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Business process automation: The past, present and future

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With current economic challenges and technology’s exponential growth shaping the way companies operate, automation has an integral role to play in many business processes. When utilized strategically, Business Process Automation (BPA) is a powerful tool for increasing productivity while reducing the amount of resources that are required to complete routine tasks.

By taking over repetitive (and often mind-numbing) tasks and processes, BPA can also play a key role in boosting staff engagement and satisfaction. This in turn increases talent retention and saves the costs associated with hiring and training new employees. With the mundane assignments taken care of by technology, employees have more time to focus on projects that require their unique human capabilities – such as creative thought, strategic decision-making or knowledge-based analysis.

That said, BPA goes beyond just handling routine tasks such as data manipulation or information management. It also covers the automation of complex business processes through the use of advanced technologies.

For more about how document automation should form part of your business strategy visit our website: https://www.qorusdocs.com/document-generation

Published in: Technology
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Business process automation: The past, present and future

  1. 1. Business Process Automation: The past, present and future.
  2. 2. 2 Business Process Automation Past & Present Where did it all begin? The American Industrialist Henry Ford may not have invented cars or the assembly line, but he can be credited with revolutionising the automotive industry and transforming the mass production process. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the car was an item only the very wealthy could afford, but Henry Ford was determined to change this by building a modest, reliable car that was accessible to the average American. In order to achieve his dream, Ford developed a manufacturing process that reduced the cost of producing a car. Ford called his creation the Model T and it became available to the public in 1908. As Ford streamlined his manufacturing process further and his production costs dropped, he lowered the price of the Model T instead of keeping it the same and enjoying the profits. As a result, sales went through the roof and almost half of the American automobile market was his. Before the Model T, each car was individually crafted by a team of workmen. Ford broke down this process and put it onto an assembly line where each worker performed the same task over and over again. By perfecting each task and learning to complete it faster, Ford’s workers collaborated in optimising the overall Model T assembly time. With the rise of information technology, businesses began to adapt Ford’s vision of creating the best possible goods at the best possible price by using technology to standardise and automate workflow processes. How far have we come? With current economic challenges and technology’s exponential growth shaping the way companies operate, automation has an integral role to play in many business processes. Chapter One
  3. 3. 3 When utilised strategically, Business Process Automation (BPA) is a powerful tool for increasing productivity while reducing the amount of resources that are required to complete routine tasks. This is ideal in the current corporate landscape, where firms are under immense pressure to control costs while boosting – or at the very least maintaining – output. By taking over repetitive (and often mind-numbing) tasks and processes, BPA can also play a key role in boosting staff engagement and satisfaction. This in turn increases talent retention and saves the costs associated with hiring and training new employees. With the mundane assignments taken care of by technology, employees have more time to focus on projects that require their unique human capabilities – such as creative thought, strategic decision-making or knowledge-based analysis. That said, BPA goes beyond just handling routine tasks such as data manipulation or information management. It also covers the automation of complex business processes through the use of advanced technologies.
