Business process automation (BPA) has revolutionized how organizations streamline operations, increasing efficiency and reducing manual effort.
This technology enables businesses to automate repetitive tasks, allowing team members to focus on more strategic initiatives.
Business process automation tools have become crucial for companies looking to optimize their processes and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation (BPA) uses software to automate repeatable, multistep transactions within a company’s business processes.
These solutions are often complex, connected to multiple enterprise IT systems, and specifically tailored to the needs of an organization.
The main goal of BPA is to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve customer service, and improve overall operations.
Let’s break it down even further.
A business process is a set of activities or tasks organized in a specific sequence that produce a desired outcome, such as creating a product or onboarding a new employee.
The integration of automation tools plays a critical role in streamlining these processes, enabling organizations to complete them with minimal human intervention.
What is the significance of automation in business processes?
BPA has a significant impact on small business processes.
Here are some ways we have found that BPA tools benefit small businesses.
1. Automates workflows
One of the primary benefits of BPA tools is automated workflows.
Automated workflows streamline task management, making coordinating and executing tasks across different departments and teams easier.
Automated workflows help businesses identify areas for process improvements by monitoring performance and gathering actionable insights that can lead to optimized resource usage and a better understanding of potential bottlenecks within existing processes.
Implementing automated workflows can also create more consistent business processes.
Multistep processes can be guided using business process flows, ensuring every team member follows the same procedures and adheres to the designed process.
With features that allow users to track changes, add comments, and assign tasks, everyone stays informed and accountable for their responsibilities within the workflow.
Automated workflow systems can manage approvals and document flows and decrease errors from manual entries or oversights.
Digital process automation (DPA) software allows organizations to create and modify automation workflows per their evolving business needs, ensuring a more responsive and adaptable organization.
2. Reduces errors
Business process automation solutions significantly reduce errors, as highlighted by a statistic indicating that these tools can reduce human error rates by up to 80%.
Automation tools can significantly reduce manual processes and errors by automating repetitive tasks, reducing cycle times, and increasing accuracy.
This improvement in accuracy leads not only to a better-quality output but also to cost savings for businesses.
With reduced human intervention, businesses can lower operational costs and allocate resources to more valuable tasks, enabling scalable growth.
3. Allows for allocation of human resources to higher-value tasks
Another primary benefit of BPA is that it enables businesses to allocate their valuable human resources to higher-value tasks, which fosters innovation and enhances employee engagement.
This, in turn, leads to better decision-making, improved customer experiences, and, ultimately, a more competitive edge in the marketplace.
4. Increases productivity and transparency
Implementing BPA results in a more transparent and traceable process, fostering collaboration and communication among team members.
The increased transparency leads to improved efficiency and productivity across the organization.
Automation tools provide real-time insights into the organization’s performance by centralizing data and consolidating workflows, enabling better-informed decision-making at every level.
5. Offers scalable solutions
BPA software can be tailored to meet an organization’s specific needs, offering scalable solutions that adapt and grow with the business.
As a result, businesses can optimize their operations and remain agile in the ever-changing market landscape.
To achieve these benefits, it is vital to integrate BPA with existing systems and select automation tools that align with the organizational goals.
Effect of automation on different departments
Automation significantly impacts various departments within a business, streamlining operations and improving efficiency.
Here, the focus will be on the finance and human resources departments.
Automation in the finance department can significantly enhance the speed and accuracy of financial processes.
For instance, utilizing automated software for tasks like invoicing, payroll, and budgeting can significantly reduce manual efforts and minimize the risk of human errors.
Additionally, automation enables real-time tracking of expenses, generating valuable financial insights that allow companies to make informed decisions and optimize their budget allocation.
Human resources department
The human resources department can benefit from automation by implementing tools to simplify tasks such as recruitment, onboarding, employee management, and performance evaluations.
For example, automated applicant tracking systems can streamline hiring by efficiently managing candidate information, scheduling interviews, and analyzing application data.
