Automation is much more than just a business buzzword. It’s a strategic initiative that empowers organizations to optimize processes and workflows so they can achieve better productivity, financial performance, and other meaningful outcomes. In today’s digital landscape, businesses across industries are embracing automated processes. Whether you’re a small startup or a large enterprise, understanding and harnessing the power of automation can be a game-changer for your business’s success in the digital age.
What Is an Automated Process?
Process automation extends beyond individual tasks and focuses on automating end-to-end business processes that involve multiple steps, systems, and stakeholders. The purpose of process automation is to optimize operational efficiency, reduce costs, minimize errors, and enhance productivity. When compared to workflow automation, process automation focuses on optimizing entire processes.
While manual processes involve human effort to perform tasks, automated processes require little-to-no human input. Automated processes are more efficient and reduce the likelihood of human errors. When technology like robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning algorithms handle tedious, repetitive tasks, your company’s greatest asset – its employees – are able to spend their time on value-added tasks that require critical thinking and creative thought.
Automated processes provide several key benefits for an organization. These can include:
- Efficiency: By removing manual bottlenecks, automated processes accelerate execution, leading to faster turnaround times, better resource utilization, and increased productivity.
- Enhanced customer experience: Faster and error-free processes lead to improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention as customers benefit from quicker and more reliable service.
- Financial savings: Automating processes leads to reduced labor costs and fewer errors, saving organizations both time and money.
- Higher accuracy: Automation minimizes the risk of human errors, resulting in more reliable and consistent outcomes, which is crucial for business operations and data-intensive tasks.
- Scalability: Automated processes can handle a higher volume of tasks without significant additional resources, making it easier to accommodate business growth and increased demand.
Examples of Automated Processes
Process automation is particularly valuable for managing intricate procedures that involve multiple steps and systems since it enables a holistic approach to optimizing your operations. This includes automation across entire projects or work sequences with complex, interdependent tasks with multiple decision points and approvals.
Some common automated processes include:
- Email marketing – Marketing teams want to segment their audiences using activity data stored in a customer relationship management (CRM) system or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. Without automation, marketers are stuck relying on static customer lists that need to be manually uploaded before every campaign. By implementing an automated segmentation process, marketers can collaborate with operations to construct segments that dynamically update using contact activity like website visits and campaign membership, ensuring better audience targeting.
- CRM management – Identifying actionable lead activity and surfacing those leads to inside sales teams can be a time-consuming process. Without automation, sales teams often rely on manual exports from marketing platforms with stale leads. With automation, the transfer of relevant and up-to-date leads becomes seamless, ensuring that sales teams receive timely and valuable information to fuel success.
- Inventory management – Traditional manual order-to-cash processes pose significant challenges to businesses. One critical issue includes tracking errors in inventory management systems. These errors may result in inaccurate stock levels, which can lead to lost sales and increased holding costs. Embracing automation can help mitigate these challenges and improve customer experiences.
- Financial processes – Relying on staff schedules and manual data entry for invoice generation and payment reminders often involves time-consuming one-to-one outreach. However, by automating these reminders, clients receive prompt notifications, and overdue accounts are no longer at risk of missing notifications regarding outstanding balances.
- HR processes – Using manual processes for employee onboarding and offboarding can result in errors that hold back new hires or result in problems when people separate from the company. Also, routine HR functions, like manual requests for time off, can lead to mistakes. Adopting automation in human resources ensures timely communication and minimizes the risk of errors to enhance the employee experience.
- IT operations – Integrating incident ticketing with Mobile Device Management (MDM) allows IT to automatically identify the customer’s system and issue. This integration ensures essential tasks are carried out promptly and accurately.
- E-commerce – Automated order processing enhances the precision of shipping label generation and ensures that inventory remains up-to-date, effectively preventing order cancellations or unlisted stock from lingering on shelves.
- Ticketing and Task management – By automating tasks using ticketing and form systems for data exchange between teams for cross-functional assignments, organizations can eliminate requests from overflowing email inboxes. This ensures that support request tasks are processed, measured, scheduled, and prioritized, leading to enhanced efficiency and collaboration across teams.
How to Automate Processes in Your Business
Follow these steps to identify and automate processes within your organization.
Identify Processes for Automation
Conduct a thorough assessment of your current business processes within individual departments and across different teams. Pinpoint areas where bottlenecks or inefficiencies exist. These bottlenecks may include repetitive manual tasks, delays in handovers between departments, or information silos that hinder collaboration.
Then, prioritize the processes that have the most significant impact on your business operations and customer experience. Consider the complexity of automating each process and weigh the potential benefits against the implementation effort.
Place particular emphasis on automating processes that involve multiple software platforms or departments – or anything that involves spreadsheets. These manual processes often result in data inconsistencies, miscommunications, and longer turnaround times. They’re prime candidates for automation.
Select the Right Automation Tools
Automation tools come in a wide range of complexities and capabilities tailored to address the specific needs of different business operations. These tools can vary from user-friendly no-code applications designed for straightforward tasks to more sophisticated and robust low-code platforms capable of handling complex and intricate processes.
Automation tools can also be specialized to cater to specific industries or sectors. For instance, healthcare automation tools may focus on streamlining patient record management and appointment scheduling, while manufacturing automation tools may prioritize optimizing production lines and inventory management.
Document Existing Processes Before Automating
Documenting existing processes ensures a smooth and effective implementation. Visual representations, such as flowcharts and diagrams, offer a clear overview of the workflow. By mapping out the current process, teams can easily identify any issues that need to be addressed before automation.
Detailing step-by-step instructions for each process provides a comprehensive understanding of the tasks involved, the data inputs and outputs, and the role of different stakeholders at various stages and potential review points. Clear instructions ensure that the automated process accurately reflects the manual one, reducing the chances of errors during the automation process.
Design Automated Workflows
Based on the identified automation points and event streams, design the automated workflow. Use automation tools or platforms that align with the complexity of the process and the organization’s requirements. Opt for low-code or no-code solutions when you can, to save time and money. You can also leverage event streams to ensure processes are executed in real-time, improving efficiency and responsiveness.
Then, it’s time to pull the trigger and implement your automations. But automation is not a “set it and forget it” solution. You need to monitor and optimize these processes over time, making sure that they continue to achieve their intended objectives. Make iterative improvements to the automated workflow as needed. Regularly review and update the automated processes to accommodate new requirements or address evolving challenges.
Best Practices for Automating Processes
When automating processes, follow these best practices to ensure a smooth transition and adoption.
Get Buy-in and Approval From all Stakeholders
Before initiating any automation efforts, ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including management, department heads, and end-users, understand the benefits of automation and are supportive of the initiative. Their buy-in is crucial for a smooth implementation and successful adoption of automated processes.
Train Employees on Using the New Automated Tools and Workflows
Proper training is essential for the successful adoption of automation. Ensure that employees are well-trained in using the new tools and workflows to maximize efficiency and minimize frustration.
Ensure Data Security and Compliance
Create a single source of truth for your data with offerings like Boomi Master Data Hub, which is part of the unified Boomi platform. Implement robust security measures and adhere to relevant data protection regulations to safeguard data and maintain compliance.
How Boomi Can Elevate Your Process Automation
The Boomi platform is a powerful low-code solution that elevates and streamlines process automation. Boomi’s integration platform as a service (iPaaS) includes a comprehensive set of features to connect systems, data, and people seamlessly. These robust integration capabilities make Boomi a game-changer in process automation, particularly for more complex data connections and systems.
Discover how the Boomi platform can help you stay competitive and drive continuous innovation.