We can probably unanimously agree that we’d all prefer to have fewer tedious tasks on our plate. This is nearly universal across all mid-market companies.
In order to do that, we need to implement business process automation (BPA) measures, and that’s where things can get stickier. It’s harder to gain company-wide consensus on the implementation of BPA software that will require a budget, timeline, and training. Humans are somewhat hard-wired to resist change, and the thought of starting a project outside of your regular duties that might take weeks can be daunting.
But what if BPA didn’t take weeks? What if you could implement something in one day?
All of the sudden, that sounds pretty good! Automate a tedious task you dislike in only a day? Sign us up!
In this post, we’ll cover seven different business processes that are ripe for automation that carry extremely short implementation timelines. Who knows, perhaps streamlining one process will snowball into a company-wide digital transformation…
But for now, let’s start at the beginning.
What is Business Process Automation and Why Should You Care?
Business process automation (BPA) uses technology for the execution of recurring tasks in replacement of manual effort.
Some examples of business processes that are often automated include:
- Data reporting
- Customer support ticketing
- Applicant screening during hiring
There are tons more, of course, but you’ve likely run across these at some point.
Generally, businesses are only automating a portion of a particular business process and connecting the finished product to another, human-led process. In some cases, really smart businesses have completely automated certain tasks from start to finish. One example of soup-to-nuts BPA is a chatbot in customer support that can receive an inquiry, understand the issue, and connect the customer to a solution. You can expect LOTS more of this in the near future.
OK, so there’s the what, but why? Why make the time, energy, and investment into BPA?
There are a great deal of benefits on the other side of BPA. It can take various forms, but here are a few that stand out:
This goes without saying, but when you automate a process, it gets done faster with fewer errors. Part of this is removing the “human” in human error, the other part is taking advantage of the things computers are really good at such as math, multitasking, and working long hours.
By definition, a process can only be automated if it’s done the same exact way over and over again. Beyond efficiency, you also get the benefit of having uniform, predictable results.
When you combine efficiency with predictable results, your customers win. This is because there are no missed deadlines, no errors, and no do-overs. This is especially true if you’ve automated a customer-facing process, but internal processes that have been automated can flow benefits downstream to your customers as well.
Doing something a little faster or marginally cheaper is a good thing in business. Changing the game completely is transcendent. Netflix started by using BPA to streamline the DVD rental industry—look where it is today! When you commit to BPA, you begin a journey towards digital transformation that can reshape your business for the better.
You might be thinking: OK, this is all great in theory, but where do I start? This is a big cookie! One bite at a time, friend.
Business Processes You Can Automate Today
It’s one thing to suggest a digital transformation project at your company that might take six months to implement. It’s another to start taking your existing manual tasks and applying a little BPA and seeing the results.
The following list of tasks can literally, under ideal scenarios, be partially automated in a day. Anything stand out to you?
Don’t be so surprised—Stampli is an AP automation technology platform, and you’re reading an AP blog. As you know, invoice processing doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves and people only seem to notice when something goes wrong.
But AP folks know there’s a lot that goes into making sure every legitimate invoice is processed for payment, the company doesn’t overpay, and you’re prepared for an audit. Of course, a lot of the manual tasks that go into invoice processing such as three-way matching, routing, and coding—all can be streamlined with automation by computers.
What you may not know, however, is that you can implement automated invoice processing in just one day—not months. get started by creating an invoice processing flowchart and see how easy it is to find and solve inefficiencies.
Related reading: Purple Speeds Invoice Processing with Stampli by 63%
Hiring can be a long, arduous process, and with more employees jumping ship more often than in the past, the hiring processing is increasing in frequency. Many of the employees you’ll be hiring are categorized as Millennials, and beyond all the hype (both positive and negative), this group of employees has taught us a valuable lesson for the on-boarding process.
Millennials, as opposed to Generation X, were brought up with information at their fingertips. During the on-boarding process, a younger employee doesn’t want to wait around for somebody to show her what to do—she wants to be given the tools to do it herself. Employers can use this to their advantage by automating parts of the on-boarding process.
For instance, it’s relatively simple to configure an e-signature platform to send out a welcome email upon signed contract. This could also notify your IT department to begin setting up the new user accounts. From there, the employee can enter workflow software that issues a roadmap with milestones for their first two weeks.
Beyond efficiency, there are additional benefits to automating the on-boarding process:
- 42% of employees are more productive when they have access to proper on-boarding processes (CareerBuilder)
- 45% of employees who undergo a structured on-boarding process say they have greater trust in their organization (HR Technologists)
Who wouldn’t want to automate customer support? While there is a significant case to be made for personal interaction when a customer has a problem, there is also plenty of value in proactively solving that problem with automation in the form of help centers, chatbots, or other artificial intelligence systems.
Beyond simply speeding the time to resolution with an array of customer-facing features, customer service automation platforms such as Zendesk provide insights into the overall customer support process of your business, allowing you to find opportunities to increase operational excellence.
If you can help your team spend less time on the phone with angry customers while increasing customer satisfaction, you should give it a try!
What do salespeople love? Closing deals.
What do they hate? Paperwork, or in the case or modern sales, updating a CRM.
In an ideal world, salespeople would spend the majority of their time on tasks that utilize their talents, such as prospecting and having conversations. Activities like call logging, filing, and handoffs to the implementation team are a necessary part of the job, but they’re also tasks that are ripe for automation. Between connected devices, paperless contracts, and automated call logging, digital workflows between various sales tools allow your sales team to spend more time selling and less time on manual data entry.
Social Media Management
Your brand is incredibly important to your company, so you definitely want to be careful when automating your marketing. That said, many companies are creating so much content across so many digital platforms, some form of automation is necessary to keep up with it all.
When it comes to automating your publishing, tools like Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, and HubSpot allow you to map and send out your content at the best times. For community management (such as moderating comments and responding to inquiries), you can use these same set of tools to manage communications from multiple platforms all in one place.
Or, if you’d like to go low tech, Facebook allows you to configure an automatic “Out of office” responder called Instant Replies that will get sent out to people who message your inbox after hours. You can even customize the message to let them know when you’ll be able to follow up with them.
It pays to stay on top of your expenses, literally, but it’s no fun filling out expense reports manually. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are a bunch of apps for expense tracking, and you’ll likely want to make sure the one you choose lines up with your AP software, similar to how Stampli integrates with Quickbooks, so choose wisely.
Financial statements must line up to the penny and will always require some sort of human input, at the very least at the review and approval stage. But as we mentioned earlier, automation isn’t limited to all or nothing—there is a tremendous amount of labor that goes into the reconciliation process, some of which computers are an ideal fit for.
Accounting reconciliation software has the ability to eliminate paper-based, manual spreadsheets by adding new ERP accounts automatically, creating segregation of duties, making post-certification view-only records, and providing visibility of the whole process. By the time the process is ready for the human touch, all the hard work is done.
BPA isn’t about removing the human element from your business, it’s about enhancing it.
When done correctly, BPA is more of a partnership. The machines get to do what they’re great at, freeing up your employees to use their talents to innovate in other areas of the business.
One of the common misconceptions of BPA is that it takes weeks, or even months, to implement. We hope that if you’ve made it this far, you can see that there are plenty of processes ripe for automation that have implementation timelines of a single day.
This includes the work we do at Stampli—our AP automation solution can be set up in one day. If you’re curious about what this might look like in your AP department, feel free to get in touch with one of our AP heroes today.