Ways to Increase Productivity with Process Automation

Defining Process Automation Over the last few years, automation has taken the world by storm, helping to manage tasks efficiently and save precious time. Automation can be defined as the creation and application of technologies necessary to produce and deliver goods & services requiring minimal human intervention. Automation technologies and processes improve the efficiency, reliability, and speed of tasks that were manually performed earlier. A process automation system (PAS) is used to automatically control processes. Process automation tools make use of a network of interconnecting sensors, controllers, operator terminals, and actuators. Areas within the organization where can we get automation:
  • Software Solutions across your Functions (ERP to manager: Inventory, Warehousing, Accounting, Production / HRM/ CRM/ etc.)
ERP for Inventory Management: Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software system that utilizes a centralized data repository containing all relevant information. Automated ERP inventory management allows end-users to track and manage data across multiple locations. There is complete stock visibility for departments in all locations, including inventory in transit and costs. These ERP systems ensure product traceability, tracking, and recall, and with inventory control synced with each business division, we get the complete picture. An Automated ERP system also helps in demand forecasting, i.e. keeping track of sales, purchases, logistics, and Supply Chain Management (SCM) so that the right inventory levels can be matched with demand cycles. ERP for Warehouse Management: Warehouse automation solutions are evolving at a rapid pace, and are scalable, ergonomic, and provide a return on investment (ROI) in months. A Westernacher Consulting report states that worldwide spending on warehouse automation technology is expected to reach a market value of $22.4 billion by 2021 end. In the future, the key to achieving supply chain excellence would be to integrate ERP with WMS (Warehouse Management Systems). Physical vs Digital Warehouse Automation: Physical warehouse automation (involving the use of robots and robotic systems) is costly and suitable only for large high-volume warehouses and distribution centers. On the other hand, Digital warehouse automation software is low-cost, low-risk, and has a shorter ROI. Digital warehouse automation is also known as warehouse automation software, digital process automation, or system automation.  Digital Warehouse Automation digitizes and automates manual processes. Data is automatically captured in the database or ERP system. Warehouse automation software solutions like mobile barcoding are low-cost, running on an ecosystem of barcode software and wireless barcode scanners to input and track data. This is then communicated via software to the centralized repository in real-time, and stored for future retrieval. ERP for Accounting & Financial Management: Automated ERP Solutions for Accounting & Financial Management improve cost efficiency and financial productivity. Automation also ensures a higher level of tracking, surveillance, and audit. Process automation and control in tracking billing, revenue payments, profits, invoicing, cost analysis, and budgeting safeguards the company’s financial health. It also simplifies operations related to accounting receivables & payable, cash flow issues, and cash management. ERP for Production: Production tools are nowadays integrated with web portals for programming and controls, along with real-time automated entries for unit and time, automated order processing and receipt, automated scheduling (i.e. real-time calculation of the best job to start on), automated quality control (i.e. automatic detection of production defects through sensors) and automated distribution (selection of the best carriers with tracking details). Software Solutions for HRM: Nowadays, Human Resource Management (HRM) is increasingly adopting agile, fast-paced cloud-based automated software solutions to keep pace with new-age business needs. Process automation benefits include higher productivity, cost and error reduction, no compliance risk or policy violations, and efficient hiring at optimal operational cost. Besides, HR leaders can make intelligent business decisions through insightful data analysis and reports, and collaborate with stakeholders to hire, train, and retain skilled labor.  HRM process automation tools are used in talent acquisition & employee onboarding & offboarding, employee personal data, employee timesheets, leave and performance management, training, and exit interviews, etc. Popular examples are Workday HCM, Kronos Workforce, Infor CloudSuite, and Paylocity. Software Solutions for CRM: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) automation is the process of automating repetitive, manual sales, and customer service functions to help teams track and manage engagement efforts for current and potential customers. Examples of widely used CRM automation software tools are HubSpot CRM, Salesforce Sales Cloud, Freshworks’ Freshsales, and Zoho CRM. Key functional components of CRM automation are: Contact management: A basic feature in most CRM automation software, this helps manage contact credentials for prospects and customers through fields like name, email, contact details, social profiles, and company details.  Lead management: provides sales folks with updated data on leads and prospects, and consists of lead identification, lead scoring, lead pipeline management, lead workflow management, and lead tracking. Documentation management: This is an integral function of CRM automation. Sales processes need a proper document repository with updated RFPs, quotes, invoices, transactional documents, sales templates, and contracts.  Integration: CRM Automation also needs to integrate with other applications and tools like email systems, calendars, project management, etc.  Reports and analytics: A core functionality of CRM automation, reports, and analytics help to optimize sales processes and enable real-time data-driven decision making. Example: Sales performance analysis and sales forecasting. Marketing Automation: Catering to the top and middle of the funnel, marketing automation focuses on automating recurring tasks in the marketing department at multiple points in the customer lifecycle. Sales force automation (SFA):  Similar to marketing automation, SFA tools exist as standalone systems, often being incorporated into CRM solutions as built-in modules.SFA software lets you manage, track, and enhance all aspects of the sales cycle or process, thereby ensuring leads can be converted into new customers. Customer Service Automation: These comprise of customer service tools (also called help desk software, for example, Zendesk), which are also available as standalone applications. They are also often included as part of a CRM system and help find new ways to improve overall customer experience.