Automation can also assist in creating and maintaining employee records, ensuring personal information is consistently updated and secure.
Moreover, automated performance management systems offer a clear and unbiased approach to assessing employee performance, empowering organizations to craft effective development plans.
Implementing automation in finance and human resources, departments can significantly improve business operations, reduce human intervention, and ultimately boost overall efficiency.
With the adoption of these innovative tools, businesses can remain competitive in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world.
Does your business need BPA tools?
So, how do small business owners know if and when they need to implement BPA tools?
They should start by asking themselves the following three key questions.
1. Are employees spending too much time on manual tasks?
A key factor to consider when determining the need for BPA tools is the time spent on manual processes in daily operations.
If employees routinely engage in repetitive tasks that consume a significant portion of their work hours, it might be time to explore automation options.
BPA tools can minimize errors, save time, and free up resources for more strategic initiatives, leading to a more agile and competitive organization
2. Does the small business need to cut operating costs?
Another factor to evaluate is the potential cost savings that BPA tools offer.
Companies can expect to cut operating expenses by a significant margin when automating processes.
This is mainly due to reduced manual labor, decreased process bottlenecks, and fewer errors caused by human intervention.
The long-term cost savings can be substantial, making it a worthwhile investment for businesses looking to improve their bottom line.
3. Will BPA tools help to achieve the company’s goals more efficiently?
Understanding your organizational goals and objectives is crucial in determining the need for BPA tools.
The main goal of automation is to align your business processes with your overall strategy.
If your company aims for rapid growth, enhancing customer experience, or increasing efficiency, implementing BPA tools can be vital in achieving these objectives.
Evaluating your business’s specific requirements and goals is essential to determine if BPA tools are the right choice for you.
The increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer experience they provide can significantly contribute to the success of your organization.
What features should small businesses look for in BPA tools?
When evaluating Business Process Automation (BPA) tools, selecting a solution that best meets your organization’s unique requirements is essential.
Here are several key features we have found to help streamline your business processes and enhance overall efficiency.
1. Ease of use
A user-friendly interface is crucial for any BPA tool, as it will enable users to quickly create, modify, and maintain automation workflows without extensive technical training.
Look for tools that offer intuitive drag-and-drop functionality, workflow templating, and visual documentation of each process step.
Robust analytics capabilities allow businesses to effectively monitor their automated processes’ performance, identify improvement areas, and make data-driven decisions.
Your chosen BPA tool should make it easy to generate detailed reports on process execution, task completion rates, and error rates and offer real-time visualization tools for monitoring progress.
An effective automation solution should seamlessly integrate with your existing systems and applications, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors.
Look for BPA tools that offer built-in integration capabilities or provide APIs for custom integrations, ensuring a seamless data flow between systems.
To support future growth, your chosen BPA tool must be scalable and handle an increasing volume of automated processes.
This may include features such as parallel processing, workload balancing, and the ability to allocate additional resources if needed quickly.
Ensure the tool can adapt to your business’s evolving needs.
In today’s digital landscape, protecting sensitive data and complying with relevant regulations is paramount.
Your BPA tool should have robust security measures to safeguard against unauthorized access and data breaches.
This may include features such as encryption, role-based access controls, and regular security audits.
Different businesses have different automation requirements, so your BPA tool must offer high customization.
This includes the ability to tailor workflows to your specific needs and the option to develop custom integrations, scripts, and reporting capabilities.
By prioritizing these key features, you’ll be well on your way to selecting a BPA tool to help your organization streamline processes, improve efficiency, and drive growth.
Remember to carefully evaluate your organization’s unique requirements and choose a solution that aligns with your business goals.
What are the 6 top business process automation tools for 2023?
Several software and platforms have emerged in recent years to meet the growing need for business process automation.
Here, we explore the top business process automation tools and some case studies that can assist in streamlining various processes across industries.
