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9 Real-Life Process Automation Examples to Inspire Your Strategy

Elizabeth Bell, Appian
October 25, 2023

Do people in your organization regularly cut and paste data from one enterprise application into another? Do you? That kind of pain point in a workflow is just one example of what process automation can help overcome. Repetitive tasks and manual workflows lurking inside business processes slow down teams, introduce human error, and erode employee engagement. Slow, ineffective processes can also kill an organization’s time to market and customer satisfaction. That’s why IT and business leaders have increasingly turned to process automation—a range of technologies that automate repetitive and manual tasks inside a business process. 

Process automation is helping them overcome challenges in:

  • Risk management
  • Supply chain management
  • Invoice processing
  • Product returns
  • Case management
  • Underwriting 
  • Contract management 
  • Product delivery
  • Reinsurance claims management 

Today’s range of process automation technologies includes things like AI, data fabric, robotic process automation (RPA), workflow orchestration, codeless system integrations, and business rules. Capabilities like these reduce the need for humans to perform hands-on, time-consuming, repetitive tasks and pave the way for faster, more effective end-to-end processes.

How are your peers applying these process automation tools in the real world? Explore some common examples and use cases below.

Find more examples in the guide: How 12 Industry Leaders Revolutionized Their Processes.

Process automation examples to inspire change in your organization.

1. Risk management.

Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) is the world’s largest equity derivatives clearing house, and it plays a critical role in providing financial stability to market participants, investors, and the economy. Sound risk management is essential. OCC needed to move away from spreadsheets and emails and gain more visibility into the processes as a whole. 

They created nine critical risk management applications via a process automation platform, using automation, data management, visibility through records, and one-click reporting. This ensures they have control and compliance validation embedded into these processes. In addition, they can quickly pull the documentation that auditors need to review their process decisions and actions.

2. Supply chain management.

End-to-end supply chain automation can help organizations ensure manufacturing quality, prevent shortages, and make faster deliveries. One large automobile manufacturer had to respond to semiconductor shortages caused by the pandemic, so they developed an application using a process automation platform to manage supply chain issue management. This application enabled them to orchestrate, design, and optimize the process, and thanks to data management capabilities, they could draw data into one single interface to provide a 360-degree view of any risks, which provided a central source of truth for the team to evaluate issues. 

Want expert advice on emerging issues in supply chain? Get the guide: 2023 Supply Chain Outlook. 


3. Invoice processing.

Alexanier GmbH runs 27 hospitals of all levels of care. They wanted to reduce wait time between patient discharge and final invoice. So they used process mining (a capability of a process platform to help optimize processes) to identify inefficiencies and areas for process improvement. They were able to find root causes and streamline the process—and met their goal by reducing waiting time by about 80%.

Process automation platforms offer plenty of tools to optimize an invoice workflow. AI can categorize documents, extract information, make it available to anyone who needs access, and route data to another system. An RPA bot can automatically flag exceptions for review by a human. All of this automation leads to results like Alexanier GmbH saw: faster processes to improve the customer experience.

4. Product returns.

A large home improvement retailer needed to speed up the return, refunds, and exchange process. Manual approvals, lack of oversight during fulfillment, and data silos across multiple systems meant the approval process was delayed and deliveries were often canceled—both of which led to drops in customer satisfaction ratings. Data inaccuracies created financial loss. 

The retailer used process automation to improve this function. They automated refund payment transactions with RPA, which captures transactions from multiple payment portals, and used AI-powered document processing to extract necessary customer information for initiating refunds. They were able to automate up to 90% of previously manual processes. 

Thanks to the effort they put into redesigning this process, they were able to reduce their approval times from 10-12 days to 1.5-2 days. They now have complete visibility into the progress of return, refund, cancellation, and exchange requests, giving them more credibility and reliability for customers. 

5. Case management.

Case management, or knowledge work that requires a high degree of adaptability, benefits from the flexibility enabled by process automation. Poste Italiane, the Italian postal service provider, needed to make processing cases simpler—both from a back-office operations and customer experience perspective. To do this, they used a robotics solution and a process automation platform in tandem to create one single interface for customer service agents. 

Now, Poste Italiane can easily monitor their processes from end-to-end, including tasks they’re automating with RPA. Staff no longer have to switch between legacy systems thanks to data fabric capabilities, and they can serve for less: half their documents are digitized and lead times have dropped by 25%.

6. Underwriting.

CNA, a global property and casualty insurance company, wanted to unite the global business in a new underwriting process. Before they modernized underwriting with process automation, the process would take place across multiple systems. Underwriting resources were eaten up as employees tried to find data, keep spreadsheets up to date, and enter data over and over again across the multiple systems involved. This also added time and complexity to the analysis and pricing process, which slowed business. 

CNA built a new application that connected business partners across the world, which they could use to write local policy placements. Agents and underwriters could easily track the status of all policies in one platform. These old, inefficient processes became very efficient processes in one fell swoop, making it easier for their global business to communicate across time zones and languages, ultimately delivering a better experience for employees and customers. 

7. Contract management.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS) Office of Procurement and Contract Services is responsible for the acquisition of all the goods and services used by the agency. The office was using several disconnected systems to manage hundreds of contracts, which led to a slow, manual contract award process.

The Office of Procurement and Contract Services used process automation to streamline its contract awards process from end to end, relying on capabilities like: 

  • A role-based award management dashboard to deliver a single view of all contract, vendor, and acquisition information.
  • Award management alerts and notifications to ensure deliverables are completed on time.
  • Award management homepage to surface assigned tasks.
  • End-to-end contract writing application that guided staff through the steps, documents, and approvals needed. 
  • Integrated document editing. 

Now, the Office of Procurement and Contract Services has one centralized system where all information can be viewed by more than 10,000 stakeholders. They have both faster turnaround times and can also ensure the integrity of underlying contract data.

8. Product delivery.

Telus, a Canadian telecommunications company, needed to roll out their 5G network to customers. But the IT landscape supporting the work needed to pull from 11 legacy and external systems, a task that felt insurmountable without help. They used a process platform, including RPA to connect systems without APIs, to interface with these legacy systems and build one unified view of wireless operations and IT systems. Thanks to low-code design, they could develop workflows 10x faster than with traditional development. This let them meet customers’ expectations and demands, connect people faster and with fewer disruptions, and maintain network reliability both during the pandemic and well beyond.

9. Reinsurance claims management.

Aon, a leading global professional services firm, used process automation to digitize and improve its reinsurance claims process. They had initiated an operational transformation program starting back in 2018, where they planned to make adjustments to daily roles and responsibilities for Aon's staff worldwide and introduce new business processes and corresponding changes to critical business applications. They needed to not only maintain, but improve, a high level of service during the transition.

To support this goal, they built a new claims workflow application, which employs automation so that staff can shift their focus to client advocacy and enhanced service delivery. They use prebuilt plug-ins and API frameworks to seamlessly combine myriads of previously siloed data and logic, which helps them create new claim workflows faster across the enterprise. Now they’re able to measure the performance of their processes so that they can continuously improve them.

Implement business process automation strategies for speed and agility.

In the digital transformation era, time and energy spent on repetitive processes add up to a competitive disadvantage. But as these examples of automation demonstrate, process automation reduces this type of friction for both internal teams and customers. With a strong process automation strategy, organizations can finally see those increases in speed and agility that lead to a more resilient business.

Need guidance on where to begin with process automation? Check out our guide to achieving end-to-end process excellence.