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Guide: What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

Business process automation is the use of software to automate repeatable processes, which can save your business time and money. Here's how.
December 19, 2023

Not only are front-end transactions now supported online — such as communications, banking, contracts and commerce — backend activities are also moving online. Digitization is continuing to grow, and the next step is automation.

Business process automation is the use of software to automate repeatable processes that tend to waste time or incur unwanted costs. Companies can implement business process automation software as part of their digital transformation strategy to improve efficiency. 

Why is business process automation (BPA) important?

According to Gartner, business process automation (BPA) is the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies.

BPA is a valuable investment that can be implemented to replace a variety of repeatable tasks, such as invoicing, data entry and inventory management. Any organization with a repeatable process that takes a lot of time and labor is a likely candidate for business process automation. 

For companies in the midst of digital transformation, BPA can be applied across any part of the organization where there is an interest in streamlining workflows and employing software to improve efficiency.

BPA can help companies across a huge variety of functions including finance, human resources, sales, shipping, procurement, underwriting and more.

The BPA market is growing quickly, with many organizations accelerating their investment in automation to improve business efficiencies. BPA is advancing into new categories such as “intelligent automation” which uses AI to increase the autonomy of a particular process with capabilities like natural language processing. Robotic process automation (RPA) is another example of advanced BPA, where companies implement automated bots to mimic human tasks, such as chatbots on a website.

What are the benefits of business process automation?

In addition to streamlining complex or time-consuming processes, there are many other benefits to business process automation.

  • Cost savings: With efficiency and time savings comes ROI. Gartner noted that for 80% of organizations, BPA delivers an internal rate of return of 15% or more. 
  • Error reduction: Automation can reduce human error, resulting in improved record keeping and more accurate information and data.
  • Increased innovation: With BPA, more people are free to use their time for strategic work, creative design, planning and innovation. This can help organizations to grow and evolve more quickly than the competition.
  • New insights: AI-driven BPA can help organizations uncover trends, spot issues and analyze documents. This can help companies create even more efficient processes, or make changes or updates to improve their business.

What are examples of business process automation?

While the name might be generic, most implementations of BPA are actually highly customized and very relevant to individual organizations. For example, a credit union might implement BPA software to review loan applications, ensure the forms are complete and accurate, and check credit scores and other important information that might be available from third parties. This entire process can be automated to reduce the time it takes to review and approve a loan, and ensure that the application is accurate and valid.

AGFirst Credit Bank , for example, has implemented BPA to improve their loan application and onboarding processes. They wanted to be able to process more loans without increasing headcount or sacrificing quality. They set up a mobile-friendly application process that enables customers to apply for loans easier and employees to access information, analyze and approve quicker, ultimately closing cases up to 60% faster.

The Mayo Clinic is also employing BPA in a variety of ways across their HR organization. With a team of 600 people, they were able to save 40,000 hours of manual work in a year by implementing automation in areas such as payroll, applications and successions processing, and internal content pushes. Rather than focusing on improving one facet of HR processes, The Mayo Clinic is succeeding with a variety of specific automations that add up to big results.

Best practices for implementing business process automation

Making business process automation work for your organization requires some planning and collaboration across teams. Implementing new software, changing procedures and shifting job requirements also means that teams need to be educated, bought into the process and trained. Having high-level champions and representative stakeholders meet regularly through the project can help keep everyone focused and motivated.

Here are some best practices when implementing business process automation:

Define clear goals and objectives

Before any project starts, it’s important to define the “problem” as well as the desired improvement that BPA could provide. For example, it’s possible that a legal team would like to use software to compare versions of legal documents for differences and errors. Their objective would be to reduce the manual labor they put into the process, decrease the error rate and perhaps even gain new insights about the contracts themselves using some kind of intelligent software. Knowing what exactly stakeholders want to achieve can help with scoping, cost assessment and vendor selection.

Create a project management framework

Work across teams and with vendor partners to clearly understand the different steps of the implementation process. Assign owners to different elements, such as software integration or defining a new workflow for a specific team. Set a timeline and schedule check-ins to ensure that everyone sticks to the plan and to monitor any issues or pushback.

Develop a measurement plan

Everyone wants BPA to improve workflows, save time and money, and provide new insights, but these benefits are only clear if they are measured. Take time to observe the current output — how many loans can be processed manually today? What is the current error rate? Then, create a plan to observe and measure the same indicators after BPA is implemented. Not only does measurement help teams spot areas that could be improved further, it serves as a motivating case study to implement BPA in other places.

Invest in training and buy-in

Don’t let a project fail because key stakeholders are not bought in. Often, people directly affected by a new BPA implementation aren’t given clear direction on what the new process will be like, how to change their day-to-day and how to make the most of new technology. It’s important to involve them early and often, paint a clear picture of the opportunity it provides, and give sufficient and thorough training.

How Notarize can help you implement BPA

Digital transformation is a long and complex process. Implementing BPA within one department for a specific purpose is a positive step forward, but don’t forget to think about how it ties into the wider goals of the organization. Some organizations are focused on creating a seamless, digital customer experience, for example. Our online notarization platform supports the digital customer experience through our network of certified notaries that are available 24/7 to complete notarizations from anywhere.

Other organizations want to increase backend scale and efficiency. By using Notarize, you can make notarizations a small part of your work day rather than one that involves travel and coordination. Notarize supports the overall principle of BPA, which is to give time back so you can shift your attention to more value-driven tasks. Ultimately though, understanding how your project ladders up to these bigger goals can help ensure growth over time. To learn more about how Notarize can help your business digitize and increase efficiency with online notarizations, schedule a demo.

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