce.


Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) combines traditional process automation with artificial intelligence and machine learning. It extends the capabilities of automation to processes that involve unstructured data and require some degree of human judgment or decision-making, such as natural language processing, predictive analytics, and decision management.

Role in organizations:

  • Advanced decision-making: Enhances decision-making capabilities by incorporating AI and machine learning for more complex, data-driven processes.
  • Handling of unstructured data: Efficiently processes and analyzes unstructured data, such as text, images, and voice, which traditional automation tools cannot handle.
  • Continuous improvement: Learns and improves over time, offering increased accuracy and efficiency as it processes more data.
  • Enhanced customer interactions: Improves customer service and engagement through advanced technologies like chatbots and virtual assistants that understand and respond in natural language.
  • Predictive analytics: Employs predictive analytics for forward-looking insights, aiding in risk management, demand forecasting, and strategic planning.


Automated Data Processing

Automated data processing involves the use of computer systems and software to perform data-centric tasks such as collection, processing, analysis, and management of data without human intervention. This can include tasks like data entry, data mining, data cleansing, and generating reports or analytics.

Role in organizations:

  • Efficiency and speed: It greatly speeds up data processing tasks, allowing organizations to handle large volumes of data swiftly and accurately.
  • Error reduction: Reduces the likelihood of errors associated with manual data handling, ensuring data integrity and reliability.
  • Informed decision-making: Facilitates advanced data analysis and reporting, providing organizations with actionable insights for strategic decision-making.
  • Resource optimization: Frees up human resources from repetitive data processing tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic, creative, or complex activities.


Process Automation Software

Process automation software refers to tools and platforms used to automate routine business processes. These can range from simple workflow automation tools to complex systems integrating multiple business functions.

Role in organizations:

  • Operational efficiency: Streamlines various business processes, reducing time and effort required to complete them.
  • Consistency and compliance: Ensures consistent execution of processes according to predefined standards, aiding in compliance and quality control.
  • Scalability: Supports scaling of business operations by managing increased workload or complexity without a proportional increase in resources.
  • Integration capabilities: Often integrates various business functions and systems, facilitating seamless data flow and communication across departments.


Robotics Process Automation

RPA involves the use of software 'robots' or bots to automate routine, rule-based tasks that are typically performed by humans. These tasks include data entry, invoice processing, and basic customer service inquiries.

Role in organizations:

  • Cost reduction: Reduces labor costs by automating routine tasks, thus allowing cost savings and resource reallocation.
  • Enhanced accuracy: Minimizes human errors in repetitive tasks, leading to increased accuracy and quality of work.
  • 24/7 productivity: Bots can operate continuously, providing round-the-clock productivity enhancements.
  • Quick implementation: RPA can be implemented relatively quickly and provides immediate benefits in terms of efficiency and error reduction.


Marketing Automation Process

Marketing automation involves using software tools to automate marketing activities such as email marketing, social media posting, lead generation, and customer segmentation.

Role in organizations:

  • Enhanced customer engagement: Allows for personalized and timely engagement with customers, improving customer experience and relationship management.
  • Efficient lead management: Automates lead nurturing processes, enabling efficient tracking and conversion of prospects into customers.
  • Data-driven insights: Provides valuable insights into customer behavior and marketing campaign performance, aiding in data-driven decision-making.
  • Resource utilization: Streamlines marketing efforts and reduces the time and resources required for manual marketing tasks, allowing the marketing team to focus on strategy and content creation.

In summary, each of these automation components plays a crucial role in enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and strategic capacity within organizations, driving both operational excellence and competitive advantage in the market.


Ways to automate a process

Three common approaches to automate a process are:

  • Scripting: Writing custom scripts or code to automate specific tasks or sequences of tasks. This method is highly flexible but requires programming skills.
  • Using dedicated automation software: Utilizing specialized software platforms designed for process automation, like RPA tools or workflow management systems. These tools often provide a user-friendly interface and can be used without extensive technical knowledge.
  • Integration of AI and machine learning: Implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to automate complex processes that require data analysis, decision-making, or pattern recognition. This approach is particularly useful for tasks that involve large volumes of data or require adaptability.


Automated processing explained

Automated processing refers to the use of computer systems, software applications, and technologies to perform tasks without human intervention. This can include various operations like data entry, calculations, data analysis, and decision-making processes. Automated processing is designed to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and speed up operations, and often involves the integration of various technologies like RPA, AI, machine learning, and cloud computing. The objective is to streamline workflows, optimize resource utilization, and improve overall productivity and accuracy in business operations.


Implementing process automation effectively

Successful implementation involves setting clear goals, identifying opportunities for automation, selecting the right tools, managing change effectively, and continually monitoring and evaluating the performance of automation initiatives.


Challenges in process automation

It's essential to monitor and adjust automation strategies to maximize ROI continuously. Challenges include the need for human oversight, balancing ease-of-use with sophistication, and the cost of automation tools.


Oas36ty: A leading solution for process automation

Oas36ty provides a low-code platform that facilitates the development of web and mobile apps, employee portals, and operational dashboards, enhancing productivity and operational efficiency. It supports the creation of custom applications for automating workflows and offers AI-powered analysis for iterative process improvement.



What is an example of process automation?

Purchase order requests are a common business process across industries. Traditional inefficient processes involve employees tracking down one or more supervisors for their signatures. With process automation, purchase order requests are automatically routed to the appropriate party for review.


What is RPA in process automation?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software technology that makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage software robots that emulate humans’ actions interacting with digital systems and software.


What is the process automation approach?

Complex processes: Process automation helps manage complex processes—sometimes without human intervention. However, it's important to include some human problem-solving skills during complicated processes or urgent workflows. Process automation simplifies manual processes but doesn't replace human ingenuity!


What is RPA with an example?

Robotic Process Automation can provide several examples of automation in customer order processing workflows. For instance, it can automatically extract order information from emails or web forms and enter it into the system accurately and efficiently.


What is Process Automation tool?

Process automation refers to the use of technology to automate repetitive and manual tasks within a business process. It includes technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) or intelligent document processing (IDP), workflow orchestration, artificial intelligence (AI), system integrations, and business rules.


What is the role of Process Automation?

It typically has three functions: automating processes, centralizing information, and reducing the requirement for input from people. It is designed to remove bottlenecks, reduce errors and loss of data, all while increasing transparency, communication across departments, and speed of processing.


What are the steps to automate an onboarding process?

Automating an onboarding process includes steps such as:

  • Define the onboarding process
  • Choose an onboarding automation tool or platform
  • Create digital onboarding documents
  • Automate form submission and document verification
  • Facilitate electronic signatures
  • Provide self-service access


What is automated data processing?

Automated data processing refers to the use of computer systems and software to perform various tasks related to the collection, manipulation, storage, retrieval, and transmission of data.


What is intelligent process automation?

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) refers to the use of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), combined with traditional automation capabilities to enhance and optimize business processes.

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