  1. BPM for the elimination of repetitive tasks
Business process management (BPM) is a continuous process improvement practice that involves modeling, analysis, and optimization of end-to-end business processes and operations to help meet strategic goals. Applied to tasks and processes that are often repetitive or predictable, BPM eliminates ad hoc workflow management. The Benefits of BPM: Integrating and automating BPM can help eliminate repetitive tasks, reducing cycle times and operational costs, and providing end-to-end visibility for every process and workflow. The advantages of using BPM Software are increased employee productivity and a shift of focus to strategic work (like customer experience and support).  Why business process automation:  BPA is the use of agile software to automate repetitive, multistage business processes. A process automation roadmap is complex, connected to multiple enterprise IT systems, and customized specifically for organizations. BPA nowadays drives digital transformation strategies for companies, leading to streamlining of workflows and optimization of operations.  Process automation benefits consist of increased productivity, better communication, reduced time and cost, better quality and accuracy, greater visibility, efficient task management, improved operational stability, and increased customer satisfaction. A process automation specialist improves an organization’s operating systems by reviewing, testing, repairing, and maintaining these systems. Operating mechanisms include computer systems & networks, and manufacturing processes BPA and BPM: While BPM maps the architecture for all business processes to be automated, BPA (used within a BPM practice) continually monitors and improves process efficiencies. BPM and BPA can also be separate, standalone measures for improving efficiency and reducing costs. RPA – the automation software for today’s enterprise:  Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that uses software to automate repetitive tasks. Many RPA solutions are pre-built, easily installable software tools running on top of existing systems without connecting to databases or accessing application programming interfaces (APIs).  Error-proof bots or robots are trained to mimic human actions, interacting within digital systems or user interfaces to execute a business process, capture data, or control applications.  Benefits of RPA: In contrast to other traditional IT automation solutions, RPA allows organizations to automate at a fraction of the earlier cost and time. RPA is also scalable, flexible, and non-intrusive, leveraging existing infrastructure without disrupting underlying systems. With RPA, cost efficiency and compliance are no longer an operating cost but a byproduct of automation. Major robotic process automation companies are UiPath, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, Kofax, AntWorks, AutomationEdge, Softomotive, NICE, and Pegasystems.
