Automating Business Processes

Automating Business Processes

Article by Johann Mifsud published in the Sunday Times of Malta on 10.07.2022

In organisations, commercial and not, some tasks are repetitive in nature. Examples of such tasks are invoice settlement, opening a customer/supplier records and basic queries from customers. As well as, Back-office financial reconciliations, filling of forms, moving files and many more.

As the organisation grows, so do the volumes of such tasks, from a few transactions a day, all the way to thousands or more a day.
This increases the workload for personnel involved as handling such numbers can quickly become a significant effort, if done manually, consuming a substantial number of worker hours. Furthermore, this diverts human resources that could well be dedicated to more value-adding activities to non-engaging repetitive tasks.

From the employees’ perspective such work can become dull and non-engaging as well as error-prone. This often leads to stuff turnover in roles or departments with such type of work.

This does not have to be this way, as technology-based tools do exist to address such scenarios. Such tools come in different flavours, depending on the vendor they originate from. However, the common theme amongst them is Automation.

Some names vendors utilise include Business Process Automation(BPA), Robotic process automation (RPA), also known as software robotics, as well as Intelligent Automation.

In essence however, these tools provide a means to mimic back-office tasks of human workers.

They allow you to build and configure an automated workflow for instance, to automatically fill in forms or move files, from one process stage to the next while automatically and run seamlessly within the business systems and processes. At a high level these systems provide the following functionality;
Automation Scripting building tools, requiring no or low code.
Tools used for configuration, document flow, monitoring and security
Integration with other enterprise applications, such as financial systems (ERP).

One must understand that in order for these tools to be properly integrated within an organisation and implemented, requires significant investment and are to be carried out by specialised experts. Also, one must not underestimate the considerable amount of effort from the recipient organisation in terms of documenting existing processes and data to be manipulated at each stage of the process.

Thus before an organisation embarks on a project, it is imperative to consider the investment involved as compared to current processes in order to ascertain if a threshold can be reached in terms of return on investment.
To properly compare, often times a comparison is done in terms of cost per document processed.

So, on the one hand there are costs involved in setting up and running a system. While on the other, we quantify the current number of document transactions processed and also, correctly, factor in the all costs involved in processing such documents with current manual process such as labour costs, current software costs etc and form these compute how much costs are involved in processing documents and hence cost per document.

With this information one can make an informed decision on whether to invest in the system taking into the current workload scenario as well as the envisioned medium-term future scenario with an increase in capacity taken into account.

Once such a system is operating within an organisation, it offloads repetitive work from humans thus allowing them to focus on more value-adding work, while also increasing overall capacity at the organisational level. Not to mention the improved accuracy, streamlined processes and added efficiency.

In other words it lets humans to be creative and human and add value, and not make them become machines.

Finally, beyond the direct, quantifiable operational cost savings, less easily quantifiable factors, such as personnel engagement and possibly higher talent retention, can surely benefit organisations that invest in such systems, especially in times like these.

This article was prepared by collating various publicly available online sources.