There is widespread consensus that digitization is one of the most important challenges of our time. Digitization affects all areas of our lives: leisure, education, government, mobility and the economy. Much has been reported recently about the rapid progress of digitization, and the majority of the population also sees it as a major step forward and as a means of securing our prosperity. Digitization can be driven forward fairly easily in the private sector through the use of smart homes, e-mobility or online services, for example. In the corporate business world, on the other hand, many more factors need to be taken into account: Switching to a CRM or ERP system by itself does not represent a digital transformation of a company by a long shot.
The automation of processes is the linchpin for digitization in companies. The only way companies can streamline all areas, reduce costs and promote growth. That is why, according to Camunda’s study on the state of process automation, almost all IT managers (97%) agree that process automation is the key enabler of digitization. They also see process automation as a driver for new innovations.
But what does process automation actually mean? If we look at business process automation, we should properly be talking about workflow automation. It consists of the integration of applications, the restructuring of work resources and the use of software applications throughout the company and is intended to automate tasks that were previously performed manually.
An important component of a process automation is the so-called RPA, Robotic Process Automation. It refers to the automated processing of structured business processes with the help of digital software robots or scripts. The advantages and disadvantages of RPA will be discussed in the course of this article. First, we will look at the general advantages of automated business processes.
Advantages of process automation
The biggest advantage is pretty much obvious: automating recurring, structured processes saves time and, ultimately, money. Employees who previously performed tasks manually can concentrate on other tasks thanks to automation. This increases work efficiency and also employee satisfaction. However, the fact that automated processes are less prone to errors seems much more important. Incorrect data entry, accidentally sending a document or incorrectly linking data is no longer an issue, and thus the extra time needed to correct these errors is eliminated. Conversely, this increases productivity and efficiency in a company.
What few people think of at first when it comes to process automation: compliance and data protection are guaranteed. Email archiving, storage of personal data or compliance with corporate guidelines can be ensured to a very high degree thanks to reproducible processes.
However, process automation does not only have an effect on work within the company. Customers also benefit from it. Offers or applications can be processed faster and, above all, correctly. Customer service can also be relieved thanks to intelligent chatbots, as common inquiries are answered automatically. This in turn leads to higher customer satisfaction and stronger customer loyalty.
Possible fields of application for automation
As already indicated, process automation does not only affect individual areas in a company. In principle, all areas can be optimized by automating workflows. The greatest benefit can certainly be found in the areas of sales, accounting and logistics. However, customer service, marketing and administration can also benefit from automation. Companies should therefore also pursue a holistic strategy during implementation. Before automation is implemented, for example by using an ERP system, all those involved should ask themselves in advance which processes are mapped in a company and which of these can be automated. In addition, entrepreneurs should also be aware that the use of RPA is not free of side effects.
The challenges of process automation mainly concern two areas. One is the implementation and the other is the use of RPA. When implementing an automation strategy, most IT managers see the greatest challenges in the changing priorities, the existence of inconsistent systems, and the duration of the project. While the use of RPA brings significant benefits, it also poses problems on the other side. For example, RPA scripts must be maintained, compliance must be observed, and the various systems must be orchestrated. Scripts are also often set up at short term, which provides a solution, but does not solve the basic problem. The more scripts deployed, the more confusing it becomes and the more difficult it is to maintain an overview. All of these are challenges to be aware of.
Digitization is a fact – that’ s for sure. Companies therefore only need to ask themselves in which way digitization can be of use to them. The automation of processes plays an essential role in these considerations. hat is why, according to the Camunda study, 84% of all companies also plan to invest even more in process automation. However, processes are complex and automation involves many components and technologies. Consequently, in the end, the success of such a transformation depends on a high degree of transparency and solid possibilities for evaluation. Measuring success and monitoring measures ultimately ensure the success of a transition to process automation.