What is business process automation, and what is it used for?

What is business process automation, and what is it used for?
What is business process automation, and what is it used for?


APIs can be a great support when automating business processes

Companies, often with a focus on SMEs, spend too many man-hours on time-consuming business processes, thereby making mistakes that a machine would never make. How can business process automation (BPA) help these companies? Is it possible to make use of APIs for BPA?

What is business process automation?

Business Process Automation (BPA) is the use of software to automate repeatable operations, as  ; moving workflows susceptible to human error toward automation ( ) and “using software and technologies to automate business processes and functions to achieve defined organizational goals” ( ).

All definitions of business process automation revolve around the idea of digitizing repetitive processes that waste man-hours and are highly prone to errors.

The objective of business process automation is to optimize workflows, improve their efficiency, reduce errors, reduce their cost and even obtain information that can be transformed into knowledge through the data being interpreted better.

Types of automation, where is BPA found?

There are several ways to classify automation processes. According to IBM, the types are:

  1. Basic automation for simple and rudimentary tasks. The objective is the digitization and connection between data islands.
  2. Process automation in search of productivity and efficiency. On the horizon is gaining insights, and this level is the one that corresponds to the BPA.
  3. Integration automation, which aims to mimic human tasks to some extent, including robotic process automation (RPA).
  4. AI Automation. Much more advanced, the idea is to design machines that learn to make decisions.

What processes can be automated? Examples of process automations

Ejemplos de automatización de procesos

When talking about automating processes, it is necessary to break down, for each job and skill, each of the tasks performed by the workers. For example, ‘answering the phone’, ‘listening’ and ‘transcribing’ are three different processes all of which are necessary to record the information of a call. Some examples of process automation are:

Digitizing documents

Using technology such as OCR. This automation facilitates the transfer of physical documentation to digital information.

Automatic document classification

Either rigidly (e.g., by name or type), by information present within the document such as a date, or contextually, by ‘understanding’ what it contains.

Autocompleting fields

Depending on other fields or information, such as the operator operating a machine or the date.

Simple decision-making

For example, a type of software can determine which carrier will make which delivery route, or how the route will change when an additional package is added, in an optimized way. This is an example of BPA that is directly unworkable for humans.

(Limited) team management

BPA can determine which technician is best suited to solve a certain task by learning from previous deliveries and their error rate. In these cases, management is automated.

Self-selection of orders

On a cost-benefit basis, to put some metric. Faced with an unviable demand to be resolved by the company, it can opt for those more profitable jobs.

Invoice management and collections

By means of software that generates, sends and files the invoices, as well as verifies the income in question.

Email marketing strategies

Based on previous campaigns, so that the system can choose to whom to send what content and when it is optimal.

Customer support through chatbots

With the most frequent doubts, although always giving the possibility of connecting with a person due to the limitations of these systems with unstructured information.

Pre-selection in human resources

By means of software that helps to classify cover letters. As with chatbots, a human hand will still be needed here.

The great benefits of automating business processes

The automation of business processes provides important competitive advantages, including the following:

Business process automation is a powerful tool for improving an organization’s competitiveness and innovation. However, it requires proper planning and implementation, as well as constant monitoring and evaluation.

How to automate business processes successfully?

As with other concepts such as digitization or the use of technology, before automating business processes, it is imperative to have a clear objective on paper, preferably in the form of a project report that includes:

Steps to implement a BPA

A short guide to successfully automating business processes could include the following steps:

  1. Identify processes that can be automated
  2. Choose the technology that best suits the process
  3. Design the new digitized/automated work plan
  4. Once implemented, evaluate the results

1. Identify processes that can be automated

When analyzing workflows, detect those activities that consume more time or generate more problems.

2. Choose the technology that best suits the process

Not all BPAs are the same. Some integrate better with integrated management software (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software, others are designed for process robotics (RPA), some work via APIs, etc.

3. Design the new digitized/automated work plan

A testing and scaling, training and follow-up plan must be carried out to ensure proper operation.

4. Once implemented, evaluate the results

It is time to answer about the technology implemented. Should it be changed? De-escalate it to correct friction? Give it the final push?

How to automate processes through APIs

Can APIs help automate business processes such as those discussed in this article? The truth is that they are ideal tools for automating processes involving multiple systems, services or platforms, since they eliminate the need to perform manual or repetitive tasks.

APIs can be used for process automation, from integrating data from different sources to automating marketing, administrative or customer acquisition tasks.

Some examples of these types of APIs can be seen in BBVA API_Market, where there are tools that allow customers to share their data (Customers), confirm the availability of funds (Funds Confirmation PSD2) or have automatic underwriting and formalization for loans when buying a car (Auto Loan).

Each of the APIs can work autonomously and in isolation, or they can work together and be integrated in different client systems. This option, of course, is the most advisable to take advantage of this technology’s potential for automation.

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