What Is Process Automation?

Process automation is commonly misunderstood and sometimes overshadowed by other automation technologies. Digital process automation has many applications and can be used to effectively automate complex processes. The end result is processes that run seamlessly, freeing up employee hours for work they would rather do.

Business Process Automation (BPA) is software that allows complex business processes to run automatically. Each step in the process, where possible, is automated meaning that the tasks are completed by the computer instead of a person.

Tasks that are commonly automated include tasks that include copying and pasting, sending data internally or externally, and gathering data from internal or external sources.

Instead of risking errors, data loss, or spending hours aligning with internal and external stakeholders, automation takes the brunt of this work to free up employees.

What is intelligent process automation?

Intelligent process automation (IPA) uses some form of artificial intelligence when automating the tasks in the process. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is commonly used to add this layer of intelligence. However, other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) can also be used including Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), computer vision, cognitive automation, and machine learning.

The combination of these different technologies helps human employees not be overburdened with menial tasks while being able to rely on the problem-solving abilities of the machine. IPA can, for example, read through complex documents and organize the data so humans don't have to spend hours sifting through multiple pages. 

Process automation vs RPA

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, Business Process Automation (BPA) and an intelligent automation solution like RPA are different.

Business process automation software works like a machine to automate entire processes for maximum efficiency. RPA on the other hand emulates tasks like a human would and can only automate very specific tasks, like creating documents or sending emails. RPA can learn over time by completing more tasks and can be incorporated into an automated business process.

The biggest benefit of BPA is its future-forward benefits. Process automation solutions can help your company build processes that will last years into the future, not just for today. While RPA can be deployed quickly to automate single tasks, BPA looks at the bigger process picture to make the whole workflow more efficient.

Although RPA can be integrated into a business process, there is no replacement for a business process that is optimized for efficiency. It required more upfront effort, but in the long run, automated processes pay off.


How do you automate a manual process?

Automation is a great way to lift tedious and repetitive tasks from your team's shoulders. Automation isn't necessarily complicated, it all depends on the process and the type of platform you want to use.

There are multiple platforms, software, and technology available for automating your manual processes.

  • No-code platforms empower your team to set up their own processes that will be instantly automated by the program. There is no extra work needed to make the tasks run automatically.

  • Low-code platforms require some coding for an engineer, but the coding itself is very minimal and serves to support the capabilities of the platform.

  • Coded platforms require heavy coding from a software engineer as they need to be set up from scratch.

FireStart is a no-code and low-code process automation tool, so the choice is yours as to how detailed you want to be. Automating in our cloud platform is done by the program itself. Once you've set up your business process (and discovered how to best standardize this process for automation) FireStart will automate this process as soon as you hit "Run Workflow."

When should you automate a process?

Knowing when to automate a process can be tricky, however, there are some key signs to look out for in the daily grind that will show you which tasks you can start automating.

One key factor is to notice when you or your team are doing repetitive or manual processes frequently. Any process that follows set steps each and every time can be automated, even if you think the process is complex. Even the most complex processes can be automated, only bringing in humans when it's absolutely necessary, like signing off on an important decision.

When to automate a process

Another, arguably more important factor, is to automate the tasks that you don't want to do. There are plenty of tasks that are frustrating, time-consuming, and annoying to do. They zap joy from your workday, so there's no reason why you have to continue along this path. 

Automating boring tasks leaves more time for the tasks you enjoy doing that are critical to your role, encouraging job growth and skill refinement. Let's face it, no one enjoys spending the majority of the workday copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another.

Don't automate broken business processes

It's important not to automate processes that are inefficient and haven't been standardized or refined first.

Broken or inefficient processes:

  • Don't have each step of the process defined.

  • Are not followed in a real-life situation.

  • Don't have a clear purpose.

  • Include too many stakeholders making decisions that aren't necessary to the final goal.

  • Don't have a defined process owner.

  • Include roles that are assigned to the wrong person.

  • Have too many steps and become convoluted.

  • Are not measured and optimized over time.

To avoid automating broken business processes, first, consider combing through your existing processes and refining them first. Talk to stakeholders and colleagues and collaboratively work towards a standard process that involves all the right people, with a clear purpose and clearly defined steps.

In the long run, process automation software will not only boost the company's bottom line but also encourage collaboration between departments, roles, and teams. Efficient processes help provide clarity around your own role in the process and how your efforts can be best utilized, so nothing is going to waste.

Start automating your workflows with FireStart

Create your process and FireStart will automate the rest.