  1. Project/ Team Management Applications (Microsoft 365/ Google Suite/ Other Project & Task Management Solutions)
Microsoft 365: An extension of the Microsoft Office product line, Microsoft 365 is a subscription service offering office apps, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security. PA products under Microsoft 365 consist of SharePoint, Power Apps, and Power Automate. SharePoint: is a mobile, intelligent intranet facilitating sharing and collaboration, which increases productivity and business process transformation across organizations. Power Apps & Power Automate: These low-code tools help to create apps, workflows, and custom rich forms to streamline processes. Time taken for recurring manual team and organizational tasks can be saved through a ‘visual designer’ in Power Automate, which lays out the steps. The tool, therefore, configures alerts and approvals and can even be used for modeling complex, multistage processes. Power Apps enables the creation of zero-code apps that interact with data in SharePoint lists, libraries, cloud, and on-premises sources.  How manual tasks are automated: When processes need data from other sources and services, Power Automate automates data exchanges and synchronizes files through intelligent, secure, and zero-code workflows. These workflows feature cloud-based data loss prevention, identity, and access management services. Apps and processes are fortified with AI and insights from Power BI, Microsoft Graph, and cognitive services. BPA is also simplified through RPA adoption, which saves time and effort with UI flows. Tedious, rule-based manual tasks are automated with point-and-click precision, irrespective of whether the app is old or new, on-premise, or in the cloud. Automated Workflows through Google Workspace (formerly G Suite):  is a package of cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration tools, software, and products. Under it, apps can be tailored for organizations using settings, Apps Script, or various third-party apps. Google Workspace applications like Google Drive, Google Keep (a note-taking tool), and Google Tasks are great planning tools that can help schedule and organize workflows. Google Drive: is a free cloud-based storage and syncing solution developed by Google. Files in Drive can be integrated with other G suite apps; for example, if an employee is working on a client’s video and uploads it to drive, it can trigger emails that will share the link with the client, notify management, and make an entry on Sheets when the task is completed. This can automatically set off more processes for invoicing and task allotment. Google Tasks: is an application that assists in task setup, and can be integrated with other apps in G Suite to direct the workflow. Triggers can be prioritized and highlighted, helping to initiate the executable functions.  Google Forms: is a questionnaire/survey management app in the Google Drive office suite, existing side-by-side with Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides. When Forms are made manually, App Script helps to create auto-generating forms that someone might fill when accessing your website or giving customer feedback. Using App Script, the form content can be predefined based on the product the client purchased, with the information coming from docs, sheets, or add-ons. Google Sheets: is a free web-based software spreadsheet program included within the Google Drive office suite. It uses macros to automate repetitive tasks.  Just like in excel, macros are small programs created without writing any code which works by recording and saving actions, to be re-used again with a single click. Google Apps Script for further automation: Apps Script is a low-code platform that is available to everyone with a Gmail account. Apps Script is pre-integrated with G Suite APIs (Application Programming Interface), with native integrations to 100+ other Google services like YouTube, Google Analytics, and BigQuery. Thus, one or more approval workflows can be set up, and notifications and reminders emailed to approvers and requestors. The script can be programmed to update spreadsheets or other G Suite tools, with real-time data on the approval status.  Other Project and Task Management Solutions: There are lots of other project and task management solutions currently being used. Popular ones include: ProjectManager.com:  is a project planning software fully integrated with Google Apps, Microsoft Word, Excel, and Project. From planning, tracking progress, and reporting, it facilitates online sharing and project discussions, creation of group discussions, and invitations to team members to chat online or through mobile. Scoro: is a project management software with features like projects & tasks, contact management, quotes, team collaboration, billing, and reporting. It streamlines work progress, with all important information stored in one central place. JIRA: is an issue and bug tracking solution designed for software developers, with advanced cross-platform project management functionality. Podio: is a customizable online hub for team collaboration. Its workflow feature permits the adding of ‘if-this-then-that’ logic to Podio apps. For example, when an item is created or updated, the app can be instructed to create a task or comment. Zoho Projects: A commonly used tool for simple project management, it allows teams to streamline upcoming work and tasks. Zoho Projects can be integrated with Zoho CRM and other tools to manage projects in one system. ProofHub: offers an alternative to conventional emailing and other tools, integrating multiple project management features under one umbrella. It has a simple user interface that enables teams to collaborate more effectively. Microsoft Project: is a popular project management tool used by 20+ million subscribers. It helps to streamline project, resource, and portfolio management. Trello: visualizes project tasks on a cardboard-like dashboard that is useful for managing short and quick everyday assignments. Basecamp: Free for teachers and students, Basecamp’s modern social media-like interface and carefree team collaboration features are a favorite amongst project management teams.
