Process automation

What is Process Automation, and which tools are necessary if you want to be successful in this field?

You have probably heard the term Process Automation recently. That's because more and more people are talking about it. And the reason for that is that a great many companies and organizations rapidly need to digitalize their processes and automate routine tasks. Process Automation is an important part of achieving this, in different ways. Like smart tools that ensures progress and working processes. Or robots that can take on routine tasks. Let's find out more about how exactly what Process Automation is, and how can your organization benefit by using it.

It's important to understand that Process Automation is much more than a technical solution. A better way of describing it is an umbrella concept that covers several solutions. Digital Process Automation (DPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are two of them, just like two closely related solution: Business Process Automation (BPA) and Business Process Management (BPM). We will get into what characterizes them and what sets them apart later. The important thing to remember is that what they have in common is to achieve greater efficiency and automation of processes within an organization.

Another key thign to remember is that we want to use Process Automation to provide real benefits. That's why it's important to approach it correctly. We always tell our customers that a good rule of thumb is to start small and build from there. To identify limited area of applications that can provide good results quickly. A common mistake when implementing Process Automation is to have too broad a scope, too early.

Digital Process Automation (DPA) 

DPA belongs to a group of closely related solutions, and we have already mentioned some of them, like BPM and BPA. The other solutions that fall within the same category also act as support in different steps of a process. DPA is characterized by being a manual process that is enhanced and digitalized in every step - end-to-end. Our DPA platform Barium Live does exactly this for our customers, it helps them digitalize and streamline manual processes.

The point of DPA is to get rid of manual tasks with the help of smart system support. This allows employees to work across departments, and also establishes clear ownership for every step of the process. This is an important advantage, since it ensures that people in your organization no longer have to rely on manual workarounds or that important activities are dependent on individuals. At the same time more knowledge around the process will be shared. Put another way, the DPA tool acts like a "cockpit" that guarantees progress and at the same time facilitates follow-ups and monitoring.

Digital process automation is not limited to certain industries. Or limited to just one specific challenge. On the contrary it's highly relevant for companies that face problems with:

  • Old or neglected systems
  • Extended lead times
  • Failed hand-overs
  • Measurement and follow-up challenges

One reason these problems occurs can be that a system no longer supports ways of working. The system was implemented several years ago and adjusted to the processes of that time. Today these ways of working may be totally different. Routines and workflows have been implemented into a business system that rarely provides the possibility to swiftly change direction. While still in place, the system is rarely used or not adapted to current demands.  

Who can benefit from using DPA?

Like we started out by saying, most companies and organizations have a strategic need to digitalize their processes and ways of working. However, we have noted that there is a specific type of company that really benefits from improving how they do things, and that today are often held back by flawed ways of working. This is companies that combine manufacuring and retail, creating highly complicated processes. We call the Manufacturing Retail hybrids.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

You're probably thinking about metal figures from a science fiction movie when you hear the term robotic. But RPA refers to a specialized piece of software that is configured to perform certain desk jobs. The kind of tasks that usually are performed by someone sitting in front of a computer. Think of it as an additional colleague, but better. It works 24/7, doesn't need breaks and never steals your lunch from the fridge. The RPA software is intended to work within your existing systems, and has more in common with a gigantic Excel macro than a tin can (sorry R2D2)

Here are some examples of RPA processes:

  • Open a mailbox and collect emails with a certain headline in the subject line
  • Interpret the information in that mail, or an attachment
  • Collect information from a database or an Excel sheet to classify the subject
  • Scan the user interface in an old system and automatically click on a certain box, using the mouse.
  • Register the subject in a business system (ERP)
  • Send an automated mail to all relevant employees

What we are talking about are routine tasks that don't require any thought. RPA works best when there are a lot of manual, repetitive tasks. In particular if there are simple rules and logic that's easy for the RPA software to interpret.

It's often easy to prove value for the business when previously manual tasks are automated. A decrease in lead times, less work for employees and improved quality are three common gains.

There are mutual benefits to using DPA and RPA. What we recommend is to first implement DPA, and then add software robots. The reason for this is that DPA works as a basis. It provides a foundation you can develop and build on, using new techniques like RPA, Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning.

Where to begin?

When you start thinking about DPA, the key thing is to manage expectations. The idea that an organization could digitalize, or even automate, its business in just a few weeks doesn't feel logical. Even automation and digitalization have never been more relevant. You need to avoid creating false hope or even fear among your staff, and thereby risking that the project is percieved in a negative light already from the start. To achieve this there are some things you should keep in mind.

Our guidelines are:

  • Start small, then expand gradually
  • Define and document the process
  • Involve all the people who will work on the process
  • Work in a structured and agile way - flexibility is important
  • Make sure everyone involved understands the purpose

Create results quickly

One thing we have learned from the companies we work with, both in retail and in manufacturing, is that DPA can help you achieve results quickly. This is an important step and something you should strive for. Showing early success will make it easier for you to convince the rest of your organization to digitalize their process

Independent of where you begin, the end goal is to become more efficient and improve the quality of your work processes. It's not about replacing people, it's about discovering new and smarter ways of working. The road to Process Automation isn't a highway, but to help you avoid some of the bumpier roads we have put together a small collection of links that we hope you will find useful:

Find out more about Process Automation!

If you would like to learn more about Process Automation or related topics, please visit our resource library. There you can find guides, blog posts, customer cases, and a lot more.


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