Automation has been around for years and is now used in nearly every industry in some capacity. Business automation is especially popular in the manufacturing and distribution, shipping and logistics, and retail industries. Although the technology was once only feasible for large corporations, business automation is now more affordable, advanced, and accessible than ever before.
The technology is even being made specifically for small and medium-sized businesses to address their needs and wants. Small and medium-sized businesses often witness the positive impact automation has on larger companies and are curious about how the technology can help their own business. Naturally, a lot of questions start to arise when companies start looking into how they can incorporate business automation into their organizations. To find out what business automation is, how it works, the different types, benefits, and more, keep reading.
What Is Business Automation?
Business Automation, often referred to as "business process automation" (BPA) systematically substitutes just-in-time analytics, open collaboration, and intelligent rules-driven automation for error-prone, manual operations. This is frequently accomplished using solutions like business automation software.
When looking at business automation, there are a few different variations, each with its own definitions. They vary in complexity, use cases, and benefits. Four of the main versions of business automation include:
Basic automation uses automation technology to replace simple manual tasks that are often repetitive and contain multiple steps. Perks include error reduction and quicker business transaction times.
Business process automation uses specialized software to monitor and manage processes for consistency and visibility. An example of process automation is workflow automation. Perks include improved productivity and efficiency.
Advanced automation requires both humans and technology to integrate various systems and platforms within an organization’s digital ecosystem. Once the integrations are made, companies experience improved data collection and accuracy since all information is centrally stored and updated in real time. Perks include greater knowledge sharing and more informed decision-making.
Artificial Intelligence-driven automation uses AI to:
1. Assess a situation
2. Make a decision based on the given information and previous experiences
3. Respond to the scenario by performing an automated action
With AI-driven automation, the technology gets smarter as it goes, learning from each interaction. An example of this is an AI-powered chatbot on a company website. Perks include cost reduction and more tailored customer experiences.
How Does Business Automation Work?
Business automation works by replacing manual labor performed by humans from processes with automation technology that can handle and perform tasks instead. This happens in nearly all industries across all departments, from the factory floor to the finance department.
Automation is not simply just adding software to an organization’s processes. There is analysis, strategy, and methodology behind automation implementation. One of the first and most important steps businesses have to take prior to implementation is pinpointing specific areas and processes that can be improved with automation. Automating certain processes will garner a greater ROI than others.
Overall, automation helps companies decrease costs, errors, and processing times, while improving efficiency and productivity.
Types of Business Automation
There are a variety of different types of business automation that are specific to an organization’s different departments. Five of the most common types of business automation are:
Marketing automation tools can be used to perform a variety of functions. This includes sourcing qualified leads for sales teams and helping create, conduct, and analyze the results of marketing campaigns.
Email marketing is another key area for marketing automation software. Companies can follow a lead’s activity and if a certain action or behavior is performed (the outlined criteria are met), an automated, targeted email can be sent to the lead. Additionally, companies can schedule emails such as newsletters to deploy on a recurring basis to distribution lists, create social media and SMS campaigns, perform dynamic segmentation of audience lists, and create custom workflows.
Sales teams are busy, as they send countless emails and make direct calls to prospective clients. Automation software like Salesforce helps sales teams focus on engaging with customers instead of having to record account-related activity and notes. Sales automation tools can identify qualified leads, assign leads to sales team members, and compile data for sales forecasts.
Automation can also be used for financial planning and accounting purposes. Everything from payroll to purchase management can be automated, giving finance and accounting teams more time to focus on strategy and analysis. Importantly, automation can also identify costly errors and minimize the chance of fraud through checks and balances.
Human resource teams possess a lot of processes that can be automated, especially when it comes to hiring. HR automation is usually implemented via a human resource management system (HRMS). HRMSs can collect and assess job applications, stockpile resumes, schedule interviews, and help with onboarding. Additionally, HR automation tools can manage payroll information, employee records, PTO, benefits, and trainings for new hires.
Since all these processes are automated through an HRMS, the tool can collect analytics for each process, creating valuable insights that HR teams can use to identify areas that need improvement.
Business Process and Communication Automation
Business process and communication automation can be more complex than the other automation types. This is because business process automation usually involves integrating various systems and platforms in a digital ecosystem. The main benefits of system integration is that it allows for more accurate and up-to-date data since the platforms enable information to flow freely between them.
Business process automation is especially helpful for incorporating electronic data interchange (EDI) and API integrations into organizations. Other use-cases for process automation include file transfers, batch processing, reporting, and emailing.
