The Definitive Guide to Modern Business Process Automation (BPA)

December 9, 2019
min to read
Geoff Whiting

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Almost everything in your office that you’re paying a variety of staff to do has the potential to be automated with the latest technologies and practices like business process automation.

That statement represents a foundational shift for today’s small and mid-sized businesses, which can make it equally exciting and frightening. You can see the potential for automation to expand your operations and handle tasks that drain your staff, but fear tells you that it is a complex process.

To help you understand exactly what business process automation means, see some examples, and discover the wins that it provides while protecting your staff, Invisible has put together this guide on the current technology.

BPA is a powerful tool you can use to make your entire operation more efficient. It isn’t a complicated or confusing process for today’s businesses thanks to a smart mix of technology and human outsourcing. You get to hand off menial, manual tasks and allow employees to focus on what they enjoy most.

It’s time for your business to take advantage of what leading enterprises, Fortune 500 companies, and the most prominent technology brands are all using, now at a price tag that any small business can afford.

What Is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

business process automation

Business process automation is the use of advanced machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) models that respond to changes in processes, as well as traditional robotic automation, to streamline your operations. BPA primarily focuses on managing your team’s workload so that labor-intensive tasks are shifted to robots that can become better at performing that type of repetitive work.

Instead of wasting your team’s time on manually selecting every email address or copying different form elements into a master document, BPA can perform these tasks at blazing speeds and automatically re-check the source documents for updates. Your team is then free to use the information provided for high-level operations.

When we at Invisible think about business process automation, we also like to highlight the ability for companies to automate work intelligently. This means letting someone else do tasks that are a burden to your staff — and it doesn’t matter if it’s machines or other people doing this work for you. So, we’ve created a “delegate to automate” experience. 

Offload recurring tasks to us and let the automation magic happen.

Origin in Physical Automation

At Invisible, we see the current wave of Business Process Automation as an offshoot of overall market automation. It’s the evolution that leaders envisioned and followed the way we work. Humanity and robotics — both individual machines and AI brains — run along the same lines of work and thought.

Automation started with robots that could do manual tasks. Now, robots can do digital tasks, and often these robots are purely digital themselves. This digital shift, both with people and machines, leads to a reduction in individuals performing the functions and an increase in supervisors and auditors to review the work itself.

For companies like yours, that means you could have solutions running a wide range of tasks, but there’s still a need for real people to look at the output and make sure it’s correct and what your business needs. Or, when you send our managed team of people and machines your recurring work, we use a technology to learn the process so we can automate your digital tasks but have continual monitoring by people to ensure automation is running correctly.

Today’s manufacturing lines are populated by machines automating construction and production, quality assurance, and more. But there are still countless workers operating alongside this technology to keep the company’s products at their best. At Invisible, we see this combination as the key to success for your business process automation efforts, by revolutionizing what man and machine can do on a single task or an entire operation.

The 5 Flavors of Current BPA

business process automation solutions

Business process automation is an umbrella term that includes a variety of solutions designed to fill gaps and accomplish tasks for companies. They reach across service sectors and company sizes, with a unique set of capabilities and advantages. The growth in BPA has led to furtherance of technologies and applications that allow companies like Invisible to deliver new automation efforts.

Every day, the technology gets smarter, and your company has more opportunities to save. By taking time to discover what’s available and reach out to us with questions on capabilities, you’re putting your company in its best possible position for long-term success.

1. BPO

Business process outsourcing is the outsourcing of a specific element of work, or even an entire process, to a third-party service provider. You’re handing off the job and looking for the output of the work. 

The automation can happen on your side or the third-party provider side. Your automation would be in the way data or process requirements are delivered and how you receive the output. This could be a dashboard that automatically creates reports and business insights or a system that automatically sends the work order request when any new element is needed.

Your partner can use a wide range of automation tools to perform these tasks while you receive the benefits. The entire process might be automated or individual elements. So, if you’re using BPO for your marketing, your partner may use humans to create campaigns while the ad-buying process is automated.

