3 things to consider before implementing business process automation


The COVID pandemic forced companies to automate business processes far faster than they had planned. How are they doing?

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Image: iStock/NicoElNino

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies shifted to digital operations and adopted business automation. Even in the face of a major pandemic, companies moved forward, implementing new technologies and automating operations, because they could no longer depend upon staff being on site.

“Time to value, time savings, controlled cost management, business agility, superior customer experiences and breakaway growth are all results one can expect from business process automation if it’s done in the most optimal way,” said Jan Arendtsz, CEO and founder of Celigo, which provides automated integration.

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Arendtsz points to these business process automation success stories:

  • One company reported cutting its workload in half, allowing its resources to focus on advancing the product rather than integrating applications.
  • Another company saw an uptick of 5% more payments being applied after implementing an automated cash application manager. 
  • A third company saved hundreds of hours of manual work and gained timely, accurate financials; and 
  • The CDC Foundation saw a five-fold increase in transactions after implementing an automation solution between its ERP and CRM systems. The organization experienced time savings that allow it to focus on its mission-critical work to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

From an IT standpoint, what made these efforts successful was the ability to rapidly integrate a diverse set of applications by automating large portions of the integration effort. This was enabled by pre-built integrations to popular systems such as ERP, CRM, Salesforce, Excel and others.

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“It’s an important point,” Arendtsz said, “Because many people use the word ‘automation’ when really they are merely integrating one application to another in a point-to-point fashion. While that singular [integration] process may be connected, it still leaves data silos and manual work or coding to connect to other parts of the business. With automation, the process goes a step further by connecting multiple applications using pre-built integrations to one ‘hub’ and by using embedded business logic to impact flows that are happening downstream.”

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Leveraging the power of automated integration will help IT break down silos, build and revise business processes, and avail more information to everyone across the enterprise.

But at the same time, there are important caveats for using software tools that affect automated application integrations during business process designs

  1. No automation tool can replace users and IT working hand in hand in business process design or redesign before any applications get integrated or changed.
    Business process modeling, design and (where possible) testing and projection of results should all occur first, with everyone solidly behind the effort before a project is started.
  2. IT must retain an integral role in software integration when business processes are changed.
    “Too many companies opt for ‘no-code’ recipes when looking for a solution because they don’t have the technical resources to custom code the integrations,” Arendtsz said . “While simplicity is important to allow business users to implement their own automations, it’s equally as important that IT teams maintain some oversight across the entire business and have the ability to customize integrations as needed. Having integrations managed from a central platform allows this oversight while enabling business users to create their own automations.”
  3. The human role in business process automation must be planned for.
    Data integration and business process automation will not replace humans in the workplace. Instead, they will reroute people to tasks of greater strategic significance in the business. For an accounting employee, this might mean moving away from manually rekeying invoices and other types of data between systems because of a system integration failure, and instead becoming a financial analyst.
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What’s important above all is synchronizing the retooling of the workforce with the retooling of systems. Employees must be prepared for the new jobs they will be doing. They must know they have a future with the company. 

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