What is business process management, and why does it matter to your automation efforts? 

Automation is now widely deployed to save time, create a more efficient workplace and upskill talent. But with so many organizations have already deployed the technologies that constitute automation, those looking to secure a competitive edge need to think about more than just these easy wins. 

Finding a competitive edge

They really need to look beyond the immediate benefits of automating specific tasks and start thinking about how their entire end-to-end, core process or operation can integrate automation effectively. This is not straightforward; automating the entire end-to-end business process can be complex, which is why analysts predict a higher growth rate on the services side of automation. For instance, revenues from services relating to robotic process automation are expected to reach $16 billion by 2025, almost three times the value of the software it’s helping to deploy. 

This is where Business Process Management (BPM) plays an essential role in the next generation of automation. BPM is both a technology and a capability, and it is becoming a vital part of achieving increased value from business automation programs. It enables organizations to effectively model and analyzes the interactions between humans and digital workers in long-running processes. 

The downside of a tactical focus

The business automation wave originally initiated by RPA and later fuelled by artificial intelligence and machine learning has enabled organizations to automate their business, task by task, in a tremendously agile and easy manner. However, the ease with which companies can deploy automation technologies has led to less of a strategic deployment and more of an organic sprawl. The focus has been tactical, automating tasks in siloes without considering how they might all connect. This has led to organizations neglecting how different automated tasks interlink, how data moves and the role of humans in decision-making and exception-handling. Orchestrating the various digital assets via “rules”, Excel spreadsheets and SharePoint folders became the norm in the administration of automation programs. 

The result is that automation doesn’t truly deliver on its potential. With siloed approaches to both automation and its management, bottlenecks become common. Business leaders sense that automating routine tasks no longer provide enough return on investment or added value. 

From easy wins to strategic change

The low-hanging fruits – high-volume, tedious and mundane tasks – can easily be inputted into the work queues of robots and run in scheduled batch runs. However, to create a truly transformative impact, automation programs must focus on the performance of business processes. The focus must be shifted to the workflows that enable the organization to deliver its desired strategic outcomes and operational objectives. 

A significant focus of these workflows is how human and digital workforces work together. While humans can operate based on tacit knowledge and collective memory, digital workers require guidance on their part of the workflow. This is where BPM can deliver significant value: uniting human and digital workers to view the business operations and processes. BPM provides the overview and the detail to support a wide range of benefits, including the prioritization of task automation, accuracy in reporting of efficiency and effectiveness and enabling smooth operations. It also can understand how changes in one automation or process task might affect the whole ecosystem of a workflow and its participants. 

Creating an automated BPM heart

The orchestration that BPM can deliver acts as the heart of business workflows. It pumps data (and visibility) around the enterprise and supports business operations by facilitating the seamless coexistence of both digital and human workers. 

As businesses continue shifting from task-based to end-to-end automation, the challenges they face will be less about implementing the technologies. Instead, the focus will go on creating a workforce where humans and digital workers work hand in hand to maximize business value. 

While in the past, organizations kickstarted their automation work by cherry-picking processes that were, by nature, easy to automate using RPA, more are now shifting towards applying automation across the entire business. They are selecting programs to automate based on their importance to the company rather than their ease of automation. Those that get this right will develop a real competitive edge. 

Karli Kalpala

Head of Business & Service Design at Digital Workforce Services Ltd

Rise of the machines.

Ahsan Zafeer • 26th November 2022

Ahsan Zafeer covers topics related to tech and digital marketing and tweets @AhsanZafeer. Here he explains people’s fears as to why machines are taking over their jobs.