Thursday, May 27, 2021

Business Process Automation

There are literally a dozen new "no-code" platforms popping up almost every week - and a good many of them are emphasizing that they can help with "Business Process Automation". So what is Business Process Automation? Basically, BPA is the act of computerizing one of the normal functions or "workflows" in a business (such as Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, purchasing, or new employee onboarding) that are currently being done as a series of separate steps. In order to automate one of those processes you have to start by defining the entire chain of events that are involved, including which employees are responsible for which tasks and what each person's options are at a given point in the process. For example, new employee onboarding can be complex, requiring the cooperation of many different people in the organization. Typical steps in the process include:

  • Prepare a workplace for the new employee, equipped with a phone, computer, office supplies, and any other items the person may need.
  • Set up the new person's internal email and messaging systems.
  • Make sure the new hire's supervisor and fellow workers are notified about when the person will be starting work and what duties he or she will be performing.
  • Explain the terms of the employment contract to the new hire and secure the person's signature.
  • HR will need to have the new hire fill out a Form W-4 for income tax withholding and a Form I-9 to verify the person's identity and right to work in the United States. In addition, if the new hire wants to be paid by direct deposit HR will need to gather that information along with an acceptance form for any voluntary deductions the person elects to have deducted from his or her pay. 
  • Set up a training plan and a schedule for training sessions.
  •  Present the new hire with a copy of the employee handbook.
  • List any equipment, tools or inventory items given to the new employee and obtain the person's signed agreement as to what items were issued.
  • Schedule any previously agreed on drug testing.
  • Have the person sign any non-disclosure or non-compete forms required by the company.
  • (Additional onboarding tasks)
This is only a partial list of the items that may be included in bringing in a new employee, so you can see why doing all this manually can be difficult to manage. Encapsulating everything into an app can streamline the process by ensuring all steps are followed and documented and all persons that need to be involved are notified automatically when there's a task they need to perform. The app can also be designed to allow for alternatives if a particular person is missing or if there's an unusual circumstance, such as the person is being brought on as a freelancer.

Integrating a workflow automation procedure with other systems can also be a big help in keeping track of things. For instance, I did some work a few years ago for a large company that had a dozen tire stores with several mechanics at each store. The company issued certain tools and equipment to each mechanic and employees were required to return those items when they left. Since there was a high turnover, making sure of what had been issued and what had been returned was a time-consuming process. Integrating the inventory function into automated onboarding and exit processes would have simplified the record-keeping required by making it a standard part of the handling of new hires and terminated employees.

If you need to create a BPA system you can definitely do that with a no-code app. With the recent surge in interest in process automation you can build BPA apps on almost any no-code platform these days. Just do a little research to see what options each platform offers  - and to give yourself a head start, look to see if a particular platform has a template that fits your needs. I'll also be doing more posts about automation apps here on the blog in the near future.


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