In the procure-to-pay (P2P) and order-to-cash (O2C) cycles, all processes are intertwined. A problem in one area creates a chain reaction that affects other processes. With paper-based processes still being used by many organisations, lengthy processing times, high costs, errors and low visibility are common obstacles that ultimately lead to a lack of P2P and O2C efficiency. Automating manual business processes delivers value by removing manual activities and giving staff the time and insight to work on strategic tasks.
We asked Esker’s Managing Director for Northern Europe, Alistair Nicholas, 6 questions around the trends, benefits, challenges and potential of using business process automation (BPA).
- What’s influencing and possibly changing BPA in the marketplace at present?
Obviously the ‘big’ buzzword for influencing BPA at present is digital transformation and how evolving technologies impact the way in which organisations can compete through automating internal processes and streamlining business practices across multiple areas of the business. When I’m asked to highlight what are the specific main influences, I would have to say that it’s a combination of 3 main factors; people, process and technology.
- How are these influencing factors impacting the way organisations are using and adopting BPA?
The speed at which people can manage and absorb even wider ‘big data’ requirements is becoming more and more difficult, so implementing automated solutions that allow this to happen more easily are now business critical. Employees can then be empowered to concentrate on better supplier and customer relationships. Having the right automation technology in place helps eliminate the almost impossible task of manually handling masses of information involved in daily processes from all aspects of the Order-to-Cash and Procure-to-Pay cycles.
- What are the main benefits with having BPA implemented and what are the impacts if you don’t?
BPA is at the heart of allowing an organisation to maximise their competitiveness in the marketplace. Rigidity is detrimental to a dynamic business that wishes to take advantage of being able to make quick changes when required due to continuously demanding customer requirements. Therefore, BPA should enable this through being easily customisable and collaborative between different systems within the organisation such as custom business rules, web portals and chat tools, to name a few. Having simple integration with existing software is also beneficial when implementing BPA meaning reduced upfront costs, downtime or interference with day-to-day operations. BPA will also enable data to be much more visible through intuitive user dashboards giving more control for smarter and more strategic decisions.
- What are some of the challenges when implementing BPA?
Obviously when talking about any process automation within a business you have to buy in from your employees. Any new process change can be difficult to on-board, let alone one that may be perceived as a threat to a person’s job function such as automation. What needs to be conveyed is an understanding of this perceived threat and reassurance that automation is simply a means to enable that person to spend less time on non-value add tasks and more time on those that will help improve relationships internally as well as externally to help grow the business.
- Where is BPA heading over the next year in terms of changes in technology, implementation and capability?
BPA will become increasingly important and effective with the continued advancements in robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Collaborative networks will continue to grow and information will strengthen between suppliers, organisations and customers.
- What advice would you give to an organisation when considering BPA?
Make sure before any implementation goes ahead that your employees and all stakeholders involved in the process, are informed and engaged with the positive changes that the technology will have to their roles, both as individuals and as part of a wider team throughout the organisation. Look at current processes and pinpoint where quick gains can be made through process automation and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew! Finally, embrace new technologies such as those using the latest AI-driven advancements to help your organisation’s processes to become faster, more visible, scalable and compliant in order to reach your goals.