Business automation basics + five ways companies drive growth
Business Process Management
Henry Ford introduced the Model T to consumers in 1908. It was a simple, dependable, and affordable car. Still, Ford wasn’t satisfied because he thought the Model T could be better and more affordable. He wanted Model Ts to be so mass-produced that everyone could own one.
Ford would need to increase efficiency building the Model T by boosting his factories’ productivity to achieve his goal. So he made machines that could stamp out parts automatically. And, of course, his workers developed assembly line processes. They laid out components in a row on the floor and broke down assembly steps so that one trained worker would focus on only one step.
These assembly-line processes were “inspired by the continuous-flow production methods used by flour mills, breweries, canneries, and industrial bakeries, along with the disassembly of animal carcasses in Chicago’s meat-packing plants,” according to History.com
But Ford’s factories’ productivity wouldn’t reach its fully realized potential until he implemented the moving-chassis assembly line in December 1913 and later the mechanized belt in February 1914.
As Ford improved his use of technology and processes, the assembly line took a 12-hour assembly time down to two and a half. “Ford produced more and more cars, and on June 4, 1924, the 10-millionth Model T rolled off the Highland Park assembly line.”
Modern business automation is Henry Ford’s legacy. Today, we use automation software and apps to automate tasks, processes, and workflows to improve productivity and efficiency. His story also illustrates what business automation is capable of accomplishing.
So what exactly is business automation, and how can it help your business?
What is business automation?
Business automation is making a business process or system operate without manual involvement. It aligns business process management (BPM)—or business process automation (BPA)—and business rules management (BRM) with modern application development. These applications automate traditional human labor, so your team can work on other essential, non-automatable tasks and processes.
Types of business automation
In general, there are four types of automation: basic, process, advanced, and intelligent.
Basic automation automates simple, rudimentary tasks, using little to no coding. For instance, this automation type digitizes repetitive tasks to reduce human errors and speed up transactional work. BPM and BPA exemplify basic automation.
Process automation automates business processes, a particular type of automation system used to increase productivity and efficiency. It can also deliver insights through real-time metrics. Workflow automation is a type of process automation, for example.
Advanced automation integrates many systems across the company, bringing people and technology together. This particular automation type supports knowledge management and decision support for specialized labor.
Artificial intelligence (AI) drives intelligent automation. In other words, machines learn based on situations they encounter and analyze, also known as machine learning. Then, the machines make decisions based on what they’ve learned. For example, AI-powered virtual assistants can provide more intelligent interactions with customers, improving previous interactions, leading to better customer experiences. BPA solutions often use AI technologies to analyze and adapt to unstructured databases as a more specific example.
Business process management vs. business process automation
BPM and BPA are strategies for improving efficiency and reducing costs.
On the one hand, BPM allows your company to understand overall business processes better. It outlines and affords an architecture for business process mapping and automation. And on the other hand, BPA automates routine business processes. For example, it can enhance your IT system by automating processes tailored to your business needs.
Either way, you can use BPA and BPM as standalone strategies, or you can combine BPA with overarching BPM initiatives, making them a powerful combination.
Why business automation is important
Long email chains. Conflicting documents. Endless errors and missed deadlines. Does this sound familiar to you?
Business automation helps your company take control of seemingly chaotic processes. It frees your team’s time and company’s resources to focus on tasks that drive growth in the digital age, often referred to as digital transformation.
How business automation benefits your company
Here’s how business automation benefits your organization. Business automation:
- Reduces errors and speeds up time-consuming processes, completing work faster with less repetition and more accuracy
- Improves employee morale by taking on monotonous tasks, freeing the team up to tackle creative tasks
- Improves compliance with standards and regulations, helping your business avoid penalties or fees
- Implements controls to mitigate theft and fraud
- Removes bias and prejudice by standardizing processes
- Makes a process and its progress transparent, controllable, and manageable by placing all workflow parts into one dashboard
- Improves your bottom line by cutting payroll costs while maintaining the same output level
- Improves collaboration by providing a single source of truth to process status and needs in real-time
A business automation caveat
Business automation must involve people because a task or process that runs without quality assurance could produce undesirable results. A breakdown, in other words. As a consequence, a good automation tool will provide a means to communicate when breakdowns happen.
But breakdowns need not happen for an automation tool to provide a helpful communication feature. This feature also provides a means to collaborate before, during, and after a process is initiated.
Five modern uses for business automation with examples
Organizations use business automation across every area of their business. The five most common areas used are marketing, human resources, sales, and finance.
Companies use marketing automation for activities like email campaigns. Marketers set up a software tool to send scheduled emails based on a customer’s interest or stage in the marketing funnel. Also, they can tie this strategy with a customer relationship management system (CRM) and expand automation to social media and other marketing channels.
2. Human resources
HR management systems automate many tasks and processes, from onboarding new team members to offboarding employees. For example, HR can automate processes like benefits administration, employment offers, interview scheduling, and job application processing. Organizations sometimes integrate HR management systems with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems or find ERP platforms that include automation tools.
Learn more: “9 Essential Steps To Choosing An HRIS System”
Sales teams benefit from business automation tools because the tools allow the teams to focus on closing deals while automating other tasks and sales processes. For instance, automation tools will log deal-related activity, qualify leads, assign prospects, or provide forecasting data.
When it comes to finance and accounting, business automation does some heavy lifting. For example, automating data capture, matching invoices, and routing approvals reduce errors and prevents fraud. These types of automation free up accountants to focus on strategy and analysis.
5. Information technology (IT)
Your IT department is a prime area to apply business automation tools because it’s already modernized—at least it should be. You can find automation opportunities in application deployment, configuration management, tool migration, and procurement, to name a few. And from a departmental aspect, you can also automate how IT responds to requests related to human resources and other departments’ needs.
More business automation examples by department
Here are some manual processes that can benefit from business automation solutions:
- Accounts payable and expense approvals
- CapEx/AFE requests
- Salary/wage changes
- Benefits administration
- Job applications, interview scheduling, and employment offers
- Onboarding and offboarding processes
Information technology/ information systems
- New project, information system service, and change requests
- Security incident response
- New account setup and security access requests
- Brand management
- Campaign and collateral approvals
- Email marketing and multi-channel communications
Vendr brings the best to business automation
With Vendr, use workflows and automation to manage, control, and track SaaS changes across the organization via a low-code, user-friendly automation platform. And because it’s a real-time source of truth, it gives you and other stakeholders visibility into your entire app ecosystem. Vendr also automatically creates an audit trail after every workflow for security and compliance. Other features include:
- Advanced workflow logic: Capture complex processes with ease, and use role-based assignments, scheduled tasks, blockers, and more to make work happen as planned.
- IT automations: Vendr’s powerful IT automations take care of repetitive tasks and save time and money.
- API connections: Connect your stack for maximum automation and integrate with our API to sync data and trigger actions with your other tools.
- Employee workflows: For onboarding, offboarding, requests, approvals, business rules, and more, SaaS Management automatically executes what it can and triggers notifications for everyone with an open task. Also, regular reminders make sure everything gets done.
- Vendor workflows: Begin a vendor approval, renewal, or termination in seconds. Plus, delegate critical tasks to the responsible parties while making sure essential vendor information is accessible.