We’re starting to see BPO make significant gains in common business practices for SMBs, such as HR processes like finding new staff. Recruitment can be a long and challenging process with constant back and forth with prospects and filtering through applications. Invisible Technologies business process outsourcing services for HR and recruiting teams can actually fill your talent pipeline and schedule candidate interviews on your behalf.

See our more in-depth dive into BPO, how it works, and the benefits you can expect when you find a BPO partner.

2. BPaaS

Business-process-as-a-service (BPaaS) is the automation and operation of business processes, or the delivery of their results, from a contractor or outsourced partner. The company that provides BPaaS completes a business process vital to your operations and then gives you the results.

The core difference between BPO and BPaaS is the service or operation targeted. BPO can occur for any business process and is usually managing those with intense manual labor requirements. BPaaS works with cloud-computing models and generally is used for monitoring and managing automated services. BPaaS can also provide greater access to real-time data because cloud services can be coded to give this insight and transparency.

BPaaS provides significant advantages to small and mid-sized businesses because you’re getting access to leading technology platforms as well as an automation service. That setup means you don’t need process or software experts to keep up with the latest innovations. You also avoid infrastructure costs around servers and other hardware for the implementation of the service and the expansion of your operations as you scale.

Learn more about how you can add or diversify services more affordably with BPaaS and APIs can without needing major investment in the Invisible BPaaS guide

3. RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the fastest-growing segments of business process automation and outsourcing. RPA offers a low barrier to entry and is significantly easy for companies to set up and start, making ROI easier for many when compared to more expansive operations.

An RPA system relies on a “bot” to perform specific tasks based on a list of triggers or actions required to initiate a job. These can be complicated processes performed by your staff or something as simple as a person submitting an email on your website for a piece of content. Bots “watch” what a user does on their computer and track inputs and output so that it can mimic the actions afterward.

While the technical development of RPA tools can be complex, the use is effortless and straightforward, thanks to modern user interfaces. By merely tracking what your team does to perform your required actions, you get the same speed and precision as AI at a significantly reduced cost. RPA focuses on everyday, repetitive tasks such as data entry.

The speed of RPA capabilities can greatly reduce your staff’s workload. When applying RPA to business process automation, many companies like yours are taking a hybrid approach that has the bots operate quickly and then bring humans into the workflow when something needs a judgment call or periodically to verify the process is operating smoothly.

Invisible offers a specific RPA guide, including our hybrid RPA alternative explicitly designed for SMBs, to show you how such tools are easy to afford, scale, and grow while strengthening your business.

4. IPA

Here, IPA isn’t your favorite beer. It’s Intelligent Process Automation. This IPA is a set of technologies that combine a variety of outsourcing and automation tools to deliver fast, reliable results for your business.

In most cases, IPA brings together RPA with advanced AI capabilities such as machine learning to enact business operations and continually perform them better. By being able to learn, IPA can take on complex tasks such as generating documents and keeping them up-to-date based on compliance requirements. It’s also being used for data capture via mobile forms and apps.

 IPA is often called the 4th wave of automation because it can expand to have robots manage other robots as well as include human-managed robots. This allows companies like Invisible to create futuristic capabilities that can automate processes, look for greater efficiency in those processes as they occur, and deliver real-time insight for audit, responding to changes and requests immediately.

See what solutions can benefit from all kinds of automation by exploring the services that Invisible makes available for intelligent outsourcing.

5. Traditional Outsourcing

Business Process Automation and digital transforming rely heavily on technology to ensure that everything goes smoothly. These revolutionary capabilities can transform any small operation into a dominant player capable of taking on companies many times their size. It achieves this lofty goal by removing non-core activities from your team, allowing them to focus on what your business does best.

Invisible takes that relief and reliability one step further by also offering traditional work outsourcing alongside BPA. Outsourcing benefits automation because it provides a person to make judgments when a machine may not be capable of choosing between options or knowing if its work is being done correctly.