  4. 4. 4 At present, there are a vast number of business processes, tasks and functions that can be automated successfully. This chapter examines how BPA can currently be used to reduce costs and optimise human resources in five key operational areas. Document Automation The production and customisation of documents can be a very time-consuming and monotonous process. This can not only hinder workplace happiness, but also increases the risk of human error as employees lose interest and motivation levels fall. Document automation enables organisations to generate and edit documents swiftly and effectively in order to free up staff time and build serious efficiencies into a business. It also makes it easier to manage the flow of documents through a company and its various departments. With the right software, it is possible to customise virtually any business document in a fraction of the time. Qorus Software, a global provider of document automation solutions for Microsoft SharePoint and Office, enables companies to minimise the costs, time and effort that are so often associated with generating highly detailed documents. At the same time, by re-using approved content and data stored in SharePoint, CRM and other systems, Qorus helps to improve the quality of your documents by reducing human error and ensuring consistency when it comes to branding, style and formatting. Qorus DocGeneration facilitates the production of high value documents that consist of customisable content from multiple sources, making this a cost effective solution with an impressive return on investment for businesses big and small. Processes Well-Suited To Automation Chapter Two
  5. 5. 5 Qorus DocGeneration can automate: • Service Level Agreements • Sales proposals and collateral • Financial reports • Analyst reports • Customer presentations and welcome kits • Application forms • Claims and group policies • Invoices • Product information • Employment contracts • NDAs Automating Human Resources Management No matter what industry you’re in, a company is only as good as its people. As Lawrence Bossidy, former CEO of General Electric once said, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” Within the HR field, automation can be an end-to-end solution for attracting the right people and retaining this hard-won talent by enhancing employee engagement and satisfaction. Additionally, the business owner or HR department is able to manage the following processes more quickly and effectively: • Talent acquisition • Performance appraisals • Training and development
  6. 6. 6 • Talent recognition and rewards • Payroll Controlling costs in all of these areas via automation goes a long way towards positively impacting the bottom line. The current trend in HR Management automation is toward self-service. The objective is to enable employees to perform HR-related tasks on their own. For example, employees can view and approve their payslips; plan and request leave, as well as track the approval process; and update their own personal information electronically. This not only saves HR managers’ time, but also enhances employee satisfaction levels because people feel more involved and interconnected, and processes are more transparent. Marketing Automation The creative side of marketing may be impossible to automate. How can a computer create a strategic marketing premise, clever advertising concept, compelling headline or striking visual? We are not yet at this stage of technological evolution. However, there are many marketing processes which can not only be automated to save time and money – but also to inform the ‘human’ processes mentioned above and thereby make them more effective. When it comes to gathering and utilising marketing intelligence, automation has a vital role to play. In the era of digital marketing, we are able to use tracking codes on social media, email, mobile and web platforms to monitor the behaviour and intent of anyone who interacts with a brand or product/service category. This allows us to fully understand our customers and develop more accurately targeted campaigns, which deliver meaningful content to relevant customers at the best possible times. We can also continually improve on these campaigns by monitoring their effectiveness at every stage of the consumer journey –
  7. 7. 7 and apply the lessons learnt to future marketing projects. In this way, marketing automation platforms can guide our strategy, help us to tailor our message and provide information that can lead to better design and image choices. Automated Customer Service With companies facing increasing cost pressures, there is a greater need for leaner customer service departments that continue to maintain optimum levels of customer care. The customer service function can be automated at many levels, from using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) in your call centre to the contact form or FAQ page on your website. However, it’s important not to go too far and lose all emotional connection with your customers. Customers are human, after all, and you can’t expect technology to service their every need. The best approach is to use process automation in conjunction with personal service. Take a call centre as an example. Using IVR technology enables customers to find solutions to their own queries by interacting with a company’s host system via their phone keypad or speech recognition. It also allows call centres to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This improves the customer experience as they are able to call the company at any time of day or night. By handling extremely high call volumes, call centre automation technologies also reduce the amount of time that consumers spend in telephonic queues, saving them the frustration and expense. However, if a caller requires further assistance, it is good to give them the option of speaking to a human agent. If a company only needs to employ these agents to handle complex queries, it can hire fewer of them, which helps to control costs. The agents are also spared the mundane task of answering route queries and they are therefore more likely to feel happy and fulfilled in their roles.
  8. 8. 8 Automating Sensitive Business Processes No matter what industry you’re in, a company is only as good as its people. This is especially applicable in the government sector, where the personal data of government leaders or defence personnel needs to be treated with the utmost integrity for their own personal safety. By automating business processes that utilise sensitive data, organisations can operate with greater peace of mind. Another example is the financial services industry, where ease of access to financial data and banking systems could increase the likelihood of a person committing fraud. If the process is performed by automation software, however, the company faces less risk.
