Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of digital transformation. You’re probably also familiar with the basics of process automation – it’s a technology-enabled approach for transforming and streamlining business operations, which is used by countless organisations to support digital transformation efforts.
But what you may not know is that there’s more to effective process automation than just automating time-consuming manual tasks. Leveraging the power of data, analytics, business intelligence and the cloud can make a big difference to automated process or workflow outcomes.
Let’s take a closer look.
A quick primer on process automation
Every employee knows the frustration associated with repetitive and manual process tasks. Whether it’s approving purchase orders for payment, managing version control, receiving and actioning forms or updating an information database, organisations in just about every sector are familiar with the challenges of inefficient (but necessary) business processes.
Process automation takes the complexity, cost and effort out of repetitive or manual rule-based tasks. It programs a tool or system to complete the tasks with minimal human input. Common examples include:
- Workflow tools – these execute business processes involving multiple people
- Approval tools – these push items to appropriate delegates or decision-makers
- Customer support tools – these auto-generate tickets and respond to customers
Why it matters
In today’s competitive and fast-paced business world, organisations need to innovate to keep pace. Continuously driving business efficiencies is key to realising competitive advantage. Investing in process management is a proven and reliable strategy to reduce costs, streamline business processes and ultimately remain competitive.
The three most common benefits are:
Many organisations have roles dedicated to time-consuming manual process work. Automating these processes can significantly reduce the costs associated with them and frees up employees to focus on higher value tasks.
Automating processes can significantly reduce the time to complete a task (for example, manually generating a report), creating more time in the day for staff to attend to other high priority work.
3. Fewer errors
Process automation removes the risk of manual error that inevitably arises when humans carry out repetitive process work (for example, calculating salaries or leave entitlements).
Using data to take digital transformation to the next level
When starting out with process automation, most organisations start by addressing key problem areas where they can drive efficiency and cost savings. Once these changes are made, they wonder where to next focus their efforts.
For organisations with some maturity in process automation, leveraging data and analytics can take the value of their process automation tools to the next level.
Here are two examples of how applying data and analytics to process automation can help to achieve successful digital transformation:
1.Leverage analytics to understand the performance
If your organisation is like most, you may feel overwhelmed by the huge data volumes it generates or manages. You may also struggle to consolidate data to gain a single view of operations and/or performance.
While it can be tempting to engage a team of data analysts to make sense of your data, there is a compelling and cost-effective alternative: harnessing the power of analytics to identify which processes should be automated, whilst simultaneously gaining visibility into process efficiency.
2. Measure the effectiveness of digital processes
A common first step in digital transformation is to shift from paper-based to digital processes. However, many organisations launch into digital processes without fully streamlining the activities involved in those processes.
For example, while a bank may make their credit card application form available online, it may not result in efficiency improvements if it still requires manual processes to receive, assess, validate and submit the form for approval.
By using data and analytics, organisations can better identify process steps that are creating unnecessary work.