At the same time, you can combine traditional outsourcing with automation like RPA to smooth workflows that need both data and a human touch. For instance, if you’re building a list of leads from LinkedIn, automation can generate a list of potential targets that meet broad characteristics while a trained expert can look for positive or negative signs like recent hiring trends, activity on the network, and looking for mistakes in how they’re classified on the network.

As our CEO Francis Pedraza says, “Sometimes the secret to going faster is going slower. ‘Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’”

Our teams and outsource experts practice so much yet so slowly that speed becomes effortless thanks to mastering the services we offer. The identify and eliminate friction and wasted steps, keeping activities quick and allowing automation technologies to do the grunt work quickly while elements requiring a delicate touch are also finalized quickly.

Why BPA Matters to Your Business

why bpa matters

Leading research in automation shows that nearly every occupation has a large amount of daily, repetitive, or overly manual tasks that can be automated. At its most conservative, data says more than half of all occupations can have 30% of their tasks fully automated.

Applying business process automation to this case gives your team a steroid boost that allows them to accomplish more faster and with high accuracy as they prioritize the work that matters most to your business and customers.

Companies that turn to BPA tools and services often gain insight into how they’re run. Automation creates transparency that can identify waste, whether it’s duplication or inefficiency and highlight errors in many processes. If you’re thinking about the long-term health of your organization, business process automation can lead to faster turnaround times and higher cost reductions even as you grow.

When thinking of businesses large and small, we feel there are core operational reasons you should consider BPA and other automation efforts:

  • Automation delivers bots and programs that can complete tasks faster and with virtually no errors.
  • Automation eliminates variance to create uniformity across an entire system, so things like phone numbers are always correctly formatted for your call software.
  • Work produced will meet a consistent standard and have a uniform standard always applied to actions and outputs.
  • Labor-intensive tasks can be accomplished as they scale with your growth, without necessarily needing additional staff.
  • Large tasks can be segmented so that staff focuses on the most technical elements, reducing the chance for errors early on in the process that could impact precise operations.
  • Specialized operations can be performed by experts, ensuring compliance, and reducing risk.
  • Workflow and process problems become easy to highlight when data outputs don’t match needs, and these are identified early through initial automation testing.
  • Resources can be allocated for operations, processes, and people that are most in line with your growth operations.
  • Teams can focus on the more exciting and rewarding aspects of their work, not overly manual or repetitive tasks.

No matter your size, business process automation allows you to have a more manageable operation, a happier team, and a business best positioned to grow.

Four Growing Areas of Automation

BPA can be applied to almost any aspect of your business. However, most people want to know what the market focuses on when asking what business processes can be automated. We’ve identified four fore business operations that are primed for a digital transformation and process automation. Here are the best areas and examples of business process automation.

1. Sales

Business process automation can help businesses automate a wide range of sales operations and lead generation efforts. Your business creates a set of characteristics for the customers you want, and BPA providers help you find the right people in that market.

Invisible’s BPA combines human and automation tools to review public and private data sources to outsource lead generation efforts and build the most qualified prospect list, with people who are ready to hear from you and move through your sales funnel. BPA includes direct outreach through social networks as well as company emails, with a strong follow-up campaign. It generates consistent appointment bookings, so your day and your pipeline stay full of opportunity.

Simply provide search criteria and let Invisible handle the rest. Every aspect of your sales prospecting process can be automated and managed, with a variety of automation levels and human interactions. From lead generation and outreach through appointment scheduling, follow-ups, and automatic emails. We’ll give you a slow ball right over the center of the plate, and you only need to knock it out of the park by focusing on your core sales.

2. HR

Human resources is another growing area of BPA because of how labor-intensive recruiting processes are, and the fact that most reoccur regularly. They’re a smart place to target with automation, especially if your SMB doesn’t have an HR expert on staff, and you aren’t ready to fill that role with a specialist yet.

Invisible has BPA and automation specialists working today for companies who need help with recruiting, timesheets, documentation management, and even onboarding new employees, regardless of position or location.

