What is process automation? Examples & benefits

Business Process Management

Get familiar with process automation, including what it is, specific examples, and how you can implement it in your business.

Vendr | Process automation
Written by
Emily Regenold
Published on
July 7, 2023
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The world of business continues to grow more complex. To tame its resource-intensive complexity, companies are implementing what Gartner calls “hyper-automation.” According to Gartner, the need for process automation is one of the reasons why the automation software industry is estimated to grow to over $1 trillion by 2026.

With businesses engaging in fierce competition and continuing digital transformation to expand market share, keep stakeholders happy, and stay relevant, they need the best tools to increase profits and streamline operations. This is why process automation is more relevant now than ever.

Process automation is one of the best ways for businesses to keep operation costs low, mitigate risk, and expand operations more quickly. By the end of this post, you’ll be familiar with all things process automation, including what it is, specific examples, and how you can implement it in your business.


What is process automation?

Process automation, sometimes called business process automation (BPA), uses technology to improve operational efficiency and lower costs. If done correctly, process automation streamlines the three key factors directly impacting an organization's efficiency.

These three overarching factors are:

Centralizing information: Once centralized, critical data can be organized, logged, and used to inform future business projects. Centralized data is more accessible because it isn’t siloed in different apps with varying admin access. Centralized data increases visibility across an organization and lowers the chances of issues like procurement fraud.

Automating as many processes as possible: The more you automate, the fewer resources it takes to run an end-to-end operation. Repetitive tasks don’t have to be managed by skilled humans. Instead, once automation is in place, those hours, skills, and labor costs can be applied to higher ROI tasks.

Minimizing the need for human input: An organization’s most valuable asset is the sum of its workforce. When you minimize the need for human input through process automation, you can invest each employee's time, energy, and skills into business motions and projects that move the organization forward.

It’s important to note that a lot of process automation is aided by robotic process automation or RPA. With the use of RPA software and hardware, RPA is quickly taking over formerly manual tasks using the help of artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Examples of robotic process automation include vehicle assembly lines, call support centers, or claims administration processes.

Types of process automation

What types of process automation are there? While there are too many to list, here are some key process automation relevant to most organizations.

Accounting automation

No matter how simple or complex, every business has an accounting process. Especially because transactions are increasingly digital, accounting for those transactions, dealing with different payment processors, managing payment merchant fees, and keeping clear records can all be automated.

You can also automate internal transaction processes—since the bigger your organization, the more complex your procurement needs become. Thankfully, steps in the procurement process, like buying software, managing contracts, renewing licenses, and managing suppliers, can easily be automated with the right solution.

While automating your accounting processes might not eliminate the need for a finance team or someone who oversees your business finances, it does make their job much more manageable. It ensures greater accuracy and frees up time for higher ROI business initiatives that maximize value while lowering spending.

Marketing automation

If you aren’t careful, marketing can quickly eat up your resources. Process automation can be used by many marketing businesses to automate the process of nurturing and attracting new customers.

Thanks to SaaS, social platforms, and our increasing dependency on the digital world, companies can automate marketing motions like media buying, email marketing campaigns, customer acquisition, and even billing.

Whether you’re a startup or an established enterprise organization trying to increase its market share, marketing automation is necessary for businesses that want to compete in today’s market.

Customer support automation

More than half of Americans will leave a service provider due to poor customer service. Plus, it takes as many as 12 positive customer experiences to compensate for a singular negative. That’s only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the importance of robust customer support.

Automation can make a difference in this department. With automated personalized call processes and customer data collection, businesses can attend to customer needs faster and with less hassle, leading to lower dissatisfaction rates.

IT asset management automation

It’s hard to accurately keep track of the life cycle of any software or hardware solution. Manual processes are highly time-consuming and prone to human error.

IT asset management automation ensures you have an organization-wide grasp on all your software and hardware. It increases visibility, helps keep costs low, manages licenses, and tracks usage to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment. With an automated IT asset management solution, you streamline and optimize the IT supply chain by cutting costs and increasing efficiency.

For example, a robust IT asset management solution helps teams track which hardware updates are needed. Built-in standardization tools ensure processes are refined and optimized for cost savings.

HR automation

If there’s an area where you don’t want to skimp on automation, it’s human resources. Prospecting, posting job ads, interviewing, parsing resumes, and headhunting can be incredibly time-consuming. Many HR processes are multi-step and highly correlated with a business’ ultimate profit margin.

