What is Business Process Automation?
Business Process Automation (abbreviated as BPA) is nothing more than the use of computer system to “automate” the work that is required to complete a “Business Process”. It can cover a wide range of work from computers on the factory floor counting raw materials, to the smallest one-person business generating a sales report. The most common meaning that I know of usually falls into the category of creating custom reports automatically. Usually this involves some form of Microsoft Office application like Word® or Excel® and a source of information like an internal database or web-based system.
How do I know that I need to Automate a Business Process?
This is usually very simple: If there is a process in your company where someone has to copy or cut/paste information from one computer system and put it into another computer system, then you need BPA. The very fact that you are using a person’s valuable time to move information from one computer to another shows that you have an opportunity save both time and money by automating the process.
How do I know that it is a Business Process worth Automating?
It is fairly easy to figure out what the ROI would be on a BPA project. First you need to figure out how much time is spent to generate the results each time. Then attach a dollar amount to the time people spend creating the result (or output in BPA parlance). This is your total cost to generate the result. Once you talk to your BPA professional, you should have a cost of the new system that you can compare with the cost of having your people transfer the information. Dividing the cost of the automated system by the cost to generate the result will give you a very simplified Return on Investment (or ROI) in terms of how may times your new system would need to be run in order to break even. Your ROI will actually be much greater if you add in other common factors that go into a normal ROI analysis. Your BPA Professional should be able to help you produce a more thorough ROI statement.
What’s some examples of BPA?
The following are some real-world examples of how BPA was implemented to reduce time and costs:
The Loan Status Report Many large banks have large mainframe computers that hold tons and tons of information on the various loans the bank has outstanding. One of our customers was going into these systems and with pencil and paper copying down various data about each loan closed by their department so that a monthly status report could be created. It was taking the person “two or three days” a month to create this report. The information was stored on the bank’s mainframe computers, and a request to generate this report was deemed “too expensive” to create by the internal information systems personal. We sat down with the customer and determined it would take 50 hours of work to create a program that would query the mainframes like a terminal and retrieve all the information and paste it into an Excel spreadsheet just like the existing report. The report now takes under five minutes to complete, and their ROI was less than four months.
The Project Status Report This medium-size company had a web-based project and work management system that was purchased from an outside company. They wanted to get a project status report, but the reports that came with the system did not provide the set of information that they were looking for. When they talked to the company about adding this report, the outside company responded with a six-figure proposal! Not wanting to pay that amount, they turned to us for options. The project task system was entirely web-based, so we wrote a program that would manipulate the web browser to call up all the information on each task, copy that information into an Excel spreadsheet, and when finished, open up Microsoft Outlook and email the status report! Since there were several people that were spending many hours looking at each task in the project system every day, the ROI was literally only one week!
What’s the next step if I want to explore BPA?
Contact your local BPA professional for a consultation! Be sure to have an idea about what you want the output to be like (you don’t have to stick with exactly what you have now!), and how much time is spent currently generating your result. The BPA professional should be able to analyze your systems and determine a cost for a new automated system. They should also be able to tell you what the expected ROI will be!