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Business process automation: an overview of practical applications

Imagine a company where the process of submitting and accepting leave requests is manual. First the employee needs to send an email to the HR team asking for the relevant form. Then, they need to print it out, fill it in, sign it and obtain their supervisor’s signature. After that they need to take the leave request to Human Resources, where it is processed until the final decision is issued. Now, let’s assume that, in the face of a crisis, most employees are suddenly forced to work from home. How can such a change be dealt with in a company where the everyday reality is information silos, everything being done individually and desks cluttered with paperwork?

 

 

The above scenario is a real life example, illustrating the importance of a progressive and well-thought implementation of a digital strategy – not only in the day-to-day operation, but also in preparing the company for rapid changes in the business environment. The 2018 Computerworld and WEBCON report Managing Change And Business Processes in Organizations shows that business seems to understand the need and the value of this complex approach to running a company. As many as 90% of the respondents welcome the efficiency and flexibility of process management in their organizations, yet only a third of them manage processes using modern business process automation technologies.

Meanwhile, the benefits of company digitization are countless, and they are not only related to process simplification and allowing your employees to catch a breath between tedious, repetitive tasks. Automation allows us to explore business processes inside out, and to verify how they are managed, identify the barriers to their smooth operation and suggest possible modifications so that the business can operate better, explains Radosław Putek, CEO and President of WEBCON.

HR can catch a breath

The example of leave requests is just one of the many task and document workflows that can easily be transferred to the virtual realm using digitization and process automation. This can eliminate all the unnecessary paperwork, while at the same time simplifying and eliminating the steps that make the process needlessly time-consuming. Another example in the HR realm, can be assigning cover for employees on leave. If a company has no process automation technology for such tasks, duties are usually delegated by an email, with a list of tasks sent to a given substitute. Drafting such an email is arduous and often done under time pressure, which is a breeding ground for mistakes or leaving out vital information. In companies that have implemented automation, the process is much quicker and easier to control. Substitute employees gain access to specific areas of work of the employee on leave and the related tasks. As both the substitutes and the employees on leave can view the progress of tasks, which is updated on an ongoing basis, catching up after taking leave is quick and painless.

 

Reorganization and new order

The same mechanism turns out to be indispensable when reorganizing a company and introducing changes in senior positions, for example. In organizations that take advantage of new digital transformation technologies, such as low code platforms for business process management and automation, new department heads can instantly navigate through all the tasks performed by their direct and indirect reports, and if necessary they can modify the limits of access of various employees to tasks and company documents.

The system dynamically adapts to the current structure of an organization, and the changes introduced extend not only to new tasks and processes, but also to those we are currently working on, claims Radosław Putek. The flexibility of our solution is also enhanced by the fact that by default all business applications are optimized for mobile devices. This allows for such tasks as changing authorizations, visualizing the company’s key processes, or carrying out a detailed analysis of data presented in a chart or table to be performed at a convenient time and place, he explains.

Automation ­for special tasks

Digitization is all about carrying out as many tasks as possible using IT tools. In fact, this is enabled by the rapid growth of emerging technologies. High quality BPM (Business Process Management) class systems can transform any process into a task and information workflow, and thus into a business application. This means that whenever there’s a need to automate the process of drafting contracts in the legal department, thanks to low code solutions all it takes is a few steps (and no coding) to build a tool that will generate a contract based on ready-made templates and using data from the CRM system, to allow many users to work on the document at the same time, and then to convert the final version to a PDF file and remind the relevant people to add the necessary digital signatures.

It is worth remembering that in some industries, going paperless completely is close to impossible. This is the case for logistics and transport companies, where many transport documents are still used in paper form. However, this does not mean that the process of obtaining information from such documents may not be automated. This is what artificial intelligence and optical character recognition (OCR) systems, based on neural network algorithms, are designed for. All you need is to take several scanned documents and show the OCR mechanisms the fields for analysis so that the system can find the right template in the future, search for the desired values and enter them into the electronic form. This technology was used to create an electronic depository for transport documents in ROHLIG SUUS Logistics.

We are a logistics operator and we scan loads of transport documents, which are then forwarded to our customers to confirm delivery. We are currently using a single shared BPM platform for all files, which is perfectly compatible with the CRM system implemented using low code tools, as well as with other processes that we intend to add to our system. Thanks to this, we will be able to access documents and manage information on all our contractors, says Teresa Bukalska, Head of Project Management Office at ROHLIG SUUS Logistics.

Optical character recognition will also be useful for organizations that need a tool to swiftly register and then archive incoming and outgoing paper documents, and want easy access to the history of a file, including information on who created it and when, to whom and why it was forwarded, as well as where the original copy is stored.

 

Business is fickle. Technology must adapt

Today’s companies operate in a business environment that is more volatile than ever before. We are seeing that, for example, unforeseen global crises are forcing companies to drastically change their business strategies in a short time. Nevertheless, effective change management is also required in the day-to-day operations. Therefore, the focus should be on technologies that are able to dynamically adapt to the fluctuating business and organizational needs of a company. The tools you choose to support your IT infrastructure should be perfectly suited for tasks, such as implementing a new purchasing procedure, covering several hundred purchase requests that are already started and often at different processing stages, or extending a robust order workflow to include an additional element that immediately appears on all forms. It is also especially important for manufacturers to ensure that the processes carried out comply with the existing ISO standards and are documented on a regular basis, in a standardized manner and within a specified time limit. Łukasz Andrzejewski, IT Manager at AC S.A., is convinced that a careful consideration of the choice of a modern IT solution, taking into account various possible scenarios, will pay off.

Our adventure with a BPM platform began in 2014. This is when we significantly accelerated the implementation of all processes. For example, we solved the problem of invoices piling up on our desks and managing timely payments. As a manufacturing company, we can still recall the times when the process of launching new products, from technology invention to costs calculation, to obtaining all necessary approvals, took months. Now it happens almost overnight, he points out.

The benefits cannot be overstated

Undoubtedly, the most appreciated advantages of automation include the convenience that comes with simplified processes, the possibility of optimizing activities and the increased innovation that occurs when, rather than carrying out simple and repetitive tasks, we can focus on more creative activities. But many companies that have already set out on their adventure with digital transformation agree that, apart from streamlining the company’s internal operations, digitization also has a real impact on their sales results and customer satisfaction.

Business process automation certainly helps to attract and retain customers. By showing how well-organized and process-oriented we are, and how our processes are well-structured and transparent, we inspire customer trust and confidence that we will take care of our customers’ processes and manage them with the same level of professionalism and transparency, states Marcin Grotowski, BPM Project Manager at the logistics operator No Limit.

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