How to Select Business Process Automation Software

Plus, which BPA software do we recommend?

Business process management (BPM) and Automation (BPA) software are one of the fastest-growing fields in technology, with estimates for company expenditures on BPA/BPM software ranging fromUS$13.5 to US$23 billion in the next few years. These figures are likely low-end estimates as well, given the wide-scale digital transformation occurring across industries and the speed at which companies are looking to technology to give them a competitive edge.

In such a fast-growing market, hundreds of software companies from Appian to Zapier have thrown their hat into the business process automation software ring. So how do you choose the best business process automation platform for your business?

We recommend you begin by answering the questions below, which will help you determine your software evaluation criteria:

  • How quickly can you implement a solution? Business process automation gives your organization a strong competitive advantage by reducing costs and expanding capacity. The faster you can put your solution in place, the more quickly you’ll start realizing returns that can increase your competitiveness.
  • How “future-proof” does your system need to be? Are your business processes largely static, or do they change each quarter? If you need to make regular changes, do you have IT staff available to help, or will your business process automation software need to be a “drag-and-drop” style tool that any user can master?
  • What level of support and customization will you require? Depending on your internal resources and the complexity of your business process automation workflows, you may need to look for a business process automation partner to help customize your system.
  • What integrations will be necessary for your existing systems? Does your business operate with closed, proprietary software, or are you on a platform that easily supports outside integrations? You may want to look for tools that plug into your existing infrastructure directly.
  • What is your business process automation volume? Are you planning on automating a few dozen tasks each month, or a few million? What failure rate, if any, are you able to tolerate at these levels? What level of redundancy, reporting, and record-keeping will you need?
  • How many functions/different workflows will your BPA system support? Will your business process automation software support a single department or your entire organization? Will it be used for a particular purpose (e.g. invoicing) or does it need to be a swiss army knife capable of supporting any automation you dream up?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, it’s time to go shopping. As you evaluate the various business process automation software options, the following questions can help you in your comparisons:

  • How common is the tool on the market? More broadly used tools will generally support more automation and customization functions, and you’ll have access to a deeper pool of developers with experience working with the software.
  • Does the tool support add-ins and apps? Today’s best software benefits from crowd-sourced plugins and apps that offer key parts of functionality and can considerably speed up your development process.
  • What are the price and licensing options? Flexibility here is key. Every business is different, and you’ll want to find the right balance of seats, service level, and affordability.

Our Recommended Business Process Automation Software

At IOTAP, we’ve been working with business process automation software for decades, guiding some of the world’s largest customers through their digital transformations. And with that experience, we recommend a combination of Nintex and Microsoft SharePoint.

These two tools provide a flexible, affordable solution that is robust enough to handle the majority of BPA scenarios. Even better, SharePoint and Nintex have the potential for almost limitless customization and can support a much broader digital transformation as part of the popular Office 365 suite.

Advantages of Nintex for Business Process Automation

Nintex has developed a highly rated business process automation tool that integrates directly with Microsoft Sharepoint: Nintex Workflow. This combination of tools offers the following benefits:

  • An unrivaled speed of implementation and ease of use
  • A very attractive price point in an industry where affordable enterprise solutions are few and far between
  • “Drag-and-drop” workflow creation that does not require any coding
  • Integration between Office 365, SharePoint and other external systems (DocuSign, Twitter, etc.)
  • Robust user role and visibility support, which allows you to present only relevant information to your different audiences with a single platform
  • Document management and storage is built right into the system, allowing you to set up deliverable approval flows with ease
  • Cross-platform notifications, via email, text and even IM
  • “Lazy Approval”, which allows users to approve workflows or tasks from any alert on a device
  • Lists, email alerts, and various workflow configurations are easily configurable by any user
  • The ability to assign tasks and schedule appointments automatically
  • Built-in business process automation documentation with the annotate feature
  • User account and permission assignment workflows that work with Active Directory
  • The ability to reverse or elevate workflows to different business logic states depending on approval levels to ensure a workflow reaches the correct outcome
  • Automatic document updates

That was certainly a lot of information to cover. If your organization is considering business process automation and automation software, we invite you to talk to IOTAP’s BPA experts today. We can help you select the right tool and process to help accelerate your business.

Where SharePoint Excels at Business Process Automation

Companies seeking an efficient solution for business process automation often look up to Microsoft SharePoint for an effective platform. While SharePoint workflows have some limitations, having a third party engine on top of it can really make a difference. Business process automation using SharePoint in conjunction with something like Nintex workflows can help to streamline operations, reduce costs, increase efficiency, improve customer service, and provide consistency for document-heavy business processes.

In this blog, we look at the different business processes that can be automated with SharePoint.

1. Document Feedback and Approval

Today’s leading organizations face document overload: an overabundance of documents that must pass through numerous hands before being approved. Proposals, contracts, service agreements, sales presentations, employee training materials, and other documents often go through a multi-step feedback and approval process before they are ready for use. SharePoint offers a convenient resource for efficient document management, allowing stakeholders to provide feedback and approval as new documents make their way through the workflow. Documents can be reviewed and edited online in SharePoint, allowing multiple users to contribute to a project without any confusion over where the latest version can be found.

The SharePoint approval workflow routes documents from one party to the next, assigning review tasks and following up with reminders to ensure that work is completed quickly and efficiently.

The document approval process can cause big backlogs for organizations that don’t have a system in place to manage documents and alert owners when they need to weigh in. Using SharePoint’s built-in features to upload, edit, and manage documents allows organizations to expedite the approval process for all manner of important documents.

2. Holiday and Paid-Time-Off Requests

Employee scheduling is crucial to keeping any organization running smoothly, and inaccurate paid-time-off tracking is costly. However, tracking holiday time and other PTO for a large company can be a drain on management and HR employees’ resources. Using Work 365 Leave and Time Management Apps that syncs with SharePoint, employees can submit requests for time off, managers can approve those requests, and available time off can be updated automatically so that employees, managers, and human resource specialists always have an accurate accounting of an employee’s used and available PTO.

3. Customer Support and Customer Service Requests

SharePoint is a powerful tool for organizing and managing lists of activities, which is especially useful when managing customer support requests. Customer service workflows can be configured to support the activities below, reducing the number of time employees must spend responding to customers and increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction:

  • Service request or incident tracking
  • Providing status updates on technical support resolution
  • Alerting managers and assigned representatives to new tickets or status changes on existing tickets
  • Tracking shipment and order statuses
  • Customer service scheduling and appointments
  • Progress toward complaint resolution

As customers demand increasingly fast and personalized service, SharePoint automation helps organizations keep up while alleviating some of the strain on their busy customer service and support departments.

4. Employee Onboarding and Off-Boarding

Fragmented onboarding and off-boarding processes can cause big problems for organizations of all sizes. New employees need an efficient, accurate way to receive the information they need to perform their duties, and existing employees need to be handled with care to avoid legal consequences and loss of employee knowledge. SharePoint can help organizations address both concerns with workflow processes to streamline the way employees join and exit the company.

Some onboarding and off-boarding automation that can be set up via SharePoint include:

  • Online form submissions and a central data repository that can be accessed by involved employees and departments
  • Workflow automation and alerting to avoid missed deadlines and expedite approvals for onboarding
  • Secure online portals to limit unauthorized access to sensitive, proprietary assets for existing employees

Document-heavy processes are easy to automate with SharePoint. Talk to IOTAP’s specialists today to learn more about business process automation solutions designed to fit your organization.

The above examples are just a few of the ways in which business process automation can be implemented in your business. If your organization is struggling with process management and coordination, we invite you to talk to IOTAP’s BPA experts today.