The Impact of Automation on Process Workflows

Guest Blog: Michael Deane

Technology has transformed the way we live and do business, with new tools and applications appearing on an almost daily basis. The most discussed technologies in the media recently have been AI and Smart Machines, which are designed to alleviate manual labour that is repetitive and intensive as well as non-creative tasks.

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is defined as a narrow application of AI for business-specific processes and is among one the first examples in recent years of how technological advancement has changed our everyday lives for better.

In fact, the Process Automation market is expected to reach $12.7 billion globally by 2021. With such big growth anticipated, the below article discusses the potential benefits of automation technologies for organisations and the significant increases in efficiency that can be achieved within process workflows, including Accounts Payable, Sales Orders, Claims and even Customer Service.

Delivering Time Savings

One of the most important benefits of automating process workflows is that it enables organisations to save a significant amount of time.

For example, organisations receive 10,000’s of business-critical documents on a daily basis, which employees are required to process and extract key information from in order to gain insight and perform further actions. The tasks required to process these documents are repetitive and time-consuming, which can lead to operators becoming bored, tired and distracted. This can result in human error and a variety of inaccuracies such as missed payments or delayed customer responses.

When technology such as IPA is applied to these tasks, the risk of errors is reduced.  Faster processing times and reduced operational overheads are an added benefit, and when Straight Through Processing (STP) is achieved even further benefits can be realised.

Through deploying IPA, it is possible to process and analyse vast amounts of data from customers, suppliers and even employees in just hours, delivering even greater visibility, compliance, and efficiency.

In addition, IPA’s ability to support operators in routine tasks enables them to carry out more rewarding activities such as relationship building, problem-solving and negotiating. By embracing IPA, organisations can ensure the success and sustainability of their business through happier and more motivated employees.

Greater Customer Engagement

According to industry predictions, customer experience will overcome price and product to become the key brand differentiator by the end of 2020. It is therefore clear that opening the lines of communication with customers and engaging them is essential for business success. This means customers and prospects expect immediate responses to their queries.

However, the problem is that a customer support representative can only respond to one call (real-time) or message at a time.

With the help of AI-powered chatbots, problems with live customer communications are resolved. These smart algorithms work around the clock and can handle multiple conversations simultaneously. They can assist customers, answer their questions, and offer them useful resources.

Furthermore, as chatbots can be programmed to collect and analyse customer data, they can provide organisations with valuable insights enabling a better customer experience.

Customer communication channels are varied and aside from real-time interaction, email still remains one of the top ways in which customers choose to contact businesses, with the average office worker receiving an average of 120 emails per day. The processing of these emails, particularly for larger organisations, can become repetitive, manually intensive and error-prone.

Automaton technologies such as Machine Learning enabled IPA allow for faster processing and handling times for these emails, freeing up customer service staff to spend more time building relationships and improving the customer experience. In addition, better visibility of data means that employees can respond to customer enquiries quickly and more accurately, improving NPS and competitive advantage as a result.

Operational Savings

As mentioned above, IPA enables employees to focus on higher-value tasks, a huge benefit to an organisation as it enables higher levels of productivity within areas of the business which have a direct impact on revenue. Furthermore, employees are the most valuable assets of an organisation, yet inefficient manual processes not only cost resources but can also negatively impact revenue.

The analysts at IDC estimate that inefficient manual processes cost organisations 20 – 30% of their revenue every year. It is then obvious why businesses should adopt automation technologies into their business processes as much as possible.

It’s important to emphasise that automation currently can’t replace human employees and in many cases, people still play an important role in supporting technology.

For example, within Celaton’s IPA platform, inSTREAM™, human operators collaborate with the software to teach it where to find key information and then the software learns from the actions and decisions they make, enabling continual optimisation. Through collaborating with technology and optimising the employees’ time, they are able to focus on tasks that rely on decision-making, and organisations can achieve significant operational savings. 

In addition to these savings, many automation tools come with different monitoring features that allow managers to identify redundant processes and bottlenecks. Together with powerful analytics and reporting, automation will ensure that process workflows are optimised and cost-efficient.

Improved Task Management

A lack of communication between departments can result in inefficient process workflows. Employees need to stay connected in order to work towards shared business goals and enable wider success.

Automation tools can significantly improve team communication and task management, due to the technology’s ability to improve visibility of processes. With some software applications, it is even possible to see every team member’s business calendar, list of tasks, as well as what they’re working on at that moment in time.

Managers can monitor progress and deadlines of every project by checking dashboards, so there’s no need to micromanage and waste time on establishing why a deadline was missed. Automation applied in this way can help to both identify potential bottlenecks and highlight improvement opportunities.

In Conclusion, there is a wide variety of automation technologies available to organisations which have the potential to positively impact business processes.

These technologies enable organisations to streamline tasks, eliminate errors, generate operational savings and optimise productivity to sustain business growth and success.

It is, however, important to understand each specific business case prior to setting off on a Digital Transformation Journey, to ensure the most appropriate technology is deployed to deliver the best outcomes.

About the Author:

Michael Deane has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael's work at Qeedle.

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