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What is Business Process Automation?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Business process automation, or BPA, is a strategy that is used to optimize and streamline the essential processes used to operate a business, using the latest technology to automate the functions involved in carrying out those processes. The idea behind BPA is to allow the company to receive the most benefit by using all available resources to best advantage, while keeping the operation costs as low as possible. Doing so helps to allow the business to generate greater profits and achieve a level of stability that would be hard to realize without the use of automation.

While there are a number of different approaches to business process automation, most strategies identify three essential stages that must take place in order for the automation to be successful. The first stage is known as orchestration. During this phase, managers work with automation professionals, such as Information Technology developers, to evaluate the needs of the business, explore the specifics of each sector of the business operation, and identify where technology can streamline the steps involved in each one of those sectors. During orchestration, all parties involved seek to also determine how each sector can be more efficiently interconnected with the use of the right hardware and software, and in turn have a positive impact on the overall production effort. It is here that the automation strategy is defined and prepared for implementation within the company culture.

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After orchestration, the next phase of business process automation is known as integration. During this phase, each department within the company is incrementally introduced to the new technology. Once the advances are in place and functioning, the next department in the implementation process is addressed, with the sequence continuing until all sectors of the company are not involved with the automation. This incremental approach makes it possible to quickly identify and implement any unforeseen operational issues that materialize at each department level, before expanding the automation to include more departments. Ideally, this means that when the implementation is complete, every department is responding favorably with increased productivity as a result of the new automated processes.

The final phase of business process automation is sometimes referred to as dynamic integration or execution. This is the phase in which the now established automated processes within each department are further integrated to provide data to other departments. For example, in a fully functional business process automation situation, data from the sales department flows automatically to accounts receivable, which in turn shares data on invoiced orders with sales, various levels of management, and others within the organization that need access to that data. Execution at this level also creates a two-way flow of data, allowing salespeople and sales managers to easily obtain data about orders placed by their customers, including shipment dates, invoicing dates, and when those invoices were paid.

Businesses of any size can benefit from the use of business process automation. Assuming that the automated processes help to perform functions in a manner that is more efficient than manual processes, the company lowers operating expenses and is positioned to provide product at a lower cost. This in turn means more profit is earned off each unit sold, a factor that is important to the success of just about any business enterprise.

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