1. Shoeboxed – Best for ease of use
Shoeboxed is a business process automation tool used for managing receipts and documents and is geared toward helping small businesses automate their expense tracking.
The automation process starts by either scanning with your iOS or Android receipt scanner app or stuffing a pre-paid Magic Envelope full of business cards, receipts, or any other documents, mailing them straight to Shoeboxed’s processing facility for free, and then having Shoeboxed perform a digital transformation on the extracted data.
Not only is the data extracted, but it is human-verified, categorized, organized, searchable, editable, and available anytime, anywhere.
Receipts can even be auto-imported from Gmail accounts to Shoeboxed.
Install Shoeboxed’s custom Gmail plugin, which will auto-import the digital receipts directly to Shoeboxed’s dashboard.
The plugin detects e-receipts in the user’s inbox and sends them to the Shoeboxed account.
That way, receipts are not lost in your inbox.
Drag and drop interface
Receipts can also be uploaded to a Shoeboxed account from a desktop or laptop.
Using the drag-and-drop interface, multiple receipts can be submitted simultaneously.
Piles of business cards can be ditched and turned into an automated online contact list.
Automated comprehensive custom expense reports and receipt images can be created from the web or your mobile device that can be exported, shared, or printed for reimbursement or tax deductions.
Not only does Shoeboxed turn your receipts into data with automatic extraction for expense reporting, but tax prep as well.
Once the data is OCR-extracted from the receipts, it is automatically categorized into 15 tax categories for easy retrieval at tax time, or custom categories can even be created.
In the event of an audit, receipts, and data can be easily searched, edited, managed, and retrieved.
The IRS and the Canada Revenue Service accepts Shoeboxed’s digital images of your receipts.
Shoeboxed is a great way to clear all the clutter off your desk and simplify your daily bookkeeping tasks.
High Praise Worship Center International, Inc. is a multi-campus church that serves its community through outreach projects.
The outreach team consists of 11 members who incur expenses from various projects.
They needed a simple solution so that each team member would not have to input every expense manually.
Shoeboxed provided all the team members with an app on their phones to take pictures of receipts when an expense was incurred.
Sub-accounts were set up so that team members could only access the receipts they managed.
The receipts were then uploaded to a central Shoeboxed account, where they were human-verified, categorized into tax categories, and safely stored.
High Praise Worship Center International, Inc. has been able to reclaim 20 hours a month with the Shoeboxed app.
- Great way to go paperless with accurate, verified data.
- Transforms paper clutter into digital data.
- Can auto-import receipts from Gmail to Shoeboxed.
- Piles of business cards can be turned into an online database of contacts.
- Shoeboxed automates data so that it is easily searchable and retrievable for tax deductions and audits.
- While Shoeboxed may not be as comprehensive of a platform as others, it works with some of the most commonly used tools, such as QuickBooks.
- Startup: $18/month*
- Professional: $36/month*
- Business: $54/month*
*This was the pricing at the time the article was written.
2. Pipefy – Best for security
Pipefy is a process management platform that enables organizations to create, automate, and optimize workflows.
Part of optimizing workflows is analyzing the process to ensure the data is secure.
Pipefy is a business process automation tool that focuses on data security.
Compliance and security are their number one priorities.
The platform has a dedicated security team, regular external and internal audits, and constant security training.
Pipefy uses AuthO Single Sign-on (SSO) and 2-factor authentication (2FA).
All data is encrypted using 256-bit encryption, which provides a more secure service.
There are also third-party security tools constantly scanning for potential vulnerabilities so that security teams can proactively mitigate risk.
The platform provides solutions for human resources, information technology, procurement, finance, enterprise, process management, workflow management, RPA solutions, and customer service.
- Low code platform that is adaptable to most companies.
- User-friendly, intuitive, and easy to use.
- Very secure platform.
- Centralizes communication among teams.
- Offers a free plan.
- Emails sent via Pipefy are often classified as Spam.
