One of the simplest and most decisive prerequisites for smooth business operations in companies is well-functioning, smooth processes. In other words, clear workflows in which everyone knows what he or she has to do and when. Regularly recurring processes often need optimization. They tie up resources and are often prone to errors.
Business process automation increases efficiency and helps avoid errors.
The latest OTRS Spotlight looked at the topic of workflows and surveyed 500 employees from various companies in Germany, the USA, Brazil, Mexico and Singapore in September of this year.
We wanted to know how companies are doing in terms of automating business processes, what impact the pandemic had on this and what business process automation trends are expected in 2022.
Improved workflows due to the pandemic?
One of the most important findings of the survey is the fact that workflows in companies have improved since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 63 percent of respondents confirmed this.
Just under six percent of respondents saw a deterioration in this area. The range of responses was between 1-12 percent:
- Germany: 7 %,
- USA: 4 %,
- Brazil: 1 %,
- Mexico: 12 %
- Singapore: 5 %
This suggests that, while the pandemic initially presented companies with major challenges in terms of their workflows, most have managed to use the crisis to optimize. As a result, they are now better prepared and more flexible when it comes to change.
Process redesign = success factor
The changed work situation, i.e. the relocation of workplaces to home offices, was probably the greatest test, or rather challenge, for the existing workflows. The companies and individual teams had no choice but to adapt their processes and optimize them based on the circumstances.
This is a very logical consequence, which is of course also reflected in our survey.
The majority of respondents – more than 52 percent in total – see the active design of remote work processes as the greatest success factor. The results for the various countries ranged from 48 to 62 percent. It was also stated that the time gained through home working could be used for business process optimization, which was another important reason for its success. This was the view of 33 percent or one-third of respondents.
Companies that have successfully taken advantage of business process automation trends benefit from the fact that they can do their share of the tasks and rely on the other necessary process steps being performed automatically.
“Companies that have successfully taken advantage of business process automation trends benefit from the fact that they can and rely on the other necessary process steps being carried out automatically,” says Christopher Kuhn, COO at OTRS AG. “This is because tasks run through the defined and automated process and are forwarded accordingly to all parties involved for completion. Especially remotely, tasks can thus be completed securely and without much coordination effort.”
What prevents business process automation?
We know about the importance of well-functioning and smooth processes. And we know that automation can contribute significantly to this, because it helps to avoid errors and increases efficiency. Employees are relieved of mundane tasks, the quality of work is improved and creativity is encouraged because free space is created.
So there are many advantages. Why then, are companies still not as far along and still working with manual processes? That’s another question we wanted to answer in our survey.
What are the obstacles that still stand in the way of automating business processes? Our survey showed that the expected effort and expense involved in implementation, as well as having to deal with it at all, play a decisive role. Around 27 percent of those involved saw this as the biggest obstacle.
It also became clear how important the right tool is for this project. Here, even more than 27 percent of the respondents stated that this simply had not yet been found.
But the use of BPM software such as OTRS is immensely important, as it can support companies in process modeling and documentation of tasks and activities and enables smooth processes.
Automating business processes
By analyzing your existing processes in detail, you will learn where weaknesses lie, what works well and where action is needed. It is therefore advisable to spend time looking at your existing business processes, documenting them and optimizing them where necessary.
Usually, documentation takes the form of a process diagram, a visualization of all necessary process steps.
“To overcome such inhibitions and identify potential for improvement in their workflows, it is helpful to visualize business processes in a so-called process diagram. These business processes can then be automated with a tool like OTRS. This gives them a good overview of the interlocking of processes, shows optimization potential, reduces sources of errors and provides you with starting points for redesigning workflows.”
Using BPMS to create these diagrams gives companies a roadmap that defines exactly who has to do what and when.
Documented and optimized processes can now be accelerated through automation. In simple terms, automation is about “bringing it to life” through the use of technology. This means that it is no longer necessary to manually intervene in a process.
There is no longer any need for permanent supervision, because the tasks are passed on to the next process step through automation.
The use of automated business processes means that it is no longer necessary to,
- waiting for someone to remember to bring the right documents to the right department;
- constantly looking at the calendar to remember recurring tasks;
- entering a value in a certain field over and over again; or
- forgetting to get approval.
Automating processes is a huge cost and time savings. This is also confirmed by our survey.
Those companies that have already started automating processes were pretty much in agreement in every case. Around 71 percent stated that the efforts they have made to introduce automated processes have brought the desired ROI.
And what business process automation trends are expected in 2022?
Trends are largely subjective and are perceived very differently. The perspective of the respondant and individual factors, such as his/her area of focus or industry, are the most important factors.
Nevertheless, trends can always be identified and the greatest possible intersection can be determined if one wants to deduce which next step will be decisive.
We took the opportunity to ask the participants in our survey directly what they think will be the defining trends in 2022.
About a quarter of the respondents each said that data-driven process management will be a reality and that artificial intelligence will be a business process automation trend this year.
In addition, a majority of respondents across all countries (31 percent) expect business process management to receive more attention and consequently more budget in 2022.
“The pandemic has posed major challenges for companies all over the world, especially when it comes to optimizing their business processes,” says Christopher Kuhn, summarizing the results. “However, our OTRS Spotlight shows that most have come out of the crisis stronger and with improved workflows. Those who approach the topic systematically will also remove any final obstacles, find the right software and be able to benefit from automated processes in the years to come.”