Consider the aspect of hiring a new team member. Previously, you needed to build job position listings, determine the areas you wanted to post that job, create a new email address to handle those incoming resumes, and then sift through them to toss the hundreds (if not thousands) of applications that had none of the qualifications you listed.

Instead, why not take advantage of business automation and create a streamlined process with minimal time on your part.

With Invisible’s BPA capabilities, you get an automated assembly line for filling your open positions. Our HR experts take your job information and desired candidate characteristics and get running. We’ll find the best talent and automate interview scheduling, reviewing resumes for key requirements and needs before they ever get to your team.

Your hiring managers can spend their time with in-house concerns. Then, we give them the right information on each candidate for each interview, making it easy to hire the person you want.

Invisible focuses on the back-office support pre-work so you can hire fast and maintain peace of mind. Then, we’re there to provide the onboarding information your new team member needs, ensure they receive and sign employee handbooks, and capture required documentation for their employment. It’ll keep your operations safe and compliant with the latest legal requirements, ensuring you can get back to focusing on the sale. To learn more, check out our guide to human resources outsourcing and streamline your HR capabilities.

3. Operations

Applying BPA to core business process operations requires a hybrid approach so that no effort or time is wasted building your business. Combining people and automation tools like RPA ensures that your back office is secure, sales can grow, and people-focused operations are taken care of as they occur.

No more waiting or struggling to scale because you’re deep in menial tasks such as scheduling meetings, creating expense reports, reviewing accounts to see if payments are in on time, booking travel and flights, creating to-do lists, or ensuring that everyone got that needed documentation for your next required meeting.

By taking a hybrid operations approach, Invisible offers a digital assembly line that ensures every task is performed correctly and quickly. Robots and auditors plus subject matter experts combine to ensure your work is formatted and branded to your company, creating a seamless experience for your audience.

If you’re trying to figure out what that means and how it can work for your business, we can highlight 10 business processes every startup should outsource right now. They’re operational and expansion efforts that can help you improve leads, manage payroll, book your reservations, optimizing social posts, have a 24/7 receptionist, managing your to-do lists, and much more. 

4. Data-Heavy Processes for the Insurance Industry

Your business is unique, from its needs to what you offer your customers. However, that uniqueness doesn’t put RPA or other automation out of your reach.

We hear it a lot because SMBs just don’t think they can get the help they need. Nothing is further from the truth.

Invisible offers unique automation, BPA and back-office support that can be fully customized to your business process operations. We’ve worked to prepare documentation for insurance underwriters, helping them make their own decisions. Our tools can help you find the best pricing on equipment for your business — from the new hire’s desk and business cards to high-quality specialty equipment. Finding the right vendor for your specific operations, such as logistics in a new country, can be automated as easily as streaming your paperwork and validating claims your customers make.

One specific example is our recent work with an insurance client. Our team was able to create an assembly line for processing insurance operations to remove their backlog. We helped underwriters get more done and then demonstrated the ability to integrate more technology into our automation, playing a role in their business operations. We helped them scale while being sensitive to their costs, and currently support any level of their organization that needs it.

We quickly integrated with complex legal requirements and operations to protect client data while supporting core tasks. For you, that means Invisible is a company that can quickly and succinctly adapt to your needs, no matter the process.

Helping Small Businesses Find Full BPA Support

Invisible is specifically reaching out to small business owners because they’re most likely to benefit from business process automation and BPA tools, but most platforms have been far too expensive. Small, patchwork, but ineffective options are on the market, but they often leave an unpleasant experience and hesitance to try again.

We want to change that by making our digital assembly line small or large enough to meet any demand. It’s time to throw out the “shiny object” that catches the eye but ultimately fails to live up to the hype. By combining BPA with humans and the large scale capabilities of RPA and artificial intelligence tools, Invisible can manage the tasks you need to tackle to reduce manual labor or prevent hiring for expertise when your business hasn’t grown enough yet.