The Benefits of Business Automation Software
The reason business automation software is experiencing tremendous growth is due to the valuable benefits it provides companies. The main benefits of automating manual processes include:
● Increased productivity and efficiency
● Improved customer service
● Error reduction
● Better transparency, visibility, and tracking
● Cost savings
Common Use-Cases of Business Automation
Now that we have some background on what business automation is, how it works and some of the different types, we can now explore specific examples of how business process automation is utilized.
General Business Process Automation Examples
Generally speaking, business process automation can be used for:
● Identifying Inefficient Processes: Find and target inefficient processes that can benefit most from automation—can be done through data mining and modeling
● Incorporate Artificial Intelligence: Automating processes improves and increases data collection which can be used in conjunction with machine learning and AI to make insightful findings and process recommendations
● Bolstering Teams: Encourage collaboration between human employees and AI/software robots to increase productivity and increase bandwidth
● Automating Essential Functions: Implement automation for integral operations, such as document processing, content management, and workflow design so that crucial business needs are met
Specific Business Process Automation Examples
There are numerous manual processes across various common departments that can benefit from process automation. Some examples include but are not limited to:
● Routing IT tickets to the correct support team member
● Security access requests
● Email campaigns
● Product education
● Sales forecasting
● Order management
● Expense approvals
● Wage changes
● Employee onboarding and offboarding
● Interview scheduling
● Contract reviews
● New customer Intakes
The Critical Components of Business Automation Software
When looking at business automation software as a whole, there is an abundance of capabilities the technology can handle. To further understand the technology and answer any remaining questions you may have, we break down the critical component of business automation software below.
Intelligent Rules-Driven Business Automation
Automation expedites processes by making decisions based on preconfigured rules and requirements. In order to make these decisions, an organization needs a workflow engine and a business automation system that run in unison.
Real-Time Data and Analytics
Automation is an excellent tool for collecting, recording, and updating data and analytics in real-time. Users can also generate reports and dashboards so team members can easily access and analyze the information they need.
Implementing Business Automation
After business automation is incorporated into an organization, users can start engaging with the technology. Typically, users can engage with the automated processes by logging into a self-service portal. In this portal, users can manage approvals, requests, tasks, and status updates. For example, a user may be notified via email that a document is ready for review. A user can go into the portal, review the document, and approve it. Upon approval, the automated process will advance the document to the next step.
Business Process Automation from Cleo
Cleo offers our customers the ability to automate various business processes. Frequently, customers harness Cleo to automate processes associated with EDI and the order-to-cash cycle, which includes processes such as receiving orders, order fulfillment, order updates, ship notices, and invoicing.
Additionally, customers often focus on procure-to-pay activities such as identifying when to purchase, placing orders, tracking orders, receiving orders, and paying. Less common processes to automate—but are steadily growing in popularity—are internal processes, such as payroll, updating employee information, and even setting budgets.
A key benefit our customers experience with automating all their EDI processes is the ability to scale their businesses much faster. This is because automating processes greatly increases a company’s efficiency, agility, control, transparency, response times, and data collection and accuracy.
Looking for the ROI on Business Automation?
One of the best aspects of business automation is the return on investment. Companies that implement the technology strategically and properly will see an ROI rather quickly, largely due to the technology improving efficiencies and reducing the reliance on human labor.
Essentially, companies can invest in automation software instead of having to pay multiple humans to perform tasks. Human-led tasks often take much longer as people require breaks and time off, as well as they simply operate slower than their technology counterparts. Furthermore, manual labor is more susceptible to errors that can disrupt supply chains.
Automate Core Functions Like Document Processing for Any Business Process
Most core business functions can be automated, at least to some degree. For example, EDI document processing, workflow orchestration, and decision and content management can all benefit from automation. This makes a company more productive because instead of team members wasting time performing these frequent, recurring actions over and over again, they can focus on more meaningful, high-level projects. Order to Cash, Load Tender to Invoice, Procurement processes, etc., can all be considered critical operations which come with error gaps when executed manually.
Experience Cleo by Scheduling a Personalized Demonstration
Is your company, department, or team interested in business process automation? Are you wondering how your company can benefit from the technology, or maybe you are curious about which processes of yours can be automated? If you are just starting preliminary research or are actively looking for a business process automation solution, Cleo can help.
We have subject matter experts that handle automation all day, every day, especially when it comes to EDI. We are here to answer any questions you have to help guide you on your business process automation journey to help your company become more efficient, productive, transparent, and successful.
To learn more about Cleo, our automation offerings, and our managed services, or ecosystem integration in general, contact us at email@example.com or +1.815.282.7695. You can also explore some of our educational resources on our content hub.