  1. AI for the elimination of tasks dependent on human intelligence to some extent
Artificial Intelligence (AI) replicates human intelligence in machines that are designed to think and act like humans, especially concerning traits like learning and problem-solving. Autonomous systems governed by AI are partially taking over or eliminating tasks dependent on human intelligence. ANI strengthened by Machine Learning (ML): Nowadays, autonomous systems can eliminate the need for human involvement for tasks, to some extent. Today’s ever-advancing artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) tools – for example, smart search engines and virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana – are however not close to reaching the goal of human-like artificial general intelligence (AGI). They are continually learning and becoming more powerful, courtesy machine learning (a subset of AI in which systems study computer algorithms and improve automatically through experience, without being programmed), natural language processing, and advances in materials science, networking, energy-storage, and hardware capabilities. The future is ANI: ANI is machine intelligence that matches or exceeds human ability or efficiency for a specific task. Code-based tools in robots and other systems (which have performed repetitive tasks earlier) are now quickly evolving to mastering crucial human traits like reasoning, logic, learning, decision making, and creativity. Today’s smart, networked, IoT (Internet of things)-friendly devices, cars, digital assistants, and search engines (like Google search) perform extremely complex tasks. The systems running modern businesses and markets are all controlled by networked AI in some form or the other now. Process automation companies are now reinventing their process methodologies. This implies not just implementing AI technology, but also training employees to work with AI at the human-machine interface. Steps towards Automation:
  • Define SOPs across all the functions
Standard operating procedures or SOPs are clear, documented instructions that are laid out step-by-step. They are guidelines for specific tasks or set of tasks and help to structure and standardize the operational roadmap. SOPs outline the Who, What, Why, Where, When, Whom, and How of a business process/operation. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines an SOP as a “set of written instructions that document a routine or repetitive activity followed by an organization”. SOPs can be in various forms, namely:
  • Workflow Charts/ Diagrams
  • Process docs
  • Checklists (including product, marketing, task, and audit checklists)
  • Forms 
  • Training manuals or docs
  • Video/ Photographical (with images)
  • Hybrid – Flowchart with checklist/images/video
SOPs are mainly in paperless/soft copy format nowadays and can be automated using BPA software and tools. They are continuously evolving, live records subjected to periodic updates. They are normally stored in an electronic format on a web/cloud-based network for easy access. SOPs are normally defined for all business departments like HR/ HRM, Production, Purchase/ Inventory, Planning, Finance, Accounting & Taxation, Legal, Marketing & Branding, Sales, Corporate Communication, etc. 
  1. IT system Integration of SOPs
A strong IT infrastructure forms the core of all business processes. IT applications can significantly reduce operating costs, and increase process accuracy and automation. After SOPs have been created for all operations, the next key step is to integrate it with business IT systems.  This integration is necessary because business management software applications have to be suitably programmed to achieve desired work goals. After synchronization of these SOPs into the IT systems, the information flow requirements for different operational processes are synced and automated. Thus, manual tracking of the days remaining for task completion becomes a thing of the past.  Why choose BPX? Nowadays, a business process expert (BPX) plays a vital role in optimizing business processes, automating workflows, eliminating unnecessary manual steps through the smart use of technology and process improvement initiatives. Other responsibilities of a business process expert can be summarized as under:
  • Map requirements to an existing application and capabilities
  • Configure and modify applications using enhanced modeling and analytics, and service-enabled configuration tools
  • Create new views and query screens over transactional and/or analytical data
  • Creating and changing simple user interfaces (adding fields, table columns, UI logic, etc.)
  • Requirements gathering, process flow production, and definition of new/ modified business processes which depend on IT/ERP integration
Conclusion – COVID-19 disrupts digital transformation: ‘Smart’ communities, vehicles, buildings and utilities, farms, and business processes are now a reality, saving time, money, and offering a more-customized future. Gartner predicts that by 2024, organizations will cut down operational expenses by 30% by combining redesigned operational processes with hyper-automation (i.e. identifying and automating as many business processes as possible, using technology tools like machine learning, packaged software, and automation), a trend accelerated by COVID-19.  Become a process automation specialist and optimize your operations. Contact BPX today and watch your business scale up and grow exponentially.

Author Bio


Rupal Agarwal

Chief Strategy Officer
Dr. Rupal’s “Everything is possible” attitude helps achieve the impossible. Dr. Rupal Agarwal has worked with 300+ companies from various sectors, since 2012, to custom-build SOPs, push their limits and improve performance efficiency. Rupal & her team have remarkable success stories of helping companies scale 10X with business process standardization.

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