The goal is to help your business adapt to market demand. Automation can assist your business when you need to change to market conditions, from customer preferences and order demand to new business lines or legal requirements that create many additional tasks. Maintaining compliance, managing labor, or allocating and optimizing your workforce is all possible with smart automation.

Control your costs with a remote workforce and the latest technologies that aren’t at full price. By integrating RPA and BPA with your workflows, you’ll find a more collaborative work environment with better customer communication and experience. It’s what Invisible can deliver now, and shapes how we see the future of BPA.

What’s Next for BPA: 2020 and Beyond

Workflow automation and AI are accelerating at a breakneck speed. New innovation and systems are rising every quarter, while companies and platforms that can’t keep up are disappearing. Stronger demand and more competition are separating the wheat from the chaff and creating opportunity.

Invisible sees our path squarely in this new chance because our mission is to be a flexible business that relies on partners around the globe, ensuring we are safe against recession and other factors that may occur in any single country.

To capitalize, we must always be thinking about the future. Turning to our own experts, industry futurists, and thought leaders working in the fields of AI and ML, the next steps for BPA will likely follow what your business needs.

Customers like you will undoubtedly continue to expect increased efficiencies, improved productivity, and reduced costs so you can grow your business and protect your investments.

However, what’s truly next is the use of AI to optimize new elements of your business. Every asset can have an AI approach. We see a future with BPA automating a variety of tasks that include helping you optimize your resources — including maximizing human capital to perform the most work with the leanest team — and support your customers.

The customer experience is already benefiting from AI and BPA. Chatbots, help desks, and support agents are the latest iteration of traditional outsourcing. Invisible views their evolution to be a place where these are no longer just answers to questions but places where outsourced partners benefit the user experience you offer. Interactive AI, agents trained on your specific business, and adaptive technologies can ensure a customer gets a tailored answer that helps you make a sale.

Data can allow everyone to make the right recommendation, not just e-commerce sites that show what other visitors also viewed. Using your platforms and information, AI can recommend and dynamically adjust up-sell and cross-sell options, and teams from companies like Invisible can manage that technology for you. 

Your business can be run with a core team that creates the ideas, while execution based on best practices becomes another capable digital assembly line option.

To get there, we expect to see BPA and other AI elements follow a few specific improvements. Some of these exist now and just need to move into the mainstream of thought for SMBs like you, while others are technical revolutions that we expect to see. Here are the top five changes we expect to take hold in the coming years:

  1. Gateway automation will dominate. We love SAP’s term of a “gateway automation” to describe those simple, cost-effective solutions that SMBs like you employ first. We see a coming wave of these thanks to affordable options from Invisible and other companies, where you’re looking for BPA to serve as a role in your business, but not a full department. Improving invoices, hiring, or just managing paperwork are all major stress relievers, and our focus on cost control will allow you to take full advantage.
  2. BPA and RPA have a deeper integration. When RPA tools learn and adapt to accomplish tasks with less human intervention (thanks to AI), it can be a process that automates a wide variety of tasks. Combining these bots can allow SMBs to automate all of the steps in any given task, while BPA tools and practices streamline the workflow and data movement, so there are no hiccups or interruptions. As RPA gets smarter, BPA will support more complex process automation.
  3. Supporting change management. Invisible sees our growing role as your partner. This includes helping your team learn what’s available in terms of BPA and properly executing on what they want. To that end, we predict a growing relationship around change management and training to help teams like yours use BPA to its fullest and discover where they can ask for help. By partnering on change management, we ensure that you’re getting the most out of all BPA services you choose, engraining those capabilities in your thinking and workflow. The next digital revolution is where we all come together to work better, smarter, and faster. Change management is its heart.
  4. Adaptive BPA. Recent innovation in predictive learning and other advanced ML techniques are starting to impact the underlying automation in BPA. One of the first changes we see this leading to is the ability for BPA to become adaptive to tasks that may be unpredictable. Instead of following a standard path, BPA will grow to understand an entire process and then take needed steps whenever something occurs in that process. The more likely early applications will be in lead and pipeline management. BPA will help automate all of your channels and initial interactions, then determine the best place to put someone in your sales map. So, if someone expresses interest in your business directly, they’ll be put in the middle of your funnel, but BPA will also work behind-the-scenes to verify contact information and generate profiles on their decision makers (typically initial steps in pipeline development).
  5. Shrinking BPA. SMBs are strategic with their investment and have stayed away from much early automation because of cost. For 2020 and the following years, we see this reluctance paying off for you. SMBs will seek small wins with only a few tasks being automated in a short sprint. When a company builds an application, it may automate to-do list and project management tools. Then, it can shift to BPA for marketing to new or existing customers. When a new version of the app is ready, it will be easy to automate call center activities to handle the flood of questions as customers update, then scaling down as users become familiar with it. Small, incremental steps that generate precise wins. The future of BPA is as broad as an entire operation, but always has the ability to be surgical like a business operation scalpel.

