Business process automation (BPA) undoubtedly made some serious, positive changes across all industries, but the fact still remains that it also brought forth some noteworthy drawbacks.
Most organizations recognized the huge potential of implementing BPA as a digital transformation strategy, the one that will help them streamline their workflows and help make operations more efficient.
And although this may sound like a huge positive change, the reality is that nothing can be perfect. That’s why we are going to discuss some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of business process automation and see the effects each of them has on a business as a whole.
But before we do that, we must first make sure that we understand the term and see what business process automation actually is.
What is a business process?
Simply put, a business process is any activity or a set of activities that help that business reach its specific goal. Some of the most common business processes include (but are not limited to):
- Fulfilling customer orders
- Approving loan applications
- Onboarding new employees
- Processing reports
- Customer onboarding
That being said, it becomes quite clear that there really is no room for error when it comes to business processes.
Even the smallest mistake may set the whole process back or even render it entirely inefficient or useless in the end. That’s why many organizations decided to automate this process, not only to make it more efficient but also to minimize and even eliminate potentially harmful errors.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation is the act of automating various business processes. This is usually achieved by implementing different software solutions and even robotics in some industries.
So, by implementing a proper business automation strategy, businesses and organizations gain more control over their processes. This commonly leads to improved communication, greater efficiency and minimized risks.
On top of that, business process automation also helps businesses save time and resources by enabling employees across different sectors to focus their attention on more pressing matters rather than on (usually) repetitive, tedious and mundane tasks.
According to top user experience design firms, business process automation also leads to greater customer satisfaction, as it provides more seamless interaction with businesses.
With all that in mind, let’s now take a look at some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of business process automation.
Advantages of business process automation
As mentioned earlier, if done right, automating your business processes will lead to greater efficiency. Simply put, various software and robotic solutions can be programmed to not only do things more quickly than humans but also more accurately.
Businesses that choose to automate their processes can, therefore, expect an increase in overall productivity that most commonly doesn’t result in increased costs as well.
Logically speaking, a robotic or software solution can easily run 24/7, if necessary, but the same can’t be said or expected from employees.
So, instead of having to hire more people to improve your business productivity and efficiency, consider automating your business processes instead.
The fact of the matter is that all of the robotic and software solutions that make business process automation possible simply do as they’re programmed to. What this means is that the possibility of human error is simply non-existent.
On top of that, BPA also comes with a comprehensive audit trail so that businesses and organizations can have a clear insight into what’s being done. That way, if an error does occur for one reason or the other, it becomes far easier to notice and correct it in a timely manner.
Business process automation also leaves room for greater agility. Since BPA is simply one layer of a business or organization’s system, it’s quite easy to revise and readjust when and if necessary.
With this improved dose of agility, businesses can, therefore, more easily assess the effectiveness of their automation efforts and make any necessary changes as they go, without any downtime.
Smarter use of people power
Another thing that we’ve mentioned previously is the use of people's power.
By implementing BPA in your operations, you’ll enable all of your employees to shift their attention from repetitive and oftentimes motivation-dulling operations onto more relevant tasks. That way, your employees can focus on finishing tasks that add more value to their work and your business, in general.
For instance, instead of having an employee that’s tasked with manually sending out promotional emails, you can easily automate this process and have that employee focus their attention on more creative and productive tasks.
There are different types of business automation tools that efficiently handle employee, customer, and partner relations leaving more time for creative collaboration.
Improved employee engagement
Needless to say, a bored employee is not an engaged employee. The less engaged your employees are, the less productive and motivated they’ll be.
Naturally, this will not only have an immediate effect on their overall performance, but it will also start to reflect on your business. By enabling them to shift their focus on more productive tasks, you will significantly improve your employee engagement.
Greater engagement will lead to greater productivity, which will – in turn – lead to better business operations overall.
Greater customer satisfaction
Since no business can thrive without customers, customer satisfaction should be one of your top priorities.
Automated business processes can significantly improve customer satisfaction, as they will enable your customers to have quicker, easier and more streamlined interactions with your business.
For instance, adding a chatbot or virtual assistant to your customer support can provide your customers with faster problem-solving options, which will – undoubtedly – have a positive effect on both their experience (satisfaction) and your business.
Standardization of processes
Every business has its way of doing things. However, as much as businesses may attempt to standardize all of their processes, the fact of the matter is that not every employee will necessarily comply.
What this means is that employees can oftentimes tweak various processes to their own likings, which doesn’t necessarily bring the most optimal results.
Luckily, automated processes always perform exactly as they are programmed, which significantly helps when it comes to standardization.
Business continuity support
Last, but luckily not least, the advantage of business process automation is continuity support.
With BPA, businesses can easily support their business continuity (BC) plans with robotic and software solutions that are specifically designed to take on tasks typically handled by outsourced services, in case those services are no longer available. So, in a way, BPA can be viewed as a backup generator, so to say.
Disadvantages of business process automation
1. Job uncertainty
The first and the most prominent disadvantage of business process automation is job uncertainty. Simply put, due to the fact that some business processes can nowadays easily be automated, worker displacement becomes a serious question.
Following the notion that we’ve discussed in the first BPA advantage, businesses and operations will no longer need to hire multiple workers in order to take care of the growing volume of work.
And although BPA can’t and still doesn’t entirely replace human workers, it is certainly becoming a growing concern.
2. Can hinder business improvements
By this point, we’ve made it very clear that BPA can significantly improve your business operations, but only if done right.
If you rush the automation process or prioritize wrong processes for automation, the process can then actually have quite negative effects on your business improvements.
When BPA is not effectively documented, managed and governed, it can actually slow down your operations instead of helping them move forward.
So, if you do decide to implement automation in your business processes, make sure you know how, when and where to start.
We’ve also previously mentioned that BPA can help you cut some serious costs. But the fact is that this is also true only if you know how to implement automation properly.
First, you need to assess your current business processes and see if any of them need to be reoptimized or re-engineered for better performance. If you fail to do so and go straight to automating inefficient processes, you can only expect to face more problems than solutions.
Naturally, this will also lead to increased costs, as in such an instance, you’ll first pay to have your inefficient processes automated, then you’ll have to restructure them for better efficiency and then go through the whole automation process once more.
4. The lack of complete automation
In the end, it’s important to note that BPA shouldn’t be observed as a point-by-point strategy but rather as a holistic strategy.
Since complete BPA is not yet fully possible, you will still need to account for business processes that can’t yet be automated. So, be aware of this fact when implementing BPA in your operations.
In the modern business world, BPA is considered to be one of the most powerful tools that help businesses drive growth and success.
However, it’s important to note that this is true only when BPA is implemented the right way and only if you do understand both the advantages and disadvantages of the process itself.
Only that way will you be able to automate business processes for maximum efficiency while keeping the majority of BPA disadvantages at bay.
Rick Seidl is a digital marketing specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media and Communications, based in Portland, Oregon. With a burning passion for digital marketing, social media, small business development, and establishing its presence in a digital world, currently quenching his thirst through writing about digital marketing and business strategies for Find Digital Agency.