- No centralized global approval workflow.
- Limitations on searching in databases.
- Importing data is not easy.
- Starter: Free
- Business: $25 user/month
- Enterprise: Contact company
- Unlimited Custom: Contact company
3. IBM – Best for scalability
IBM manages end-to-end business processes as your business grows.
IBM Planning Analytics
IBM Planning Analytics is business process automation software that automates financial and operational planning.
It infuses AI with business planning that blends spreadsheets and a robust database, making planning easier for small businesses.
The multidimensional database provides real-time insights and analysis of massive amounts of data.
IBM Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation is software that automates business processes and workflows.
This feature allows the user to build, run, or monitor bots.
With unattended bots, repetitive tasks can be automated without human intervention.
With attended bots, users can enable bots on demand.
For workload management, work can be distributed across multiple bots intelligently.
When scheduling, the schedule for running unattended bots can be managed.
Watson Orchestrate is personal-assistant software that automates repetitive tasks.
Watson uses prebuilt skills to execute upon request.
Watson can also be taught custom skills such as: automating routine tasks and streamlining workflows by connecting them to external systems.
IBM caters to industries such as automotive, banking, consumer goods, energy & utilities, government, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, and travel and specializes in decision-making software, robotic process automation tools, process mining, workflow automation software, business process modeling, digital personal assistants, content services, and document processing.
Primanti Brothers is a sandwich shop chain.
They have eight regional managers who are required to pull daily sales reports for five locations.
These reports take 45 minutes per person to generate 40 reports manually by 10 a.m. every day, including holidays and weekends.
The restaurant owners wanted to automate this process to save time and operational costs.
Primanti Bros. turned to IBM RPA technology to turn daily labor and sales reporting into an automated task with less room for error.
The IBM RPA bot completes the reports in three minutes, saving management over 2,000 hours annually and a cost savings of $84,000.
With the bot, they now have more time to spend on growing their business.
- Low code platform for quick app delivery.
- Full cycle business process management platform.
- Easily integrates with existing solutions.
- A very flexible and scalable option.
- Offers robust features such as planning analytics, robotic process automation tools, and customizable virtual agents.
- Performance is sometimes slow.
- The user interface can be challenging at times.
- Pricing is not transparent on the website.
Pricing: Not available on the website.
4. Kissflow – Best for integrations
Kissflow is a cloud-based business process management and automation tool for organizations seeking flexible solutions.
Kissflow includes features like workflow automation, task management, and process optimization.
However, its wide range of integrations makes it popular for small to medium-sized businesses.
Some of the apps Kissflow integrates with include the following:
- Azure Active Directory
- Google Calendar
- Google Drive
- Google Sheets
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Outlook
- Microsoft Teams
You can even build a low-code app from scratch if you can’t find the integration in the pre-built apps.
The platform caters to banking, insurance, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare industries, emphasizing an app development environment, workflow management, and case management.
Employees from United Motors Group had to process purchase orders manually, causing many delays and errors.
It was difficult for the procurement department to track purchase orders since they were paper-based.
United Motors Group integrated Kissflow with its ERP tool to digitally transform its manual processes.
As a result, United Motors Group was able to digitize 90% of its manual processes, process 150-200 purchase requests a week, and increase productivity, visibility, and accountability.
- Kissflow caters to business needs such as case management, project management, and process management.
- Supports multi-user collaboration.
- Allows businesses to create complex business processes with multiple steps.
- Easy to set up and use.
- Automates repetitive tasks and processes.
- Customer service is not helpful.
- Exporting data can be complicated.
- Integration with Google Drive isn’t always a smooth process.
- Reporting and analytics functionality needs to be enhanced.
- Basic w/ limited features: Starts at $1,500 a month.
- Enterprise includes full features: Flexible custom pricing
5. ProcessMaker – Best for customization
ProcessMaker is a versatile business process management platform that streamlines the design and execution of complex workflows.
