What is process automation?

Business Process Management

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 $600 billion in 2022 and beyond.

Vendr | Process automation
Written by
Emily Regenold
Published on
July 26, 2022
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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 $600 billion in 2022 and beyond. 

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

It’s one of the best ways for businesses to keep operation costs low, mitigate risk, and expand operations quicker. 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 own business. 

What is process automation?

Process automation, sometimes referred to as business process automation or BPA, is the act of using technology to improve operational efficiency and lower costs. If done correctly, process automation streamlines the three key factors that directly impact how efficiently an organization is run. 

These three overarching factors include:

Centralizing information: Once centralized, key 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, the 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 the time, energy, and skills of each employee 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 through the help of artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Examples of robotic process automation include vehicle assembly lines, call support, 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 automations that are 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.

That’s the customer-facing process. But you can automate internal transaction processes too. The bigger your organization, the more complex your procurement needs become. Thankfully, steps in the procurement process like creating purchase orders, managing contracts, renewing licenses, and managing suppliers can easily be automated with the right solution in place. 

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

Marketing automation

If you aren’t careful, marketing can quickly eat up your resources. With process automation, a lot of the marketing businesses execute to nurture and draw new customers can be automated. 

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, or even billing. 

Regardless of whether you’re a startup or an established enterprise organization trying to increase its market share, marketing automation is a must-have for businesses that want to compete in today’s market. 

Customer support automation

More than half of the American population will switch from a service provider due to poor customer service. Plus, it takes as many as 12 positive customer experiences to make up for a singular negative one. That’s only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the importance of robust customer support. 

However, automation can make a difference in this department regardless of the industry a business operates in. With automated personalized call processes and automated customer data collection, businesses can attend to customer needs faster and with less hassle, which leads to lower dissatisfaction rates. 

IT asset management automation

It’s hard to accurately keep track of the lifecycle 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 handle 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 ITit asset management solution, you streamline and optimize the IT supply chain by cutting costs and increasing efficiency where possible.

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

HR automation

If there’s an area you don’t want to skimp on automation in, it’s the area of human resources. The process of prospecting, posting job ads, interviewing, parsing resumes, and headhunting can be incredibly time-consuming. 

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. Many of HR’s processes are multi-step, and they are highly correlated with a business’ ultimate profit margin. 

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 human input around the clock 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 simpler, everyday examples of process automation. They remove the need for human input, automate the transaction process, and centralize all operations to successfully dispense goods. 

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 reports logged using automated data routing
  • Parsing, cleansing, and updating unstructured data in real-time using APIs

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 single task or project in a business can be automated. The need for human skill and decision-making will always be necessary in some form. Still, spend some time identifying bottlenecks in processes and determine whether some or all of the process can be automated. 

When identifying tasks within processes or entire processes that could be automated, use the following as criteria to help you identify tasks with automation potential. 

  • 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

Once you’ve identified the tasks and processes worth automating, you’re able to set goals. The goals you set depend on what you’re trying to optimize for.

Maybe you’re looking to primarily cut costs above all else. Or maybe you want to maximize the output of all your processes per hour. Better yet, maybe 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’ll 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. Depending on how you run your business, a procurement process is in order. As automation needs and bottlenecks are identified, it becomes easier to pinpoint what features are necessary in a process automation solution. 

For example, if you know you need a SaaS management solution that’ll streamline how you manage license renewals and control costs, you’ll know to look for and demo those specific features. Maybe you’re looking for machine learning capabilities that can 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 will also give you insight into how customizable you need your SaaS management solution to be. If you’re looking for granular insight down to what features are being used in each application, opting for a process automation tool built for smaller teams may not be your best bet. 

3. Asses, 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 goal post in terms of what’s “optimal” will always change.

For that reason, it’s good practice to assess, measure, and repeat your process automation initiatives every so often. You’ll ensure you’re maximizing 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
  • Auditable standardized processes
  • Quicker return on investments
  • Helping with environmental initiatives in lowering carbon footprint

Automate your processes with Vendr

Today, process automation is a business requirement. If businesses want to maintain growth, cut costs, and increase their bottom line, process automation must be at the top of the to-do list. 

There are plenty of areas where businesses can leverage automation to their advantage. From accounting HR, production cycles, and even SaaS management, there’s an automation solution worth implementing.

Vendr helps organizations cost-effectively manage their tech stacks. It centralizes your SaaS vendors in one place and helps you draw insights from built-in analytics to enable data-driven choices. 

Find out how much you could be saving with our free savings analysis.

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

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