Business process optimization using automation
Fueled by the recent pandemic, digital transformation is no longer a choice. Instead, it has become an imperative for all businesses, small, medium, and large enterprises.
It is a necessary set of new digital capabilities deployed in all business areas. It strengthens the core and can lay the foundation for generating new business models while avoiding being disrupted and ousted by the competition. Most often, Business Process Optimization (BPO) is a critical item on the digital transformation agenda. At its heart, BPO is the practice of increasing an organization’s productivity by improving its business processes.
Automation in BPO
Automation is a powerful tool that can help organizations optimize their business processes by reducing the time and effort spent on manual tasks. It allows businesses to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing employees to focus on more critical and value-added activities.
The use of automation can improve the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of business operations. Furthermore, automation can also help reduce human error, increase productivity, and reduce costs. The ability to automate tasks and processes is becoming increasingly important as the amount of data and the complexity of tasks continue to grow. Automation enables organizations to handle this increased volume and complexity more efficiently, allowing them better resources use and more informed decisions.
Here, we discuss various degrees of automation noted by Gartner.
- Task automation: Achieve rapid improvements by automating repetitive and short running processes.
- Process automation: Increase overall business value by streamlining and automating prolonged procedures.
- Augmentation: Augment skilled operators’ skills and provide self-service options for various users and process stakeholders with intelligent features that provide insights and guidance on already automated processes.
To provide those benefits, intelligent automation incorporates other advanced technologies, such as Vision AI and Machine Learning, to automate more sophisticated tasks.
The objectives of Automation include reducing cycle times, enhancing customer service, and lowering costs. The goal is to alleviate the workload on an organization’s valuable human resources and redirect their focus to critical business areas that require significant human input.
BPO assessment framework
A BPO assessment framework can include the following stages:
Stage 1: Framework – business process automation assessment
a. Prioritize process automation opportunities
- Map strategic goals to opportunities
- Breakdown opportunities to identify key supporting processes/use cases, prioritize and create a backlog
b. Define, measure, and analyze
- Identify key pain points and document goals
- Benchmark current performance and identify optimization opportunities
- Assess applicable optimization and automation solutions
Stage 2: Architect roadmap
Intelligent Automation (IA) is a combination of technologies and practices that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate and optimize business processes. It builds on traditional automation techniques, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), by incorporating advanced capabilities such as natural language processing, computer vision, and decision-making algorithms.
Optimization tools include:
Low-code platforms allow individuals with little to no coding experience, often referred to as “citizen developers,” to create their programs using a user-friendly interface, such as drag-and-drop. These platforms enable users across an organization to create applications and interfaces between systems and workflows, such as forms for data collection, reports, and approval processes, without requiring specialized coding skills. Power Apps, part of Microsoft Power Platform, is an example of such a low-code platform.
A smart workflow platform is a pre-configured solution that automates predefined standard business processes, such as client onboarding for an energy company or hospital patient billing. It helps streamline data flow and actions by providing automated and manual steps, decision points, and predefined rules. Power Flow, from Microsoft Power Platform, is an example of such a tool.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA is a software tool that mimics human actions on a computer to automate repetitive tasks. It is configurable to follow specific business rules and sequences of actions and can interact with various applications. It can perform tasks such as data entry, copying, pasting, opening applications, and sending emails. Simply, it is like a super-robust Excel macro that can work on any application (not only Excel) which is resilient and infinitely scalable (unlike Excel macros). Power Automate, from Microsoft Power Platform, is a good example of an RPA too.
Source: Automation tooling (source Bornet, Pascal; Barkin, Ian; Wirtz, Jochen. INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION)
Benefits of automation
- Reduce costs related to the value of time
- Reduce the time wasted on data quality
- Reduce risk borne by human errors
- Help address unmet demand
- Address an increased throughput which allows you to process more orders
- Improve employee satisfaction
- Accelerate innovation
- Improve customer satisfaction and evolve better business relationships with suppliers and partners.
- Help ensure the detail, time, and accountability aren’t lost in the translation.
Example: Estimating ROI for an order fulfillment process using automation
We partnered with a manufacturer to understand their current order fulfillment processes and identify opportunities for improvement.
The engagement team uncovered the following:
- ~$40K of excess cost spent on highly manual and repetitive tasks
- Business continuity is highly at risk due to the dependency on two individuals
- Highly dependent on legacy embedded macros that lack documentation, nonexistent support, and often breaks
- Missed opportunity to unlock critical resources to focus on higher value tasks such as optimizing the backlog
The team executed a discovery process, mapped current state processes, identified key personas, and outlined cross-functional/system dependencies. This analysis allowed us to uncover key friction points within the entire process. Also, it allowed us to map the required capabilities that will automate several steps to help optimize the process. In total, the customer shaved off 2,000 hours from the process. This sped up lead times and unlocked resources to address unmet opportunities.