Blog written by Eide Bailly, a Greater Mankato Growth Bronze Investor
From flexible schedules to compensation and benefit packages, the Great Resignation has forced organizations to rethink the way they foster employee satisfaction and maximize staff. One of the simplest answers to talent retention is making sure your employees are satisfied with their jobs. Are they able to focus on higher-value tasks or are they spending hours (or even days) on repetitive or complicated manual processes?
Business Process Automation, or BPA, can help free your employees from manual, time consuming processes they hate and allow them to focus on work that is more enjoyable and adds higher value to your organization. This investment in making the day-to-day lives of your employees better is incredibly valuable. Whether it’s a process that takes 10 minutes every Monday morning or one that eats up three days, lightening the emotional load for your employees can drastically change the way that they perceive their employment experience.
What is Business Process Automation?
Business Process Automation (BPA) is the method in which you utilize technology to automate or optimize processes within your organization. One of the most important things to remember about BPA is that it focuses on process optimization. You can automate any process, but first you need to consider whether the process is worth automating in the first place.
It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t select a technology and see what problems it can solve; you will be better served by deciding which problems you need to solve and then finding a technology that provides a solution.
How Does Business Process Automation Work?
From admin and finance to HR and marketing, the benefits of process optimization and automation are far-reaching. You will be able to find opportunities for process improvement throughout your entire organization. Take, for example, the hiring process.
Hiring a new employee is a process that involves many people. For the typical organization, hiring a new position starts with the hiring manager and flows through human resources for approval and salary research. From there, the process moves to the recruiting team to post, screen, interview, and conduct background checks. Once an offer is extended and a candidate accepts, it circles back to HR to close the position and transitions to IT to procure equipment and appropriate licenses. The process then ends with onboarding and training that needs to be coordinated to ensure a successful start. It’s a complicated process with timelines and multiple dependencies.
For one client, our team was able to orchestrate this entire process to flow seamlessly between departments using the software they already used daily. Their new automation functions as a “digital project manager” that is programmed to enhance the process and reduce inefficiencies. When someone is ready to hire a new role, they simply enter the required information in Microsoft Teams, which is then immediately transmitted to the HR department who receives a notification of what their next step. After those steps are complete, a notification is sent to the IT department signaling their upcoming tasks. This is all done by leveraging the software that the team already uses, so there’s no switching back and forth between systems.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a subset of Business Process Automation created through enterprise innovation. As companies grow, they inevitably create technical debt— older, legacy systems that don’t make sense to replace, yet still need to interact with the new, cloud-based tools organizations are implementing.
RPA started as a (very expensive) solution that helped automate many of the repetitive, manual processes required to tie these systems together through the use of “digital workers” (also known as “bots”) and artificial intelligence. Recently, however, the technology has become more attainable for everyday organizations who suffer from the same problems as enterprise businesses, just on a smaller scale.
RPA is a stopgap solution for organizations who are stuck in the middle of where they started and where they’re trying to go. When it doesn’t make sense for the organization to spend two days on a manual process, but it also doesn’t make sense for them to invest tens of thousands of dollars on new systems or integrations, RPA can be the perfect solution.
How Does Robotic Process Automation Work?
RPA allows for a more hands-off, user-friendly experience. We recently worked with a construction company to automate their invoice approval process. Starting with a PDF invoice from their subcontractor, the automation we built scans the invoice, pulls out the needed information and sends the approver a message in Microsoft Teams. The approver is then able to see the invoice details, modify them if necessary, save the invoice in SharePoint, and then approve or reject the invoice.
Once the invoice is approved, the automation launches the invoicing application, uploads the data and saves the record. When finished, it closes the application and sends an alert that the invoice was created. The invoice is added to an Excel spreadsheet that logs every transaction.
How to Know When It’s Time to Invest in Automation
The traditional way of determining whether it’s time to invest in a technology has focused on numbers—by evaluating the balance sheet and seeing how long it will take to realize the ROI of your solution. But the Great Resignation has introduced a new metric into the equation: how does this affect employee satisfaction and improve the efficiency of your current staff? The ROI may not be as black and white, but the investment in your employees will go a long way.