What is business process automation? Five examples of BPA.
Business Process Management
Discover five powerful examples of business process automation and use them to fuel efficiencies and drive compliance in your organization.
Operations leaders have a considerable challenge: driving operational efficiency without hurting quality, safety, or compliance. Often, these goals are at odds with each other.
Working faster can mean fewer quality checks or a reduction in essential regulations that keep your business safe. Add too many regulations, however, and you end up convoluting and slowing down the process.
Enter business process automation.
Business process automation allows operations leaders to use specialized software tools to handle highly repetitive elements in business workflows.
By outsourcing such tasks to a software tool, you drive efficiencies without sacrificing quality. You can work faster by eliminating human input while maintaining or even improving internal policy compliance.
Discover five powerful examples of business process automation in action and use them to fuel efficiencies and drive compliance in your organization.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation is exactly what it says on the box: automating certain aspects of existing business processes.
Business process management (BPM) teams regularly use the automation functionality in software to handle repetitive tasks in their business.
Business process automation may be applied to entire business workflows, like automating your vendor approvals process.
However, businesses can also use it to take care of specific elements within larger processes, such as the marketing team sending automated email campaigns.
Which business processes should be automated?
Not every business process can or even should be, automated.
The best candidates for automation are highly repetitive and easily triggered.
Take, for example, the employee onboarding process. Each new hire you make needs to go through the same steps, for instance:
- Sizing up their uniform
- Signing safety waivers
- Learning about your company and product
- Meeting department leaders
Automating steps like these ensures employees get the necessary training without drawing too much time away from a manager’s day.
Time sensitivity is another important factor when considering whether or not to automate a given business process. Automation may be required if the task needs to be completed at a specific time or interval.
For instance, automation is essential if your marketing team wants to send out an email exactly three hours before a promotion goes live.
Processes that require a high degree of personalization or human interaction are generally less suitable candidates for automation.
For instance, your human resources team might automate onboarding but not the interview process. And your marketing team may automate email campaigns but not audience research.
Five examples of business process automation in practice
These five use cases highlight the benefits of business process automation. Use them to fuel your process improvements.
1. Purchase approval workflows
Approval workflows are one of the best candidates for business process automation.
This business process is highly repeatable. Your team is likely making dozens or even hundreds of purchases each week, all of which involve specific steps they must follow in a precise order.
Here’s how a simple purchase order workflow might look using automation:
- A procurement team member raises a new purchase request
- A purchase request form is created (automated)
- The procurement team member fills in relevant details
- The purchase request is sent to the procurement team leader (automated)
- After four days, a reminder notification is sent to the procurement team leader (automated)
- The procurement team leader approves the request
- The purchase request is sent back to the procurement team member (automated)
Automating business processes like this achieves two goals.
First, you ensure compliance with purchasing policies, as the procurement team member can’t move forward without filling out the required form.
Second, you streamline business operations by sending purchase requests directly to the proper decision-making authorities and scheduling automated reminders to prevent delays and bottlenecks.
2. New employee onboarding
Businesses can also use automation systems to automate manual tasks in the employee onboarding process.
For example, you might automate the following employee onboarding initiatives:
- Completing training videos and documentation
- Reading and signing safety information
- Scheduling meetings with department leaders
Additionally, you can schedule reminder notifications so the employee and HR stakeholders are alerted if essential steps (like contract signing) aren’t completed.
This ensures that each new hire undergoes the same training and induction process and no important information is skipped due to time constraints or simple forgetfulness.
It’s also a great way to improve employee satisfaction—as a streamlined onboarding process gives new hires a positive first impression.
3. Customer communications
Using business process automation software can drive sales efficiency and improve customer satisfaction through automated customer communications.
A few examples include automating:
- Cold sales outreach email campaigns
- Social media messaging responses
- Customer support ticket acknowledgment
- SMS messages for marketing promotions
It’s important not to go too far with automation here. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than being unable to talk to a real person when they need help.
Use automation tools like chatbots to communicate with customers more efficiently, but make it easy for them to reach an actual support team member when needed.
4. Contract management
One of the best ways to use business process automation tools to improve purchasing effectiveness is to automate parts of the contract management process.
For example, set up an automation rule in your procurement platform to notify stakeholders when a SaaS contract is up for renewal.
This allows them to review vendor performance, business needs, and pricing competitiveness before renewal. Your team can use this information to support contract negotiation conversations.
If your procurement tool includes an overlapping license analysis feature—to let you know when more than one of your tools offers similar functionality—it’s valuable to set up an automated review of your SaaS stack.
This allows you to consider the possibility of not renewing if it’s more suitable to consolidate usage onto a single platform.
5. Accounts payable
Many aspects of the accounts payable process are a great target for removing inefficiencies through automation:
- Data entry for receiving and inputting new invoices can be automated with e-invoicing apps.
- Payment approvals can be automatically routed to the relevant decision-making authorities.
- Monthly reports can be generated automatically and sent to stakeholders via email.
- Certain payments can be made automatically if your workflow automation solution matches purchase order numbers.
Improve purchasing efficiency and compliance with Vendr
Automation is a powerful way to optimize business processes, create more efficient workflows, and drive compliance with internal purchasing regulations.
Vendr is a secret weapon for achieving all three goals when purchasing software tools.
With Vendr, procurement teams build automated approval workflows, receive purchase requests from department stakeholders, schedule automated reminders, and create contract renewal notifications to get ahead of negotiations.