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Guide to business process automation

This article was written by Ma-Keba Frye, SEO Content Writer at MuleSoft.

Automation is no longer a nice-to-have or luxury for larger organizations; it's now a necessity for companies of all sizes. It is instrumental in driving growth and resilience as organizations across industries face ever-increasing competition and a digitally-disrupted economy.

For example, successful finance organizations can now process mortgage applications online in minutes, while, historically, this process took weeks and required several in-person meetings. Across all industries – from financial services to retail – delivering this speed to end customers requires streamlining and automating back-end operations through technology, a process known as business process automation (BPA).

What is business process automation?

BPA is a segment of business process management (BPM) that is a comprehensive and broad approach to improving and optimizing complex business processes across people and systems within an organization from end to end. During this strategy, business process automation or business automation is the actual process of leveraging technology to achieve maximum efficiency and simplify day-to-day IT processes and business functions. By automating repetitive tasks that typically require human intervention, organizations can move towards end-to-end digitalization and greater productivity, effectiveness, transparency, resilience, and more.

But BPA is not simply about streamlining or automating a process; it's also an approach for taking data from back-end systems and self-serving it to the business to create processes. By creating new revenue opportunities and delivering new products and services, BPA helps companies to transform themselves into digital platforms and become enablers of digital transformation.

BPA is valuable to several industries, including financial services, healthcare, information technology, insurance, digital marketing, and retail across use cases such as:

  • Customer onboarding
  • Employee onboarding
  • HR and recruitment
  • Sales and marketing
  • Invoice processing
  • Purchase orders
  • Expense claims
  • Data entry
  • Document routing

The benefits of BPA

BPA eliminates many bottlenecks hindering an organization's productivity, efficiency, and more. Implementing BPA provides several benefits, including:

  • Reduced costs: BPA solutions allow organizations to cut labor costs by reducing manual tasks. This leads to faster turnaround times and reduces costly human errors. It can optimize operations while cutting operational costs, leading to higher profit margins.
  • Increased transparency and visibility: For a business, it's critical to understand how operations are running, how cash is flowing, how processes are carried out, and how the company is performing against key metrics. BPA solutions support better process tracking and generate real-time data that provides in-depth visibility and transparency into daily operations, contributing to enhanced performance reports, preventative measures, and improved decision making.
  • Greater productivity and efficiency: By automating business processes, organizations can ensure efficient and structured workflows that produce accurate, consistent, and reliable results. BPA supports a more hands-off approach that promotes growth and business continuity in the event of the unexpected.
  • Better document management: Manually managing and collecting documents can be labor-intensive, error-prone, and time-consuming. With automation, organizations can simplify the transfer of files while creating a secure end-to-end workflow that aligns with compliance requirements.
  • Improved customer experiences: Today's customers value convenience, fast response times, and a quality customer experience. BPA directly impacts customer onboarding, support, and more processes that can enhance the customer experience.

What's the difference between BPA and RPA?

Business process automation and robotic process automation (RPA) are sometimes used synonymously; however, they're distinct processes that can work separately or together to achieve more significant outcomes. BPA uses a set of related technologies and takes a holistic approach to optimize an entire business process from start to finish for maximum efficiency. At its core, RPA uses machine learning to automate and simplify a specific, routine task or process.

How do companies automate business processes?

Traditional approaches to business process automation involve implementing a BPM tool and integrating systems through point-to-point connections. However, these approaches no longer suffice because these one-to-one connections lead to tangled connections that hinder the visibility of data in underlying systems.

There's more space for automation in your business than ever before. Depending on your specific needs, BPA, RPA, hyperautomation, intelligent process automation, and workflow automation tools offer several business automation options. Use BPM to examine your current processes and identify any bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.

For more information on overcoming automation-related challenges and transforming your business through automation, watch Automation 101: Transforming Your Business For Any Future.