6 Process Automation Tools to Automate Your Business

6 Process Automation Tools to Automate Your Business

Most major companies are already using process automation tools to become more efficient and save money on labor costs. Now, what’s the next step?
First of all, you need clarity about exactly which aspect of business-process automation solutions will help you the most. Let’s look at the solution space.

Top reasons why companies are turning to process automation tools

Automation has numerous benefits:

  • Reduce manual processes
  • Reduce errors in critical data-entry routines like email-marketing programs. Everyone cringes when you accidentally send out newsletters with outdated pricing information.
  • Increase process execution speed which improves customer experience. For example, your customers loan applications can be approved automatically rather than waiting for a day for approval.
  • Create information transparency which makes it easier to hold individuals accountable for their responsibilities.
  • Identify bottlenecks in your workflow.
After reflecting on what you need to automate, let’s look at each category of process automation tools. Then you can decide which type of automation will serve you better.

A) Macros are great at automating simple processes

If the process you want to automate is simple, then often creating a macro to complete that task is the easiest way to go. That’s because a macro is a code sequence that follows your specified set of instructions to fulfill the task. Macros are extremely useful in creating spreadsheet shortcuts when you have a task that you want to do every day very quickly. Macros organize data and make advanced calculations, text substitutions and mouse shortcuts.

Some macro providers:

1. UiPath Excel Automation is a powerful tool to extract and migrate data. It sorts through data to find and delete duplicates. Use it to compare columns and build analysis reports of your spreadsheets. It also completes your forms using data from other spreadsheets and more.

2. Trifacta offers data analysis to help understand your customer base. They manage all the data about your clientele from multiple applications. They build common customer profiles with this data that can help you refine your marketing strategies. They also specialize in automating data entry into Excel and Microsoft access to prevent human errors.

Robotic process automation tools are for more sophisticated processes

Sometimes you want to automate more-complicated tasks that require the software to make simple decisions about what to do. They function based on a fixed set of criteria that you create for the program. That’s where robotic process automation, or “RPA,” is the most useful.

Some uses of RPA bot are:

  • Processing incoming emails buy opening them, saving attached files or pulling out the necessary data from emails
  • Completing web forms for you using your guidelines
  • Building dashboard reports using extracted data from various information systems
  • Completing an advanced series of calculations and then forwarding the results to the rest of your team
  • Extracting specific character strings for research using pattern recognition
  • Updating your software systems automatically
  • Monitoring your security systems to lock down the facility when it senses a threat
  • Managing your inventory while tracking purchases, shipping statuses and billing
  • Performing quick credit checks and alerting fraud-detection departments whenever they recognize suspicious activity
  • Transporting cargo with sensors alerting you about current location, temperature and humidity
  • Empowering employees to make basic changes to their basic 401k investment options
  • Batch processing of large amounts of data and other transactions
  • Building a paperless workflow
  • Performing common functions for research-based databases

These are just a few areas for RPA. For a complete list, please see our comprehensive post on the topic.

Some RPA providers:

3. UiPath is one of the leading providers of RPA bots

4. Automation Anywhere provides IQ Bots, which are AI programs with integrated vision skills. These bots take machine learning a step further by observing exactly how your employees work. They record that data to program your customized digital workforce. This system can automate many tasks like the processing and management of purchase orders. They manage invoices, insurance claims, tax forms, mortgage applications, contracts and loan applications. It also provides data extraction from digital files and proofs of delivery.

See our RPA companies guide to see all RPA providers.

You can do even more with IT process automation

When you want advanced tools that function mostly behind the scenes of your business, then choose IT process automation. Both RPA and IT process automation work in very much the same way. They make your business more efficient, reduce labor costs and make your team more productive at work. However, you work differently with IT process automation. Any average office employee can harness the power of RPA systems to accomplish their daily tasks and lighten their workload. That’s not always true of IT process automation. These tools require the supervision of experienced IT professionals. Robotic process automation is more user-friendly for people who aren’t familiar with programming.

One of the greatest strengths of IT Process automation is that it can handle some of the most-complex tasks. If you wanted to automate something like incident management, then you create a multilayered program. It starts by managing all of the alerts received from multiple sources. Then it analyzes all of the data and verifies it with other legitimate sources. Next, it prioritizes actions to take and deploys one of your possible action plans. Then it reaches out to all the key players on your team who require notifications of the activity before closing the support ticket.

Let’s assume you’ve selected which category of process automation tools you need. The next question is: How do you select the right one for you within that category?

Here’s a checklist of what you need to know before you get a process automation program:

  • Will the program you want be compatible with your current network?
  • Does it support all of the applications and platforms your team needs?
  • Do you work in an industry that requires your data-sharing policies to follow specific regulations? Then you need an automation solution with extra security features. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act governs healthcare-industry systems.
  • If you’re still unsure which processes need automation most, then choose the most-repetitive tasks in your day. Data-entry processes are also easy to automate. Plus, look at where your business experiences the most human errors. Then consult an automation specialist about how to reduce those errors with a better workflow system.
  • Next, improve the business processes that you already have. You shouldn’t try to automate an old process with flaws in it and inefficient data-processing policies. First, streamline, simplify and improve your workflow. Then you’ll end up with a faster, better automated system.
  • Get other team members onboard with your process automation plan. List for them exactly what benefits they will receive from the new system. Explain which problems the new system will eliminate.
  • Talk to a representative from the company you want to work with to develop your robotic process automation or IT process automation. They can describe for you the long-term impacts the software will have for your company.
  • Discuss with your team managers how much control the bots should have and when humans need to step in during customer interactions.

For more details, read our in-depth guide to “How to Compare Robotic Process Automation Vendors” here.

After you’ve chosen a vendor, what’s next?

There are several key points you should remember when you begin to roll out a process automation program:

According to the experts, you should start in phases. The main reason for this approach is that it’s much easier for everyone. You set concrete goals that you want to achieve through these RPA programs first. Then you test the initial small process automation to see if it matches those goals. If it doesn’t, then you can try another program. You can cancel the trial easily before you make a big investment of time and money into overhauling your whole system.

Also, make sure every team member gets adequate pre-training before you launch the new process automation tools. It’s not enough to train your employees about what their new roles are in the process. They have to understand the overview of how the entire process works. That way, they’ll know how to resolve any unexpected problems that may come up during the transition phase. It won’t be possible to train your staff completely in one day. Still, the pre-training is essential to ensure a better roll-out and prevent disasters on the first day of launching your new software. Always do an in-house test run first where possible before you begin using the programs with live customers.

Finally, you will need to make sure that your developer includes an “escape route” in your program for emergencies. A real human should have the ability to step in and take over the program at any time. You never know when you’ll need to take charge so that business can continue as usual. Expect that sometimes unforeseen problems occur with the first automation.

If crossing over to RPA still makes you feel uneasy, then read about our “Three RPA Alternatives to Consider Before RPA Investment.”

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