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Why is Business Process Automation Software (BPA) Trending in 2021?

Learn all about Business Process Automation Software (BPA), and the Top 3 Reasons why it’s trending in 2021!

Written by Jonathan Richter

In 2021, businesses leaders are continuing to think strategically about how they can leverage software to automate their routine workflows. As someone who helps these leaders explore digital transformation, I’m constantly searching for ways organizations can save time and money at different stages of their customer lifecycle. For small and mid-sized businesses, we’ve found that developing custom business process automation software (BPA) is an effective solution!

And we’re not alone. In fact, a 2020 survey by Mckinsey & Co found that 66% of global business leaders from a wide range of industries were piloting programs to automate at least one business process–up from 57% in 2018.

Being the founder of a custom software development team, I find this survey data to be very encouraging! But what is business process automation and why is its popularity on the rise?

In this article, we’ll outline what business process automation software is. Then, we’ll look at the top three reasons why business processes automation with custom software is trending in 2021.

Are you a business leader who’s considering automation but aren’t sure if now is the right time to pursue it? If so, this article is for you!

What is Business Process Automation (BPA) Software?
Top 3 Reasons Why Business Process Automation is Trending
1. Adaptation in the COVID-19 environment
2. Greater Accessibility
3. Increased Value Recognition

What is Business Process Automation (BPA) Software?

Definition

Before diving too deeply into why businesses are investing in business automation software, it’s important to define what BPA is:

Definition of "Business Process Automation (BPA)": Leveraging technology to automate a business process that would otherwise happen manually.
“Business Process Automation” – defined by Winnona Partners

Business process automation (BPA) refers to leveraging technology to automate a business process that would otherwise happen manually. Other terms for BPA include “digital transformation” or simply “business automation”. Essentially, the main goal of BPA software is to streamline a workflow to improve the overall way a business operates.

If you’re like me, sometimes when I see too many acronyms my head begins to spin. People tend to throw around business terms on a whim while simply assuming everyone knows what they mean! To help clarify what BPA is and is not, below are a few related terms worth differentiating.

BPA vs. BPM

A similar but different term you may encounter is business process management (BPM). Business process management is a higher level approach to evaluating how a business operates as a whole, or at various parts of the organization.

How are BPA and BPM connected? Through BPM methodology, business leaders might conclude that BPA will be an effective solution for a specific process. For example, a manager might use BPM to determine that automatically assigning a sales rep to a new customer will help speed up the sales process. Then, they might explore a BPA software solution to make that happen!

Although they’re relatively intertwined, the remainder of this discussion will focus on BPA rather than BPM.

BPA, AI, and Robotics (RPA) aren’t the same thing

It’s important to note that even though business automation involves using technology to reduce manual processes, that doesn’t mean the goal is to eliminate people’s jobs. Some alarmist news reports like this one from CNBC frame automation–specifically robotics process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI)–as though it’s going to replace humans in the American workplace by up to 25%.

Robotics fulfilling manual labor

I’ll admit, I’ve seen some rather disturbing articles and use cases of AI and deep fake technology too. For instance, this AI piano program created and performed a composition that’s “unplayable” by a human. As someone with a musical background I find it…pretty horrifying!

However, it’s worth pointing out that business automation doesn’t always mean making some bold leap to AI or robotics to replicate a human’s actions.

Business process automation in the sense we’re talking about is much simpler. For example, a law firm may want to digitize a form that’s otherwise filled out manually on paper. Another common use case is setting up cloud functions that trigger an email to customers when they take a certain action or reach a specific milestone in the sales cycle.

How do people fit into the BPA discussion?

The social factor

You might find yourself asking, “but what about the social aspects of the workplace?” Although there’s a lot of hype around robotics and the use of AI in replicating manual tasks and taking jobs, this recent report from Capita finds that 51% of people have a positive outlook on automation.

Capita report "Robot wars or automation alliances?" cover
Check out Capita’s recent report: Robot Wars or Automation Alliances

In addition, the report touts that “88% of employees believe that real-time and face-to-face interactions will always be important at work, no matter how technology evolves.”

Moreover, I think after spending a year on seemingly endless Zoom calls people have gained a newfound respect for workplace socialization!

Automation for improvement, not elimination

Beyond the social concerns, reports find that most executives are pursuing BPA to improve employees performance, not eliminate the jobs all together.

In what ways are business leaders improving performance through automation? They’re doing so mostly by enhancing employee training services, making it easier to learn how to do their jobs.

Another way they’re improving is by reducing the amount of tasks an employee is expected to perform. Or, they find value in simplifying an employee’s task with some digital process. For instance, a system might automatically fill dates or dollar amounts based on information submitted by an employee. That’s much easier than getting out a calendar or trying to do some manual calculations!

“Human in the loop” methodology

people discussing business automation project

But how are companies able to include people in the BPA decision to improve employee success? The McKinsey report found that companies do so by working closely with the employees and asking for their input! McKinsey broadly defines this employee feedback dialogue as a “human in the loop” methodology.

The results? Companies successfully implementing BPA with “human in the loop” solutions are seven times more likely to succeed with their automation efforts. The report suggests that the role employees play in the BPA process isn’t just important for success–it’s essential!