  9. 9. 9 With tumultuous economic conditions fuelling the progression of technology, this is an extraordinary time for companies that develop BPA solutions as well as the organisations that take advantage of them. Here are some trends at the cutting edge of BPA. The Internet of Things (IoT) The Internet of Things (IoT) is a complex concept that involves the increasing interconnectedness of both inanimate and animate objects by embedding or attaching unique identifiers that connect them all to the digital realm. According to WhatIs.com, it is “a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro- electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet.” By ‘Things’, this concept refers to a wide range of devices, smart objects and wearable computers, from heart monitoring implants and vehicles with built-in sensors to home appliances that interact with their environment and use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be 30 billion mobile phones, tablets, computers, wearable technology devices and other types of connected devices in the IoT. Compared to 2009, when there were only 2.5 billion connected devices in use, this could completely change the way we live and work, as well as the way in which businesses in all sectors operate. A More Mobile Workforce Companies thinking out of the box about tightening expenses are moving away from the traditional on- site personnel model towards a remote workforce. Advances in mobile technology, the Internet of Things Bpa Trends For 2015 And Beyond Chapter Three
  10. 10. 10 and the increased accessibility of devices are expected to spur the growth of the mobile workforce even further in coming decades. Up until recently, those working primarily on handheld devices have been hindered by unstable browser access and long download times. This, however, is changing as mobile apps for business become more sophisticated. Custom-made for smaller screens, the new generation of mobile apps aim to improve the user experience and shorten download times for enhanced productivity. They’re also low-cost to purchase and run, and therefore suit the ‘more for less’ business model perfectly. A mobile workforce does not only control expenses, but also allows for greater operational agility. Mobile workers can use their devices to gather and share data in the field, process sales via mobile payment apps and analyse the performance of projects on the go. One concern that many employers have is that they will not be able to supervise their remote workers effectively and as a result, productivity levels will drop. However, there are many tools for managing and facilitating a digital workforce, from communication tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts to supervisory systems such as Sqwiggle, which regularly updates stills from your employees’ webcams so that you can check they’re at their desks. This is obviously best suited to those workers who have desk- based jobs. For improved collaboration, there are numerous tools for sharing files and also tracking the progress of the various specialists involved in a group project. At a glance, you can see which task each team member is working on and monitor their progress through their workflow. This not only helps managers to keep productivity at optimal levels, but also makes the employees involved feel more connected and part of a team.
  11. 11. 11 Smart Machines Imagine a self-driving public transport solution that could greatly reduce traffic, parking congestion and pollution – or a virtual personal assistant that could service an entire organisation alone? The age of ‘Smart Machines’ has already begun and prototypes exist for autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual assistants, smart advisors and other intellectual systems that are able to make decisions and solve problems without human intervention. While it may feel like the lines between science fiction and reality are being blurred, this is the next logical step in Business Process Automation. If we manage this evolution carefully, it could be the answer to many of our current challenges, on an economic, environmental and personal level. Mindful Automation Apps As business apps become more sophisticated, experts believe that there will be a move from workflow- focused apps to those that provide assistance in context and expedite the actual human thought processes that drive key business processes. PwC calls these solutions ‘mindful apps’ and explains that these are not a knowledge management or predictive analytics service. Instead, they focus on the end goal and work backward, following and facilitating the process of human cognitive thought. This software trend is designed around the user experience and not the business process. It aims to assist the decision-making process by providing intelligence in the moment so that the user is armed with the relevant data and analysis that they need at each step of the process – accessing the information as events are taking place. “There can be many good answers and paths that lead to successful outcomes. The goal [of a mindful software solution] is to aid the user on the user’s chosen path, not enforce a predetermined path. It does this by being pattern-centric and not process-centric the way workflow-based applications are,” explains
