Business Process Automation (BPA) is a critical component of every organization’s digital transformation strategy. Executives want it done faster, with less errors and at a lower cost. Employees don’t want to spend their time shuffling paper and working on administrative tasks. As if those aren’t enough challenges, the technology used to automate processes must align with the mobile 21st century workforce.
According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, working remotely has increased 103 percent since 2005. Offices and processes are being reengineered with an understanding that 50-60 percent of work time will take place outside of the traditional office. Smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices have replaced PCs so people expect to initiate or participate in workflows on any device in the office, at home or while traveling. The consumerization of IT and the rapid growth of cloud technologies has forever changed expectations about software used at work. Lengthy training and implementations along with cumbersome user interfaces are no longer acceptable.
There is no debating that automating business processes contributes to an organization’s success, people and processes are the foundation of every company. Process automation in accounts payable, marketing, sales, customer service and human resources are essential if a business wants to grow and succeed versus just surviving. Automation reduces human intervention so workflows are streamlined and standardized. In addition, errors are reduced, costs are lowered and the business becomes more agile.
Organizations have a wide variety of process automation technologies to choose from including Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS), workflow platforms and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems. The correct solution for an organization will be dependent on business needs and budget. Regardless of the technology selected proper information governance (IG) must be considered.
Information governance incorporates records management, information security and compliance. It should balance extracting value from information and reducing the potential risk of information. Business process automation aids in the efficient and effective use of information, but the potential risk is often overlooked when solutions are selected.
- Is there an audit trail on processes and access to information?
- Is critical information encrypted in-transit and at rest?
- Will your company’s retention policy be applied?
There must be a convergence of the needs of process automation and information governance. The good news is a number of companies who provide business process outsourcing and business process automation technology see this need in the market and are responding. Competition, the rapid adoption of cloud technologies and the low cost of digital storage are making these solutions more affordable. As organizations consider the business process automation that fits their needs consider these points.
- Extensibility – Trying to implement a solution across many departments at the same time can be expensive and time consuming. Start with the area where process automation will have the greatest payoff and make sure the platform is flexible enough to manage different work streams. Accounts payable and human resources are two areas where business process automation is becoming popular. However, the needs and workflows will vary considerably.
- Mobile – If information cannot be accessed on any device it’s not going to meet the needs of a today’s workforce.
- Intuitive design – If a solution is not easy to use adoption will suffer and roll out will be slow. Companies want to reap the benefits of their investment as quickly as possible.
- Frequent enhancements – Technology is advancing rapidly. There is a trend toward artificial intelligence and machine learning which can further advance workflows. Documents can be classified and routed with no human interaction, data ran be extracted and passed to the appropriate system.
- Security – We’ve all seen the headlines about security breaches. Encryption, two-factor authentication, single sign on and password complexity and expiration are only a few things that should be on your security checklist. Any technology you select should go through some type of annual audit; SOC or ISO.
- Compliance – Information should be retained based a company’s retention policy. Audit logs must exist for all user activities. Responding to an audit or conducting a self-audit should not be a burden.
Business process automation and proper information governance are equally important and must coexist. A digital transformation strategy that does not incorporate both is not complete.
BJ provides organizations with temporary and on-demand business transformation and information management services. He has been a senior business leader for over 25 years, developing and implementing go-to-market strategies designed to increase revenue, improve productivity and advance the customer experience. His extensive experience in business process reengineering, compliance and security enables organizations to improve their agility while reducing their risk profiles.