Process Automation

What processes are suitable for process automation?

The idea of clicking a button and taking the grind out of daily business actions is an appealing one. But it is possible? The simple answer is yes.

Harvard Business Review state that robotic process automation can be used to automate high-volume, low-complexity, and routine tasks. These tasks are typically done by regular members of staff and can involve inputting data, applying rules and transferring from one platform to another.

Technology has helped to enable process improvements to the point where human intervention is unnecessary. Automation can save time and money, delight customers who no longer have to wait in line for a person to assist them with a transaction and preclude human error.

Is RPA worth the initial disruption?

A recent survey of corporate decision-makers from 300 companies in the US and UK discovered that 99% of organisations still spent considerable personnel time doing repetitive manual tasks, with almost three quarters (74%) spending over a quarter of their time doing so.

Automation is an ideal solution because it hardens and standardises conventional processes for consistency and scalability of the enterprise. It also eliminates the need for manual and repetitive tasks, allowing workers to focus on value-added activities.

Secondly, the survey also revealed that 79% of enterprises said automation delivered time savings, 69% cited ‘improved business productivity’ as the key benefit of automation, [and] 61% said automation regularly provides cost savings.

The main challenges cited for not automating commonly automated processes included not having the right knowledge to do so (52%), managing complex processes (63%) and not being able to integrate legacy applications with new applications (64%). The survey highlights that although generally speaking, the inability to automate is a significant limitation for any organisation.

So what does this mean for companies considering automation and what kind of processes should be automated to drive the most meaningful outcomes?

Determining which process that can be automated isn’t entirely straightforward. Not every business process is a good fit for automation, so it’s incumbent upon companies to determine which processes are best suited to automation and which ones are best handled by humans. The best place to start is by looking at the strategic and operating drivers for process improvement in your organisation and industry. What are your pain points? One pain point might be that in recent years the business has grown quickly and there is a high level of pressure on accounting departments to quickly process invoices accurately to take advantage of early payment discounts.

As a result of this, many companies look to automate the business processes which are not only time and resource intensive but which also have the potential for human error – invoice approval for example.

Other processes that can be automated include; HR onboarding, claims approvals and custom service queries.

There are also many key elements which must remain consistent between each process to identify them as suitable for BPA:

  • A high volume of transactions/activities
  • Workflow enabled
  • Use of multiple systems or dual-data entry
  • The need to involve searching, collating or updating information
  • Requirement for data matching

These elements make back office functions, like Order Processing or Accounts Payable, a perfect candidate for BPA as many of the processes involved tend to be highly repeatable, rules-based and high volume transactions.

Regardless of the particular process automated, leveraging BPA to deliver high business value, drive significant cost benefits, and align with business goals will allow the technology to have a maximum impact on operational activities.

If you would like to find out more about financial process automation, why not try our Invoice Savings Calculator to see how much you could save. Or, read our guide on “Electronic Invoice Processing”.