  12. 12. 12 PwC. In the next decade or so, there will be an increase in BPA solutions like this that assist with thinking roles rather than only focusing on ‘doing’ roles. The objective is to create better informed employees who work smarter to move businesses forward. Enterprise Gamification Game designers may have been right all along. Fun and entertainment is the key to keeping consumers engaged and coming back for more! An increasing number of business leaders are adopting the techniques that game designers use to keep players involved and using these to shape their business processes. UX Magazine explains, “Gamification is the application of game design principles to non-game environments. It is not about designing games, but learning from them and applying the insights into other areas. Gamification motivates players to engage in desired behaviours by showing them the path to mastery. It attempts to make technology and business more inviting by taking advantage of people’s innate enjoyment of play.” Some of the techniques that enterprises are adopting are real-time feedback, measurement of progress and incentives. All of these are designed to keep consumers interested, involved and loyal, which translates into a healthier bottom line. 3D Printing 3D printing enables users to make a three dimensional object from a digital file. The object – which can be solid if required – is generated by adding layer upon layer of material until the entire object is created. These layers are thin horizontal cross-sections of the object (essentially two dimensional images). The digital file is a virtual design of the object that can be created using computer aided design (CAD) or by cloning an existing object using a 3D scanner. This scan is then translated into a virtual file using a
  13. 13. 13 3D modelling programme which slices the final model into ultra-thin horizontal layers. The methods and materials used to ‘print’ the objects differ, as do the applications of this type of technology. From artistic expression to industrial manufacturing to tissue engineering, the possibilities are endless. Virtual Telepathy A team of neuroscientists and robotics engineers have demonstrated the possibility of computer- mediated brain-to-brain communication in humans. The study found that information could be transmitted between two human subjects located in separate geographical locations almost 5000 miles apart without either using any of their five senses. According to Daily Mail, the revolutionary experiment involved powerful computers and an electro- encephalograph (EEG) that measures electrical currents in the brain. The one subject both wore an EEG and imagined that he was making a series of either horizontal or vertical movements. These were translated into electric pulses that created a digital binary code representing letters of the alphabet. These pulses were transmitted to the ‘receiver’, who was blindfolded but hooked up to a machine that sent pulses to the region of his brain that governs sight. “We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways,” co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone, PhD, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School explained in PLOS ONE. “One such pathway is, of course, the Internet, so our question became, ‘Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of Internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?’” These scientists illustrated that it is indeed possible to communicate a message from one person to another without using sight, touch, sound, taste or smell. Imagine the possibilities this could hold for customer relationship management or business to business communication in the future?
  14. 14. 14 Role Of Humans In The Future Of Bpa As BPA technologies evolve, they will open up new possibilities for businesses to control costs, boost productivity and connect with their consumers. Many fear that they may also replace more roles currently occupied by humans and thereby create a world where there is greater disparity between the rich, who benefit from these advances, and the poor, who will be unable to find employment. Others believe that the relationship between BPA and humans in the future will be a more symbiotic and mutually beneficial one. By freeing people from the day-to-day drudgery that characterises many of today’s jobs – the progression of BPA could open us up to entirely new types of work that require our unique human capabilities. This could redefine the notion of work and boost socio-economic progress. Whatever the future of BPA holds, it’s become integral to business progress and if a company doesn’t embrace the trends, its competitors soon will. Chapter Four
  15. 15. 15 Must-Have Automation Tools If you want innovations in business process automation to drive your company’s growth, both now and in the future, Qorus Software is a great place to start. A global provider of document automation solutions for Microsoft SharePoint and Office, Qorus has the tools to help companies significantly reduce costs, as well as save the time and effort required to generate highly complex customised documents. By drawing on approved content stored in SharePoint, CRM and other systems, Qorus Software helps to reduce human error, improve content accuracy, and ensure adherence to brand guidelines for style and formatting. Qorus DocGeneration This document automation solution is Qorus Software’s flagship product, first launched in 2008. Since then, Qorus DocGeneration has been the driving force behind major telecommunications, financial services, insurance and IT companies’ document automation processes across the world. Qorus DocGeneration has been developed to seamlessly add document automation functionality to Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint. As discussed earlier, there are many advantages of adopting this document automation solution into your organisation. These include: • Accuracy Pull the latest, approved client information, pricing, terms and conditions, and product information from your SharePoint lists or ERP and CRM systems. You can automate the inclusion of the relevant content based on region, currency, product interest and so forth. • Consistency No more manual copying and pasting. Qorus DocGeneration data tags and business rules Chapter Five
