When should you automate and when not?
Almost any human task can be automated. If there is an identified, recurring process, it can probably at least partially be carried out by a computer. However, too rare event variations are better excluded from process automation since these exceptions are more economically processed by a human being. Yes, people are still needed. But instead of routine tasks, they can rather focus on tasks that are more productive or on cases that need special handling. Or focus on planning, which can’t be done automatically yet. Business process automation can adjust to almost any situation. Automated process can receive data from different operators and systems - in several different formats. It can be started by an outside service call, incoming file or input from web-based form. Data can also be enriched before it is read into the target system.
How is it done and what does it cost?
Process automation always starts in the same way: by identifying the process to be automated and by describing its phases. Things to consider when creating the process description include
- who is in charge of each work phase,
- how and/or which system is used, and
- how the process proceeds from one phase to the next.
In addition to this, possible exceptional situations are also identified. Successful process mapping always involves the experts who have taken care of the manual tasks. The result is a process chart, that serves as the base of the automation. The implementation phase of the automation focuses on how to make the computer carry out the same tasks. Process automation usually pays itself back within 3 to 6 months. Savings are achieved not only because the tasks themselves are carried out more fluently, faster and with fewer errors, but also because the people who previously worked on routine processes can now focus on more important and productive work.
Examples of automation in financial administration
A company's payroll is a good example of a function that is rather complex and repeats itself in a similar fashion from one month to another. When the use cases associated with payroll calculation are carefully defined, the rules for automatic calculation can be programmed based on them. Thus, wages, surcharges, additional compensation for on-call work, holiday allowances and so forth can be automatically calculated. On the other hand, people are required to handle special cases. Such an exceptional situation could be the termination of an employee's employment relationship and the disappearance of basic information from the system during the payroll calculation period. Another example is billing. In a single-person company, sending invoices separately may not take an unreasonable amount of time. However, when it’s a company with tens or hundreds of people, compiling invoices on the basis of work hour entries or subscription orders is already a rather time-consuming task. If invoices are automatically generated and sent based on the information recorded on the system, considerable time (= money) is saved. And no manual delays or errors will arise. Boldly consider, how your business could benefit from process automation. At the same time, you can consider what you’ll do with the time it saves you!