Business Process Automation Trends Coming Down the Pipeline

Business process automation, or BPA, is one of the more exciting movements in the business world. BPA promises greater efficiency, better output, lower costs, and all of the other secondary benefits that go along with these.

But until technology catches up, things will continue to lag behind. So the question is, what’s in store for 2022?

What is Business Process Automation?

As the business world becomes more technologically advanced, so do the tasks and processes that growing organizations use to remain competitive in the marketplace.

According to Laserfiche, “Business process automation (BPA) is the use of technology to automate repeatable, day-to-day tasks. It accelerates how work gets done by routing information to the right person at the right time through user-defined rules and actions. As a result, BPA helps organizations streamline processes such as employee onboarding, accounts payable, contract management and more.”

For a process to be “qualified” for BPA, it needs to meet certain criteria and factors. For example:

  • The process should require consistency throughout the organization.
  • It should be repeatable.
  • The process should be somewhat predictable.
  • It should be free from error (every single time).

The objective of BPA is to make processes more streamlined and cost-effective. In other words, these processes should reduce costs, lower inputs, increase profitability, and simultaneously require less manual effort and/or person-hours.

The Difference Between BPA and BPM

While the terms are used interchangeably, business process automation and business process management (BPM) are not the same thing. Whereas BPA uses technology to automate repeatable tasks, BPM is a collaboration between the business and IT to model and optimize business processes to meet larger strategic goals. To put it another way, BPM is a practice that looks at the organization as a whole, while BPA is a strategy for improving particular processes. Thus, BPM is the overarching ideology, while BPA refers to the individual action steps.

“A BPA and BPM combination can be powerful, as BPM outlines and provides an architecture for all of the business processes to be mapped and automated,” Red Hat explains. “When applied within a BPM practice, BPA can be used to continually monitor and improve process efficiencies.”

It’s always a good idea to have a BPM framework in place. Still, as we move into 2022, leading organizations are more focused on implementing specific BPA technology to improve efficiency and profitability in key areas of their businesses.

As such, that’s where innovation is focused right now.

The Top Trends in Business Process Automation

Innovation is booming in the BPA space. So while we could highlight dozens of individual ideas and innovations, we’ll keep it simple and focus on the biggest trends we see as we prepare to turn the calendar from 2021 to 2022.

1. End-to-End Organizational Visibility

From a management perspective, having gaps in your organizational visibility is dangerous. It allows small issues to fester under the surface and potentially proliferate into much larger problems down the road.

Thankfully, BPA solutions make it easier to enjoy end-to-end organizational visibility with few (if any) gaps.

For example, FinancialForce has a cloud-based professional services automation platform that allows businesses to easily manage teams across the entire organization with rich, real-time insights.

This includes the ability to schedule the right people with the right skills for the right projects at the right time. It also streamlines the traditionally finicky handoff that exists between sales and service. Departments can work together through a shared view of the customer pipeline instead of working in silos.

Platforms like this are becoming more commonplace in organizations of all sizes. Because once you get a system in place, it’s totally scalable and adaptable. (They’re so effective that you’ll wonder how you ever did without.)

2. Better Employee Onboarding

Your business is only as good as the people you have on your team. And if you want to have a productive team, it all starts with a strong onboarding process.

The onboarding process is where you make your first impression as an organization. If things get off on the wrong foot, it’ll compromise your ability to get maximum value out of your employees. However, if things start positively, it gives you a nice launching pad for bigger and better things.

BPA paves the way for streamlined and automated employee onboarding by eliminating endless paperwork, disjointed tasks, employee dissatisfaction, and low productivity. In addition, it ensures a smooth transition from one onboarding task to the next, which fully integrates employees into the organization in a way that stabilizes the organization.

3. Proactive Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity threats are a big deal for small businesses and large organizations alike. (In fact, many hackers are actually targeting small businesses because they tend to be more vulnerable.) But thanks to advanced BPA solutions, it’s possible for any organization of any size to be more proactive with its cybersecurity efforts.

When implemented correctly, automation can proactively detect cyber attacks at the very first sign of a threat. This ensures attempted attacks only make it to the “front porch” and never actually “inside.”

BPA is quickly becoming an essential component of any company’s cybersecurity blanket. The best tools have validation technology in place and require multiple levels of authentication.

4. Voice-Activated Automation

We see significant growth in the voice-activated automation space (and you can expect it to explode onto the scene in 2022). This technology, which is also growing quickly in the consumer marketplace with technologies like Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Home, is perfect for increasing flexibility and productivity in the workplace.

The key to voice-activated automation in the workplace is to implement it in ways that promote greater efficiency (rather than convoluting existing processes). Examples include:

  • Turning lights on and off in areas where employees are likely to have their hands full (like storage rooms).
  • Recording notes and video in meeting rooms.
  • Unlocking doors and other access points.

Voice-activated automation is especially powerful when it comes to connecting different platforms. For example, when you combine a tool like Google Home with an application like IFTTT or Zapier, the possibilities are endless.

5. Reallocation of Human Labor

For decades, people have been worried that automation and robots will eventually steal jobs away from humans and make employees obsolete. But the more we watch BPA advance, it becomes clear that this is not the case. In fact, the opposite is true.

What BPA will do in 2022 is simply reallocate human labor to more strategic positions. In other words, automated technology streamlines menial, repetitive tasks (which are expensive for businesses and frustrating for employees). In turn, these employees are able to reallocate their energy, creativity, and talent to tasks that require human input. This makes them more valuable to their employers, while also ensuring employees spend time doing more enjoyable work.

6. AI Tech Stacking

Artificial intelligence will become much more commonplace in organizations in 2022. More specifically, we expect to see different tools layered and integrated together in a way that increases their value. This includes machine learning, image recognition, natural language processing, and even intelligent optical character recognition.

By creatively and intentionally combining multiple AI technologies together, businesses will be able to use these tools in ways that were previously thought impossible. This will fundamentally transform digital workflows and dramatically increase productivity across the board. It’s going to be a game-changer, to say the least.

Looking to the Future

It’s impossible to know which specific technologies will take root over the next three to five years. (So much can change so fast.) However, this much we know to be true: Business process automation will continue to be a core focus for growing organizations that want to improve productivity, ramp up their output, and bolster their bottom lines.

If you want your organization to enjoy these tantalizing perks, you’d be wise to place a similar emphasis on BPA in 2022 and beyond.

Frank Landman

Frank Landman

Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.

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