Automation is quickly becoming one of the most dependable tools for any business looking to scale. In 2020, 67 percent of companies reported using business process automation to help their teams relieve pressure to perform repetitive tasks.
And the dependence on automation is only expected to go up from there. By 2026, the business process automation market is expected to reach $19.6 billion — up from $9.8 billion in 2020.
If you’re not already automating your business processes, now is the time to start. But when you’re starting from scratch, it can feel overwhelming. Here’s everything you need to know to automate your business processes to increase productivity and scale more efficiently.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation (BPA) uses software to complete repeatable tasks and transactions. In other words, it automates your business processes.
BPA integrates with the different apps and platforms that your team uses to drive efficiency and improve productivity. It goes beyond your standard task automation to tackle more complex tasks and activities, freeing your team up to focus on more important or difficult work.
Why is it important to automate business processes?
Business process automation is often integrated as part of a larger digital transformation strategy.
Not only does adding automation help bring your company on par with competitors and industry expectations, but it can lead to long-lasting improvements throughout the entire business. Here are some of the biggest:
- Increased productivity. When your team doesn’t have to spend hours manually entering data or generating reports, they can get more done in their work day. BPA completes the tasks that teams often dread completing, creating a win-win for everyone.
- Improved job satisfaction. If your entire workday is filled with boring, mundane tasks, it’s only a matter of time before you become unhappy in your job. BPA allows your team to focus on the work they enjoy so they can be happier with their roles.
- Reduced costs. When your team is more productive, you can cut costs associated with time-consuming busy work. BPA works 24/7 so you don’t need to worry about staffing teams full-time or risking downtime.
- Fewer errors. Automating your processes reduces the human error that often goes hand-in-hand with manual work. Fewer errors mean a better customer experience and less work for your team.
- Better standardization and compliance. Automated tasks are completed the same way every time, helping ensure a standardized process that aligns with compliance regulations or restrictions.
How to automate business processes
Beginning your automation journey starts with taking the first step. Here’s how you can get started automating your business processes.
1. Identify opportunities for improvement
When introducing automation to your business processes, you don’t want to bite off more than you chew. There is time to build up the number of processes you have automated, so start small by identifying your biggest opportunities for improvement.
What particular processes or tasks are creating issues for your team? Where do you see the biggest loss of time or productivity? What areas does your team need the most support in?
Make a list of all the processes that will have the biggest long-term impact, even if you’re unsure of how to work automation into their flow. We’ll get to that step in a bit.
2. Establish or review your SOPs
If you already have standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the processes you’d like to automate, give them a thorough review to ensure they’re up-to-date and accurate. If you don’t already have your processes documented, now is the time to do that.
An SOP is a set of instructions leading to a specific outcome. Businesses will have multiple SOPs, each designed to achieve specific results. They also follow the same structure, including:
- Title: A high-level overview of the process.
- Identification: The people, departments or teams who were involved in the creation of the process.
- Purpose: The end goal of the process.
- Scope: When the process should be followed.
- Responsibilities: The people, departments or teams involved in the execution of the process.
- References: Links, resources or other helpful information for completing the process accurately.
Each SOP should detail the various steps someone would need to follow to complete a process. To make the process documentation process as easy as possible, a tool like Scribe can do the hard work for you.
With Scribe, all you need to do is record your screen as you follow a process. The tool will automatically capture your steps and turn them into a guide complete with images, videos, or GIFs. You can then add context, additional information or tips to make your SOPs more comprehensive.
3. Find areas for automation
With your complete SOPs, start to find the areas that don’t need to be completed manually. For some processes, you might be able to automate the entire flow. More complex processes might require a mix of manual and automated work — and really difficult tasks might not have room for automation at all.
Look for repetitive tasks or areas where bottlenecks are building. What tasks or phases of your process are holding your team back from success? Talk with your teams to find what areas of your SOPs are the most frustrating or challenging to handle.
Common areas to automate include:
- Customer service and support. Automation and AI can help point customers in the direction of the information or help they need so your service team can focus on more complex issues.
- Data entry. Inputting data is time-consuming and often boring. Using automation to add data to platforms reduces human error and cuts down the amount of time it takes to update new information.
- Training and onboarding. When bringing on a new employee or introducing your team to a new tool or platform, you don’t need to manually distribute content, forms, and tasks. Automating training and onboarding ensures everyone gets access to the resources they need without manual oversight.
- Invoicing and purchasing. Establishing an automated system for sending and approving invoices or managing the purchasing and procurement processes can ensure your team has access to the tools and materials they need at all times.
- Data backup. Having your data appropriately backed up can be a lifesaver when something goes wrong. Use automation to routinely back up your data without needing to think twice.
4. Choose your automation tools
Automating tasks doesn’t need to be complicated and you don’t need to pay for custom code to get it done. Several powerful automation tools on the market can help you streamline your business processes and boost productivity.
The tools you choose should fit the tasks you need to automate. In some cases, this could mean using multiple different tools designed to achieve a specific goal. Here are some of our favorites.
- Scribe. We might be a bit biased, but if you’re looking for an easier way to document processes, onboard your teams, or create knowledge base materials for your customers, Scribe should be your go-to for documentation automation.
- Hubspot. Hubspot is extremely popular for a reason — it encompasses everything from email marketing, sales management, and customer service. Built-in automation tools help you stay on top of every phase of your customer journey to start building stronger relationships.
- ClickUp. ClickUp manages projects, goals, content and communication all in one. Their automation features help you move routine tasks along, like assigning tasks, moving project statuses, or updating team members on changes.
- Outreach. Outreach automates sales tasks so you can fill your pipelines with less effort. It even uses AI to provide insights on the best ways to connect with a prospect to close a deal.
Another option is to use an automation tool that connects the tools you already use to add new capabilities and features. A tool like Zapier or Automate uses APIs to create custom automated workflows that function exactly the way you need them to. If your business process automation requires flexibility or you’re not interested in changing tools, this is a great option.
6. Find the right balance
Automation is exciting, but we’re still far off from an all-robot team. When automating your business processes, it’s important to focus on creating systems that allow your employees to work more efficiently — not replace their jobs.
Manual work and automated tasks should function together. As you begin to add automation to your workflows, be sure to check in with your teams to make sure these changes are valuable. If automating a process adds more complexity, don’t hesitate to pull back.
Getting started with business process automation
There’s no need to complicate the automation process. If you’re ready to get started, begin by looking at how you can make the business process documentation and management easier.
Give Scribe a shot. Our free platform is the perfect low-risk way to eliminate busy work from your team so they can begin to focus on automating the business processes they need to succeed.