ProcessMaker is a low-code workflow and business process management software designed to simplify how custom business processes are designed and run.
Its goal is to create and deploy complicated workflows quickly.
Its open source makes it a flexible and customizable option for your business and technical needs.
This software can customize templates, forms, and screens and even spills over to the level of interaction and the range of activities users can engage in.
The customization of roles, along with the associated privileges, are defined by the administrators.
ProcessMaker is built to serve various industries such as banking, insurance, government, healthcare, manufacturing, higher education, telecom, and tech.
6. Camunda – Best for analytics
Camunda is an open-source business process management and automation platform organizations use to design, automate, and optimize workflows.
Camunda is designed to automate manual tasks using robotic process automation tools.
It also provides transparency for troubleshooting and improvements.
The best way to improve and optimize workflows is by analyzing all associated information.
Camunda Optimize provides insights needed to improve your automated business processes.
The dashboard builder gives insights on what needs to be monitored to optimize your process health.
For example, it may question which process steps take too much time.
Optimization can pinpoint opportunities to improve performance, reduce workflow bottlenecks, and calculate the average time per task.
Knowing exactly how your process is performing is crucial to the success of your business.
Camunda caters to industries such as financial services, insurance, telecommunications, the public sector, media & entertainment, and technology and specializes in orchestrating microservices, human workflows, RPA bots, and case management.
Bank11 is a credit institution for the automotive industry.
The lending process needed to be automated and standardized because there were a lot of ambiguities and misunderstandings among different departments, causing a delay in the analysis of a person’s creditworthiness.
Camunda entered the picture and defined and automated the process.
This standardized and sped up the analysis for the decision-making for the lending process.
- Seamless integration with existing solutions.
- A free version is offered.
- Very user-friendly and intuitive to use.
- Flexible full-fledged BPM workflow solution that also supports DMN.
- Very powerful platform with Java.
- The initial setup is complex.
- Limited tools to work with when building interfaces.
- Difficult to modify a process.
- Free: Up to 5 users to collaborate
- Professional: Starts at $49/month for up to 10 users to collaborate
- Enterprise: Custom pricing for unlimited users to collaborate
Frequently asked questions
There are numerous business process automation tools available in the market. Some of the top-rated tools include Shoeboxed, IBM, Kissflow, Camunda, Pipefy, and ProcessMaker. Each tool offers unique features and capabilities, catering to various business needs.
Business process automation can be applied across various domains, such as finance, HR, and operations. Examples include automating invoice processing, employee onboarding, and customer support ticket generation. Process automation streamlines workflow and reduces manual effort, increasing efficiency and productivity. SAP Build Process Automation is an example of a tool that facilitates this automation.
Selecting the right tool involves several key factors:
1. Identify your desired level of automation and the specific processes you want to automate.
2. Evaluate the available tools’ ease of use, scalability, and customizability.
3. Consider factors like customer support, implementation time, and integration with existing systems.
It’s essential to take a structured approach and compare the pros and cons of various tools.
Business process automation is a powerful method to optimize operations and drive success.
Therefore, businesses must invest in the proper business process automation tools and adopt a proactive approach to harness this technology.
The results will undoubtedly lead to a more efficient, effective, and future-ready organization.
Caryl Ramsey has years of experience assisting in different aspects of bookkeeping, taxes, and customer service. She uses a variety of accounting software for setting up client information, reconciling accounts, coding expenses, running financial reports, and preparing tax returns. She is also experienced in setting up corporations with the State Corporation Commission and the IRS.
Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service with receipt management software that supports multiple methods for receipt capture: send, scan, upload, forward, and more!
You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt tracker + receipt scanner app (iPhone, iPad and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.
Turn your receipts into data and deductibles with our expense reports that include IRS-accepted receipt images.
Join over 1 million businesses scanning & organizing receipts, creating expense reports and more—with Shoeboxed.
Try Shoeboxed today!