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In today’s all-digital world, organizations are focused on accelerating efficiency while remaining agile; across industries, leaders and consumers alike echo similar prospects. 

In a recent report, 77% of global business leaders emphasized the need to streamline operations through digital transformation. By the same token, another survey revealed that 88% of consumers also anticipated companies will accelerate their digital initiatives this year.

Digital transformation is central to achieving innovation and meeting ever-changing customer expectations. At the heart of it all, to keep pace, organizations are turning to business process automation. 

In this blog post, we will define business process automation and its core functions. This is the first step in a multi-part blog series where we’ll provide a more elaborate view of automation and its benefits in today’s digital economy. 

Defining business process automation (BPA) 

Business process automation (BPA) involves automation software that streamlines manual tasks, with the goal of optimizing efficiency and employee productivity. Simply put, automation allows businesses to quickly calibrate with market pressure points, optimize business growth, and leverage it across all business processes to reduce errors and monetary costs. 

For example, whether browsing a retail site or exploring business service platforms, customer support utilizes AI chatbots to automate typical and simpler customer interactions. These bots answer queries and in cases where human contact is required to handle customer needs, they are transferred to a company representative. Though on a smaller scale, automation in its many incarnations will show to be a significant linchpin in the future. 

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Beyond accelerating and streamlining processes, business process automation can define the approach of delivering new products, integrating new value chains, or generating new revenue channels. In this way, companies can revolutionize and become enablers of digital transformation. 

The benefits of automation are endless — including quick responsiveness to customer and market demands, faster workload deployment, and risk mitigation. And by reimagining the employee, customer, and product experience, automation produces improved transparency, customer satisfaction, and increased revenue.

Approaches to business process automation

What are the standard approaches to business process automation? Typically, a business process management (BPM) tool is used to consolidate underlying systems through point-to-point connections. These strategies, however, come with a strong caveat: the intricate connections can become entangled and cause data obscurity in large-scale processes. In the digital age, visibility is key for improving automation, especially taking into account how a single process can now span an average of 35 different systems

Business process automation primarily relies on two main automation subsets: API-based digital process automation, and UI-based robotic process automation.

Digital process automation

Digital process automation (DPA), in its name, enables digital technology for automation — often in the form of APIs or other software as means of automation. Modern applications (including cloud-based services) depend on APIs to provide programmatic access to functionality and data. Whether deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment, developers can use APIs to build a network of apps, data, and devices. 

Likewise, without having to write code, individuals can use these connectors to access a variety of application functionality in automation. According to a Mordor report, the DPA market is estimated at $3.6 billion in 2020, and expected to be a $11.46 billion market in 2027, registering an annual growth rate of 17.67%.

Robotic process automation

Yet in cases where an automation platform does not carry a particular connector, or if the application itself does not utilize APIs, this is where robotic process automation (RPA) comes in. RPA allows automation to function in legacy systems that typically do not house API-centric systems. 

Instead of depending on cloud software, robotic process automation tools configure digital workers in the form of artificial intelligence. These “robots” mimic routine human tasks, interpret applications for internal processes, and cross-communicate with other digital systems. The RPA market, valued at 1.57 billion in 2020, is forecast to expand at an annual growth rate of 32.8% from 2021 to 2028, according to reports

Integration and automation go hand-in-hand

It’s important to realize the role of integration in business automation: streamlining duplicated and overlapping processes neutralizes the potential for reduced costs and increased productivity. By deploying automation solutions onto integrated systems, organizations can quickly deliver digital business initiatives at scale – making automated integration tools an important part of business agility. 

While automated integration services encourage a certain level of surface-level uniformity and efficiency, they also propel deeper connectivity – an industry shift that is so beneficial that we’re likely to witness greater reliance on integration and automation in the future.