As we approach the final years of the decade, automating business processes has never been more popular. Companies are converting heaps of regular manual business processes into independent automated systems, ranging across all segments of their business activity. From sales and management to human resources and information technology, workflow automation is performing what used to be labor-intensive and time-consuming activities and services. The results? Tracking, updating and sharing straight through processes has never been easier. Companies that automate their business processes find that they are freeing skilled workers to focus on creative tasks and streamlining processes for consistent cost and time-related efficiency.
What Is Business Process Automation?
Business process management (BPM) and business process improvement (BPI) are hot topics in the world of business transformation. These terms are often used interchangeably with business process automation (BPA), although BPA is typically part of a broader business process management strategy. They signify a digital shift toward managing the tasks related to business processes to make workflow more efficient. Business processes begin with an initial action, such as the submission of an order form or the filing of an expense report, which then triggers a sequence of further tasks that lead to the desired result, like sales order delivery or employee reimbursement, for example. Some of these process actions are tasks that require a human eye to perform them most efficiently, but often there are several elements of a business process or even entire processes themselves that are just a series of repetitive administrative tasks you can easily automate with today’s technology. BPA is all about accelerating resource-demanding operations, reducing the chances for human error in data entry and decision-making, and providing a better employee and customer experience through near-immediate response times.
The Rising Need for Business Process Automation in 2018
A survey of over 1800 corporate leaders in early 2017 showed just how rapidly the need for and movement toward business automation has grown. The ServiceNow survey found by 2020, rising work volumes will lead 86% of companies to a breaking point without the implementation of automation. Nearly half of business executives reported that to meet the demands of increasing numbers of generated tasks, even in 2018, higher automation will be crucial to the success of their processes. The survey analyzed the correlation between automation and revenue growth and found highly automated companies were six times more likely than low-automation businesses to experience revenue growth of more than 15 percent. Data has shown that automation itself offers a quick return on investment and can make processes much more cost-effective. Automation is prevalent in 42 percent of business processes. The department showing the most significant lack of automated services was human resources, at just 33 percent automation related to time-consuming manual administrative tasks. Fortunately, the market is rising to meet the need in these areas, and services that streamline employee onboarding, for example, are offering benefits of highly organized systems to HR teams. How exactly does automation manage to fulfill the needs of these departments and tackle demands for high productivity? Mapping out processes for automation and adjusting to a new way of reorganizing tasks can take time and energy for everyone involved. However, the simplicity in automation comes down to one thing: making more suitable use of the human workforce.
How Workflow Automation Benefits Business Operations
A workflow automation system is a solution that allows you to move each piece of work through your business process electronically and seamlessly, with minimal interruption. How? By taking the human element out of the manual process equation as much as possible. Every time a human being has to create a form, check an invoice, generate a printout or physically share a document, it interrupts the workflow process, costing you time and potentially money, while also distracting the employee who slowed down the process. Taking these process steps out of the hands of people and into a well-mapped automated system increases the transparency of your processes, streamlines them, makes them more cost-efficient and shields them from human error. Automation protects you from financial loss and provides a better experience both for your staff and your customers.
Also, it frees up your human resources to focus on more their creative and independent work tasks than the manual tasks that were occupying way too much time before. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Six Examples of Workflow Automation Services
There are many ways you can use business process automation services to improve and streamline your business workflow. Different departments of your enterprise have different repetitive processes that automation can enhance. Vanguard offers a variety of automation services that can help you:
- Route and assign tasks
- Maintain contracts
- Quote to order
- Email automation
- Purchase to pay
- Sustain client resolution
There is automation software available to assist different segments of your company, including departments like accounts payable and human resources. Here are some examples of how the best automation systems help create streamlined processes for these departments, making them much more efficient.
Speed up Correspondence With Accounts Receivable Automation Services
Handling AR functions manually can be time-consuming and repetitive. Automation services can track invoices and create the workflow tasks necessary to lead to efficient payment completion. Vanguard Accounts Receivable Automation software provides regularly scheduled alerts to AR software users and customers when bills are overdue and closes out tasks once payments are made in full. It improves timely communication between the company and customers as well as ensuring payments are effectively collected. With Vanguard, automating accounts receivable processes also offers:
- Automated email invoices to speed up your correspondence with customers
- Intuitively organized visibility, including smart invoice categorization abilities
- Easy-to-access, single-view snapshots of all invoice-related information
- Ability to email support documents straight from the workflow and upload communications from customers
- Filters for ad-hoc reporting and ability to export reports to MS Excel.
Save Time With Automation for Accounts Payable
You may currently be accustomed to handling paper records such as paper invoices and work orders instead of using a digital system. On the other hand, even if you are logging files and storing them in a computer program, there’s a chance you are creating unnecessary busywork for your staff. If your people are routinely entering data, monitoring accounts and manually approving paperwork, an automated accounts payable system may save precious payroll hours for your team to focus on more significant work. Consider investing in workflow software that will automate the process to produce more seamless results. The software we offer at Vanguard Systems, for example, automatically extracts data from the digital or hard-copy invoices you upload to the system, determining the best course of action for paying the next bill. Along with other features that will help you manage your workflow, Vanguard AP software products are dedicated to ensuring your success and the security of your accounts. Additional features you can expect from a Vanguard Accounts Payable Automation software include:
- Eliminating the need for paper and keeping all your data easily accessible
- Visual of full process oversight on a single screen
- Ability to set up business rules allowing a straight-through process
- Automated purchase order matching and quick access to GL distribution editing
Get More Organized With Human Resources Automation
Bringing in new hires and filing their endless hand-written paperwork can be problematic. Not only is it common for this process to take up for too much of your HR department’s time, but often not having an automated system in this area can lead to some of the greatest problems due to human error. Missing a form, mistaking information or perhaps even logging data incorrectly can become sources of overwhelming frustration, both for HR staff and for the employees whose information is incorrectly integrated.
