What is business process automation?
Business process automation, or BPA, is the use of technology to automate repetitive tasks, which saves time and reduces manual effort. Most businesses have disparate systems that don’t talk to each other, so data is often rekeyed into different applications. This is time-consuming, inefficient, manual, and prone to user error.
Using technology to connect the different systems means that data can be passed between them, and tasks can be automatically fired, which saves manual effort and time. The lack of human intervention means that the people in your organisation can focus on adding value and growing the business rather than dealing with repetitive and manual tasks.
You can automate every area of your business, from financial reporting and bookkeeping to sales and marketing. The possibilities are endless, and luckily, there are many predefined templates to use to get you started.
What’s more, the automation tools we love best don’t require any coding skills, so you don’t need to hire a developer to use them. They are simple to configure and include pre-built integrations that link thousands of the most common modern business applications.
What are the benefits of business process automation?
1. Reduce errors
The first benefit of business process automation is that once humans are more familiar with a process, they tend to “cut corners” or often accidentally miss out steps from a workflow. Using automations means that nothing is forgotten, and the same steps in the process are carried out every single time with no errors.
2. Save time
The second benefit is that business process automation saves time, as computers are quicker at performing tasks than relatively slow humans. This timesaving means that the people in your business have time to concentrate on their core functions rather than the boring, and time-consuming manual tasks.
3. Happier people
Eliminating manual tasks delivers another key benefit – you have a happier and more motivated team! Nobody likes doing mundane tasks, so your staff will be delighted to concentrate on the creative side of the business, letting technology do the dull bits.
4. Increase profits
One of the most exciting benefits of business process automation as a business owner is the increase in revenue. Whether you’re saving a few hours per week or many hundreds, this equates to salaries that you are saving. It means your staff can focus on the aspects of the business which bring in more profits without wasting time on mundane tasks. They are free to be creative, to provide better customer service, to invest time in growing sales, and to do all the things that technology can’t.
5. Better customer service
Using automations means that you can send more acknowledgments, updates, and thank you emails, thus improving customer service and client retention. You’ll never forget to send a request for a review, or thank a customer for paying an invoice, or keep a user posted on their support issue again. These notifications are so easy to configure yet produce massive goodwill for your business.
6. Win more business
Automating processes such as your sales pipeline means that you won’t forget to chase leads, to nudge them, and push them over the line to become a confirmed customer. Creating email nurture sequences is easy to do and means that you can turn cold leads into paying customers without any manual effort. Dropped baskets can be followed up and converted into sales using business process automation.
Examples of business process automation
The possibilities for business process automation are endless, but here are some examples to get you started:
- Automatic file transfers – you can send files from one app to another by creating a workflow automation.
- Customer helpdesk – you can create a checklist automatically, and then depending on what the issue is, send it to the right Slack team channel and automatically keep the customer in the loop via email.
- Analytics triggers – you can notify your team when a goal has been reached in Google Analytics, saving manual checking of the data and manual creation of the email or Slack notification.
- Employee onboarding – this is often a time-consuming process involving many forms, training sessions, and entering data into various systems. Automating the steps involved means that nothing is forgotten, and many man-hours of time can be saved.
- Sales cycles – lead management includes a range of touchpoints with client prospects, and if a step is forgotten, then it could mean losing a sale. Automating this workflow not only saves time but has an impact on your bottom line with more sales and increased profit.
- Arranging a meeting – rather than emailing back and forth over availability, use a tool like Calendly to invite someone to set up a time which is convenient for them, and then set up email reminders and video conferencing automatically.
- Sending invoices – you can eliminate so many bookkeeping processes using automations such as invoice creation. They can be automatically created, sent, and chased for payment.
- Expenses – you can automate expense logging from paper and digital receipts using OCR software. This is a process that is ideal for automation as it is typically manual, time-consuming, and laborious.
- Posting on social media – you can avoid manual posting on social media by using scheduling tools. However, if you want to save on scheduling app subscription fees, you create an automation to post your scheduled social media from a Google Sheet or Airtable.
To inspire you further, read our blog article about 5 Quick Wins Automating Tasks Using Zapier.
What tools can be used for business process automation?
There are a few options when choosing a tool to use for business process automation. We have our favourites, but it’s worth shopping around to see which one works best for your needs, technology stack, and budget.
We love using Zapier for business process automation. It connects over 6,000 apps and has a powerful free version, which allows you to get started and see how easy it is to use. Zapier has a range of built-in tools to help you manipulate data, such as formatting dates, times, text, and numbers.
The paid versions of Zapier allow you to do more, including multi-step processes, access to premium apps, and additional task automations per month. It is very user friendly, and for each application, it suggests popular integrations, which is really useful for inspiration.
Microsoft Power Automate
Previously called Microsoft Flow, Microsoft Power Automate not surprisingly focuses on Microsoft apps with more options for platforms such as Azure, which are not found elsewhere. It is not as simple to configure as Zapier but offers powerful options such as For-Each and Do-While functions. If you are firmly in the Microsoft stable with your tech stack then this could work well for you. It offers connectors from Google too, but the options are in the hundreds rather than thousands.
There are a number of pricing options, with some automations included free within Office 365. Paid plans are available per workflow and per user. There are many pre-built templates to do common tasks such as saving Outlook email attachments to your OneDrive or sending an email when a new item is created in SharePoint.
Make describes itself as ‘the glue of the internet’ and offers a really slick interface that represents steps in the automation as a visual workflow. It has fewer integrations than Zapier, being in the hundreds rather than thousands, and is also a bit more complex to learn. This might appeal to more technically-minded users as it can handle more complex functions such as handling multiple records in one process. This has potential for data conversions, aggregations and other logic which isn’t possible with Zapier.
Like the other tools Make has different price points, from a free option to paid plans, which range from $9 to $299 per month.
We hope you’re inspired by the benefits of business process automation and are ready to start creating your own bespoke workflows automations to supercharge your business!
More about Zapier
Zapier is our favourite automation tool, and you can get started really quickly by signing up for their free plan. There’s so much you can do with it and we have plenty of articles which could spark ideas!
Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.
Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors.
Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.
Check out our automation training programme
And finally, if you’re really keen to transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.
It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too!
Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.
Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘.
Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.