  16. 16. 16 automatically insert the relevant content into your document. • Risk reduction Ensure all required content is included in every document, such as the relevant terms and condition clauses, correct pricing and the latest product specifications. Qorus Breeze Proposals: Proposal Automation & Bid Management Software Winning new business, from both existing and new clients, is a key challenge for many businesses today. In order to maximise their chance of success, new business proposals need to be exceptional and draw on the collaborative efforts of various team members within an organisation. Qorus Breeze Proposals is a proposal automation solution that provides proposal, sales and bid managers with a solution that brings the entire bid management process together easily. With this software, firms spend less time creating and searching for content. It makes pre-approved content easily accessible to all who need it and also makes it possible for users to automatically merge templates with live data stored in CRM or other systems across your organisation. This software makes it easier to manage the proposal creation process by enabling the allocation of sections of RFP documents and proposals to individuals and groups for completion. This way, staff can collaborate on one proposal smartly across divisions and regions. This system also allows team members to suggest good content for re-use in future proposals by simply highlighting the content and then sending it at the click of a button. It then stores all approved and verified content, proposals and templates centrally for true ease of access. As a result, the overall quality of proposals improves for higher win rates. Valuable resources are also not bogged down with menial jobs, such as searching through multiple libraries for content and spending hours formatting ‘cut and paste’ documents.
  17. 17. 17 Advantages at a glance: • One central content repository • Managed content with expiration and approval • Collaboration between teams • Consistency and Branding • Effective search mechanism • Standard task and process controls • Management dashboard • Use of Documents and PPT’s not data • Utilising MS Office • Reporting on both content and task effectiveness One business who has benefitted greatly from implementing this innovative automation software is Long View Systems. Long View is one of the most powerful IT solutions and services companies in North America with offices across the continent. With a clear focus on combining business and technology through their Hybrid IT methodology, Long View is able to define and customise what the future of IT looks like. Long View Systems migrated from Qvidian and adopted the dynamic integration of Qorus Breeze Proposals to help create more accurate and efficient proposal generation. “Qorus has helped to ensure that what could have been a complicated migration has been implemented smoothly and seamlessly.” Tracie Bretecher CF APMP, Bid Manager at Long View. Why migration became a necessity: • Building projects & creating responses to RFPs was time consuming & painful • Customised template creation was a complicated process
  18. 18. 18 • Unable to allocate out team members for various content purposes All of this led to inefficient processes that wasted time and resources, produced multiple content versions that created confusion and inconsistencies, and left bid teams feeling frustrated with the whole proposal process. Result and Outcomes: With the help of Qorus Breeze Proposals, Long View has seen a significant change in their content management; the bread and butter for their bid team. This has meant: • Up-to-date content for proposals and other supporting documentation • Content is easy to search for and categorise • Quicker, more efficient processes which has resulted in a better use of time • Producing high quality proposals and a quick turnaround time when it comes to RFP responses • Smooth back-end which makes creating and building projects and template management easy • Rich integrated reporting features providing important insight into proposals produced and content used If you are interested in a Demo of Qorus DocGeneration or Qorus Breeze Proposals, please contact your closest Qorus office here.
  19. 19. 19 SOURCES & FURTHER READING 1. https://www.qorusdocs.com/ 2. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/428402/automate-or-perish/ 3. http://www.allstarss.com/inside-the-business-process-automation-trend/ 4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_automation 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_voice_response 6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robotic_automation_software 7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things 8. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2014/10/21/gartners-top-10-strategic- technology-trends-for-2015/ 9. http://www.alibabaoglan.com/blog/gartners-technology-predictions-2014-2015-2016/ 10. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2742486/Groundbreaking-experiment- allows-brain-brain-communication-internet-people-5-000-miles-apart.html 11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford Sources & further reading

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