Fortunately, employee onboarding can now be a fully automated process with Vanguard Systems. A new employee should be set up for success within your organization, and effective processing of new hire paperwork should provide the groundwork for growth in their career with your company. There are two key features of Vanguard Employee Onboarding Software:
- Vanguard eSign service:By emailing electronic forms to the target party, this program eliminates the need for paper forms in the employee onboarding process. All actionable documents contain mandatory fields for the receiver to fill, and eSign uses the date it extracts from these forms to populate related fields on other documents, speeding up the process by minimizing the need to enter the same data over and over on separate forms. You can also add signatures on an electronic device.
- Filing and organizational support: All finished forms are stored in the company’s HR software, flagging any areas where information may be missing. If there are forms that have yet to be completed, these will be automatically re-sent to be filled out.
Workflow automation has key benefits in every area of business, and these are a few examples of how streamlining processes can save the company time and money and help account for fewer human-caused errors. How can you get started with automating your company’s business processes? Here are a few helpful hints for making sure you implement the best practices while embarking on your automation journey.
Follow Business Process Automation Best Practices for Greater Efficiency
Perhaps the obvious answer for how to start implementing automated workflow systems is to simply get started, but sometimes knowing where to begin is one of the toughest challenges for process owners. Here are seven of the best practices to starting off well and maintaining a success-driven outlook during the automating process:
- Select the Right Process: Not every business process is suitable for automating. For example, if the process requires the creativity of a human mind to operate or a lot of personal interaction with customers, it may not be the best process for entrusting to computer software. The most suitable method for automation is one that requires consistency, is often repeated and needs to be error-free every time.
- Find the Best Tools: Choose the best support software to suit the process you have chosen to automate. Contact Vanguard Systems to determine which of the best automation systems will help you achieve the efficiency goals of your department of choice.
- Set Measurable Goals: Identifying the process steps and mapping out your plan for automation will take some time and thought. What can help keep you focused during the automating process is setting clear, trackable goals for your business processes to achieve. Start small, as the individual steps of the process are automated, and grow them until your end objective is easily reached. Having trackable goals will also help you measure the cost-effectiveness of your processes now that you started automating them.
- Be Inclusive: You may be surprised to discover just how many different people are involved in your business processes. Every small step is essential when it comes to mapping out the workflow system. Make sure to include everyone involved in the process in your automation initiative and get their input to make sure you cover all of your bases.
- Define Roles and Hierarchies: When processes that used to be manually operated are transformed into automated processes, it can change people’s job responsibilities. Clear communication about these changing roles will help you be successful in the automating process.
- Train Software Users Well: Among the changing responsibilities your staff will experience, learning to manage and operate the automation software could be one of them. When your software identifies errors, when glitches occur or if your computer system crashes, you will want your staff to be trained to circumvent the problems and continue streamlining the process. When it comes to adjusting to automation, you may find having staff who know the backup plan comes in handy.
- Maintain Success-Oriented Outlook: Focus on continual improvement as you continue on the automation process. As with many changes in business, there is a learning curve and various phases of the transition, so be patient and be in constant communication with all those involved.
While implementation of BPA will involve trial and error, following these practices will help equip you for establishing good automation-related habits with your team. You will have more control and better communication, and you will be well on your way to a successful streamlining of your business workflow.
Choosing the Best Business Process Automation System
While many business documentation support companies clamor to streamline your business, only Vanguard Systems software has been created by businesspeople for businesspeople. Why does Vanguard business workflow management software have the edge over other companies when it comes to workflow management? Because our workflow management software is designed with the needs of typical businesses at the forefront, keeping in mind the specific challenges and problems faced by businesses today and developing workflow automation solutions to address those problems and challenges — issues like speed and cost. With Vanguard workflow and document management systems, you have the opportunity to get only the minimum number of people necessary for quality and safety directly involved with a piece of work, to maximize your efficiency. If you’re a business process owner without a whole team of professionals in IT for workflow management or if you’re looking for a solution that any of your executives can use, Vanguard Systems has the task workflow management software just for you. Our user-friendly software requires no business process management or programming background to operate. Vanguard automation services can help make business processes more efficient through workflow management software that offers the following features across the board for AP, AR and HR process automation:
- The ability to monitor process actions in real time through a manager dashboard.
- An interface that even those without specialized IT knowledge can smoothly operate.
- An app connector and a full suite of web service integration tools.
- Process and activity definitions among other intuitive features.
Contact us for a free trial demo of our services, and we’ll help you usher your processes through to completion in the most efficient means possible. Tracking workflows, updating them and sharing them across your organization has never been easier thanks to your new workflow automation.
See How Vanguard Systems Software Works Today
The best way to see how Vanguard Systems software works to protect and maximize the efficiency of your business is to see it in action for yourself. We want every business to be able to benefit from our services, so we’re happy to offer a free, no-risk, no-obligation demonstration of what we can do. To schedule your demo or discuss any of our software applications, call 800-445-1418 or contact us online now.