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Automation has been a popular term among business leaders for decades now, but actually putting it into action across the entire business operation has only more recently gained steam. In fact, a global survey in 2020 by McKinsey & Co. found 66% of business leaders from a wide swath of industries and verticals reported piloting solutions to automate at least one business process. This number jumped nearly 10 percentage points from their previous survey two years prior. 

There are a number of factors contributing to the intensified focus on automation. Some organizational leaders see it as a strategic imperative, aligning it with their overall business strategy, where others see it as a way to improve their cost base over time, keep pace with competitors, or address operational efficiency issues. 

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The other undercurrent adding fuel to this trend is automation has become more accessible thanks to application programming interfaces (APIs) and platforms like MuleSoft that enable connectivity between systems. 

Whatever the motive driving business process automation, one thing is for certain –– business and IT leaders see it as core to digital transformation. In fact, a recent MuleSoft report found 30% of IT leaders agree automation is a key business initiative tied to digital transformation. With that in mind, how do you achieve successful business process automation?

APIs as the driving force for successful automation

While organizations large and small have been adopting business process automation strategies as part of their digital transformation for the better part of a decade now, it’s really only been the last few years, as efforts have matured, that we’ve come to define what sets successful initiatives apart. 

There are two driving forces that have proven conducive to automation success over the long term: business process management and API strategy. Before embarking on the automation journey, undergoing business process management practices can help organizations avoid simply applying automation to flawed or unnecessary manual processes. It’s the practice of unearthing all current processes, documenting them and identifying where there might be redundancies or opportunities to eliminate certain steps altogether.

Another primary issue that has traditionally stymied successful automation efforts is integrating systems through point-to-point connections. This, over time, leads to a tangled cacophony of connection points which often results in data silos. With automation, it is imperative to create visibility with real-time access to data is imperative. This is where APIs come in. In fact, the State of the API Report by Postman found for those working on digital transformation initiatives, 84.5% agreed that APIs are playing a significant role in those initiatives.

Particularly in scenarios in which it’s not possible to upend legacy systems, APIs enable the preservation of those systems while allowing new apps and solutions to be integrated to create a more modern structure. This has been especially transformative to organizations and agencies operating in the public sector.

Transforming the public sector with APIs

The Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA), an agency that manages worker’s compensation regulations for the state, came to MST Solutions with a need to transition from their aging legacy system to a cloud solution that would enable them to work with customers and constituents more efficiently. At the time, they were midway through their lean process initiatives and had identified where they could tighten up processes and systems. This set the foundation for building a more scalable and agile cloud-based solution that provided agency-wide visibility and delivered an improved experience to customers and constituents. 

The challenge

As the agency grew, the legacy systems they were using were becoming more strained. They were unable to quickly and easily make updates or changes, or even fix issues within the system. They also lacked integrations with other agency systems, which meant processing claims was a very manual process – typically involving at least seven manual steps to process one document. At the time, much of the process was paper-based with back-and-forth communication taking place via hard-copy documents sent by mail. 

Automating the process would not only speed turnaround times, it would also eliminate the need for paper copies, reduce errors, and free the team of rote tasks that tend to inhibit innovation. The challenge was operating within complex business rules and a number of legacy inputs. 

The solution

To modernize ICA’s systems and maintain the integrity of legacy inputs, we turned to MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform. This was used to integrate multiple systems using APIs, which freed them from manual data entry and paper handling. Salesforce Service Cloud was integrated to automate claims intake, workflows, tasks, and outbound notifications to stakeholders such as insurance carriers, employers, attorneys, and claimants. MuleSoft APIs also enabled us to integrate a printing solution with Service Cloud to automate the printing and enveloping of documents. 

APIs empowered the ICA to automate a previously manual workflow while enhancing the stakeholder experience. They were also able to increase efficiency and reduce errors, particularly with the ability to quickly and accurately match claims. In fact, the ICA reduced the number of manual steps for inbound documents from seven human touches to zero for all electronically received documents, enabling them to process worker’s compensation claims faster, which led to improved customer satisfaction. 

As automation becomes a key part of the overall business strategy, organizations will need to turn to APIs to create connected systems to avoid data silos. APIs will prove to be essential to driving business automation and helping organizations thrive. 

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