Yet, with a robust HR management solution, you can leverage automation to search through hundreds or thousands of resumes, automate the offer letter process, and manage an updated talent pool.

Additionally, payroll, benefits, employee offboarding, contracts, training initiatives, and tax data can all be automated. Automating HR processes so they don’t have to depend on recurring human input is also a way for organizations to protect themselves from possible costly errors when managing employees, following employment laws, and staying compliant.


Examples of process automation

If you pay attention, process automation is everywhere. Gumball dispensers and vending machines are simple, everyday examples of process automation. They remove the need for human input, automate the transaction process, and centralize all operations to dispense goods successfully.

Cheeky examples, sure. But they illustrate how even simple technology can transform processes. Here are some business examples of process automation:

  • Customer support tickets integrated with your purchase management software
  • Automated employee onboarding
  • Job application submissions through an applicant management system
  • Automated file transfers from one application to another
  • Incoming report logging using automated data routing
  • Parsing, cleansing, and updating unstructured data in real-time using APIs

Three techniques used in process automation

Leverage native platform automation

Many of today’s software platforms include some form of no-code or low-code workflow automation functionality. This will be the primary process automation technique for most business leaders.

Say, for example, that you want to set up some accounts payable automation in your AP tool. You can use the native automation built into the platform to automate:

  • Purchase order creation and approval
  • Supplier ordering
  • Receipt and payment of invoices

Build custom API connections

For more complex business processes, a powerful automation technique is to use software like Zapier or Pipedream to build custom integrations between tools.

This can be an excellent method for automating data entry and ensuring real-time data updates across platforms.

For instance, you might connect your accounts payable platform to your accounting and bookkeeping software using Zapier so that whenever a new invoice is paid, it’s reflected and reconciled automatically.

Purchase a dedicated process automation tool

The most complex automation use cases often require a more advanced technique—dedicated process automation tools.

Some commonly used software platforms include:

  • Kissflow
  • Nintex
  • Process Maker
  • Appian

These platforms offer a variety of native integrations with the other software tools you already use, allowing teams to create complex, advanced-process automation rules that maximize business efficiency.

How to implement process automation

Here’s a general three-step approach to implementing a process automation workflow within your organization.

1. Identify bottlenecks and set goals

Admittedly, not every task or project in a business can be automated. Human skills and decision-making will always be necessary in some form. Still, spend time identifying process bottlenecks to determine which processes can be automated.

When identifying tasks within processes or entire processes that could be automated, use the following criteria:

  • The task requires regular reporting and analytics
  • The process doesn’t require deep thinking or creative solutions
  • The task or process involves moving data from one application to another
  • The process requires ongoing tracking
  • The task needs to be done frequently
  • The process is done on a schedule

You can set goals once you’ve identified the tasks and processes worth automating. The goals you set depend on what you’re trying to optimize for.

Maybe you’re looking primarily to cut costs. Or maybe you want to maximize the output of all your processes per hour. Perhaps your goal is a combination of the two. Either way, once you know what metric you want to solve for and use as your marker for success, you can start auditing the tools you need to get there.

2. Audit and implement the right software tools

It’s time to decide which automation tools will help get the job done. A procurement process is in order depending on how you run your business. As automation needs and bottlenecks are identified, it becomes easier to pinpoint what features are necessary for a process automation solution.

For example, if you need a SaaS management solution that streamlines how you manage license renewals and control costs, you know to look for and demo those specific features. Maybe you’re looking for machine-learning capabilities to take your automated processes to the next level. In that case, looking into the best enterprise-grade process automation platforms is a critical next step.

The complexity of your internal processes also gives you insight into how customizable you need your SaaS management solution to be. If you’re looking for granular insight into what features are used in each application, opting for a process automation tool built for smaller teams may not be your best bet.

3. Assess, measure, repeat

As with all processes, the more you iterate, the closer you get to maximum optimization. As technology advances and your business grows, the goalpost for what’s optimal will continually change.

Therefore, assessing, measuring, and repeating your process automation initiatives every so often is good practice. You’ll ensure you maximize the value you get from your resources while minimizing unnecessary spending.

Benefits of process automation

Effectively implementing process automation comes with a long list of benefits, including:

  • Lowering operational costs
  • Lowering the use of resources
  • Removing bottlenecks
  • Minimizing loss
  • Speeding up production
  • Creating auditable standardized processes
  • Realizing quicker returns on investments\


Emily Regenold
Emily Regenold
LinkedIn icon
Chief of Staff
Emily is the Vendr's Chief of Staff, leading the company's brand and external communications.

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