What Is Invisible’s Role in the Future of BPA?

Invisible is the coolest factory on the internet. We’ve built a Digital Assembly Line to industrialize process work and are laying the foundation to start tackling knowledge work including executive support, writing, data mining and research, and even tasks like engineering and design. That line is made up of humans who delegate tasks to field experts as well as AI and ML processes to complete the entire task in front of us.

We see automation as the future to give us a path forward to helping businesses across the U.S. expand and scale. That’s because unlike manufacturing that’s fixed and stationary, making it dependent on a wide range of local considerations, our digital assembly line lives online and can take advantage of remote workers anywhere.

In more practical terms, right now, Invisible provides intelligent automation for knowledge workers. We give companies the ability to tackle the workloads that are expanding more than any other. These knowledge areas include marketing, sales, hiring, and operational efforts. The back end and office are increasing impacting every business decision, so we help you dynamically scale and optimize it so your team can create the culture that helps you succeed. Check out how our Digital Assembly Line works:

Working with us is as simple as identifying repetitive digital work processes. You’ll share these with a dedicated an Invisible Process Assistant via email, app, or video call. Then, our experts take over and build a custom digital assembly line with agents across the globe to start running your processes 24/7, starting at $14 per hour.

Think of us as your business process automation partner who can improve efficiency over time, while making your more flexible, secure, stable, and reliable to customers.

"Invisible is the only outsourcing / RPA alternative that helps SMBs get the custom operations support they need to scale, at a revolutionary price point."

How Can Invisible Help Your SMB?

That said, what matters most to you is that Invisible is the only outsourcing and RPA alternative designed to specifically help SMBs get the custom operations support they need to scale, all at a revolutionary price point.

The stakes are high today, because your and our success will generate long-term benefits to our communities. No SMB is playing a zero-sum game. You’re in the market to win and grow and show new customers that they need your operations. Every day.

Invisible takes the same approach because we don’t think a zero-sum focus is a game worth playing. That means growing to businesses like yours by expanding services and developing the latest innovations at affordable prices. It’s out drive and motivation to give you the best chance you have for success by removing all the clutter and compounding work that gets in the way.

Yes, we’re an AI and outsourcing company. But our specialization is you.

What makes Invisible different are the companies who come to us and ask for help. We turn their needs into clear paths and workflows to simpler operation. You’re able to automate those annoying or frustrating tasks that drain the brains of leaders and innovators. Each team you have can instead focus on the big-picture solution you need to create. Through that, you win, and we expand by knowing we helped.

Silicon Valley often preaches about the unicorn company that will save every business in a flash. We’re not that. We’re the anti-unicorn that has a methodical process that’s down-to-Earth so that we know it works right for you. Invisible is building a long-term foundation that will slowly grow with our customers and bring you exactly what you need.

Learning about BPA and AI is just the first step. Take the second next one by creating a free Invisible account and see why you need to join the affordable revolution.

Hayley Darden Marketing Invisible Technologies
Geoff Whiting
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