Photo appears courtesy of Alden Jewell. This week's blog was written by Michael Barnhouse of McAna EDI. Many business leaders have heard the expression Business Process Automation (BPA) but are either not sure what it exactly encompasses, or think that it’s just for large enterprises.
Let us start with an explanation of what BPA is. It is the automation of primarily manual processes within the business using integration software. BPA activities are undertaken to improve the repeatability, speed, quality and cost of business activities performed every day. Many times, effective BPA projects using sophisticated software will eliminate redundant processes while reducing human intervention.
Many small and medium sized business (SMB) have implemented bits and pieces of BPA in automating aspects of their business process, though it’s not typically a piece of an overall business strategy. The benefits of BPA if implemented properly are clear: reducing errors, improved delivery quality, saving time and improving profitability. So, how do you start?
The first step in any BPA effort is to simply identify and define the processes within the business that are core to your success. Processes that are not accurately defined cannot be automated. This is most often the biggest stumbling block. Most SMBs do not have well defined processes, relying heavily on key employees to manage the process and the all too many exceptions that exist. This is not all bad, it is simply the normal evolutionary process for all business. However, the automation of these core processes will free your key employees to leverage their expertise to other areas of the business supporting further improvement and growth.
The next step is to identify the tools that will be necessary to do the job. The first and most important tool is the champion that will drive the desired improvement. SMB business owners and entrepreneurs typically focus their attention toward their products, services and sales. That champion may come in the form of an accounting person, customer service or even a low level manager. While it is important that the champion is internal to the organization, the knowledge necessary to successfully accomplish the BPA initiative can come from external expertise.
A few of the remaining tools are likely the systems you already own and use every day. Many of which may have workflow automation capabilities that are unknown or unused. There may be several mission critical standalone software applications in daily use that are not but could be integrated. A tool that likely does not currently exist in the organization is an integration platform. This tool will provide the framework that enables, orchestrates and monitors the new processes established through the BPA efforts. One such tool is the Delta/ECS package from Liaison Technologies. Delta/ECS is a full featured enterprise level integration platform available to the SMB market.
- Data Transformation Mapping
- Event Driven Process and File Handling
- Advance Process Monitoring and Notification
- Trading Partner and Document Management
- Comprehensive and Integrated Communications
The final step is to implement the automation of the identified processes utilizing the tools available in the tool bag. Today more than ever before there are integration solutions available that enable the SMB to take advantage of BPA efficiency improvements that previously were only available to the large enterprise.
If you believe that your organization can benefit from implementing a BPA strategy, I encourage you to reach out to a group like the Aurora EDI Alliance so they can help you identify your path to BPA success.
Click below to read a case stufy on how we helped Quibids.com move their business to the next level.