Next, we’ll take a closer look at why companies are investing more in custom business process automation software.

1. Adapting in the COVID-19 environment

As previously stated, a recent McKinsey report found that 66% of global business leaders interviewed are piloting some form of BPA. However, given the extreme events that took place in 2020, the findings aren’t all that surprising.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 shook the world and changed the way many businesses operate. Companies who weren’t already undergoing digital transformation realized they couldn’t put off at least some form of business automation any longer.

Even more staggering are the results from a Deloitte research study. Their survey found that “73% of respondents said their organisations have embarked on a path to intelligent automation: a significant 58% jump from the number reported in 2019.

Remote working in the era of COVID-19

When remote working became the norm, many companies realized that new forms of communication and workflow were needed. If plans for automation were already in the works, those plans were expedited. For others, new automation initiatives were born.We also saw this surge in demand first-hand with our clients.

Furthermore, the majority of Deloitte survey respondents credited the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reason for pursuing their automation efforts. Whether or not this is truly the case, the survey data proves that in the minds of the business owners interviewed, the COVID-19 pandemic is a leading cause that’s fueling BPA development.

  • How is your business being affected by COVID-19?
  • What automation efforts or adaptations are you exploring as a result?
  • Contact us or comment below to share your story!

2. Greater Accessibility

While COVID-19 played an important role in expediting business automation efforts, BPA isn’t exactly a new development.

Amazon and Google have developed terrific cloud resources, developer tools, integration capabilities, and even full applications to help businesses get started with BPA. You just need to have a qualified tech team to make it happen.

Automate your automation with AWS

As a business owner exploring automation, you’re excited to get things developed as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Amazon has come out with some fantastic new tools to help developers like us automate some of our infrastructure and deployment processes.

Cute Amazon box robot

That’s right, Amazon is helping reduce some of the burden of manual engineering with their Cloud Automation framework. In this way, AWS is helping developers automate the infrastructure and deployment of their automation projects!

Allowing code to bear these responsibilities means teams can do more with fewer team members, thereby nurturing the agile approach. This means lower development costs, faster rollouts, and greater accessibility to high-end development resources.

With a lower barrier to entry, businesses have more opportunities to explore BPA tactics than ever before!

Got questions about AWS automation? Give us a call!

3. Increased Value Recognition

Although this is the final point in this article, you could also consider it the most important. It seems like an obvious statement, but the more you invest in business process automation, the greater your return value. The McKinsey report findings show that BPA success happens when leaders decide to make automation a strategic priority.

But what does it take for these leaders to be convinced that investing in a custom BPA solution is worthwhile? Honestly, determining an effective path forward is something that needs to happen on a case by case basis. Ultimately, it’s up to business leaders to collaborate with their development team to understand where the bottlenecks or gaps in their workflows are, and how automation could help.

However, there are a few general benefits that almost any organization will experience once they dabble in even a simple form of custom BPA development. When done properly, those BPA benefits include:

  • Time saved by automating tasks that were once manual
  • Reduction of human error by simplifying employee workflow
  • Money saved long term by rolling out a scalable solution that you control

Automation popularity – an information cascade

The slow but steady rise in popularity and strategic initiatives for BPA is what’s known as an information cascade; it’s popularity is compounding. In other words, The fact that automation is getting more popular is a reason for why it’s getting more popular!

The information cascade phenomenon occurs when people see that something is trending, and are therefore influenced to also make a purchase, like, subscribe, etc. New reports, pilot programs, and greater access to custom software resources all contribute to the BPA information cascade.

social icons in graffiti

From the outside view, you might not be able to decipher all the specifics of how automation is helping a businesses. However, you are able to infer BPA’s value enough based on these company’s results (profitability, faster delivery time, exceptional service, etc).

Across the world, businesses are automating their workflows to get ahead. Their motivation might be to simplify their business processes, save time, or make more money, among other things. Whatever the case may be, when set up correctly automation is helping these companies surpass their rivals and enter a whole new competitive landscape. Which means the time to evolve your business process through automation is now!

Conclusion

As custom BPA tactics get more useful, more accessible, and more essential in the era of COVID-19, it’s no wonder why business process automation is trending in 2021.

Individuals and companies of all sizes are scrambling to find ways to do more with less. In addition, people are discovering there’s a sense of relief once business process automation is in production. Reducing human error, simplifying your workflow, and expediting your process with certainty is a critical way businesses are able to get ahead in the 21st century–benefits that are certainly worthy of long term investment and strategizing.

At the end of the day, what could you get out of BPA development? Employees could perform better at their jobs with greater confidence to boot. Customers can have a streamlined experience that feels fast and easy. And suddenly, you’ll find you have more time and money to allocate back to working on your business, not just working in it.

Do you have questions or comments about Business Process Automation? Leave a comment below or contact Winnona Partners today!

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By Jonathan Richter

Jonathan is CEO of Winnona Partners, a custom software development company based in Atlanta, GA that specializes in helping startups and small businesses thrive. He's also a classical guitarist, and has studied Chinese language, music and culture extensively.

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