3 Process Automation Examples to Learn From

Laurie McLaughlin, Appian
March 21, 2023

Do people in your organization regularly cut and paste data from one enterprise application into another? That kind of pain point in a workflow is exactly what process automation can help overcome. Repetitive tasks and manual processes 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 tools—a range of technologies that automate repetitive and manual tasks inside a business process.

How should you apply process automation?

Today’s range of process automation technologies includes robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent document processing (IDP), workflow orchestration, artificial intelligence (AI), system integrations, and business rules. These tools reduce the need for humans to perform hands-on, time-consuming, routine tasks and pave the way for faster, more effective processes end to end.

But before we explore process automation tools further, let’s bust a common misconception: RPA and process automation are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. For example, an RPA bot can automate individual tasks within a process in much the same way a human would repeatedly click software options. That frees the person up to do higher value work. But, many complex business processes demand more than RPA can deliver on its own, such as content extraction or email classification. Thus, RPA should be just one part of a broader business automation approach.

How are your peers applying process automation in the real world? Let’s explore some common examples and advice on applying the tools.

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Process automation examples.

1. Onboarding a new employee.

Examples of business process automation will vary depending on the industry, but here’s one relating to a process every company deals with: employee onboarding. Here’s how the entire process might look with process automation tools:

  • An HR professional enters a start date in an onboarding application built on a process automation platform.
  • The new employee then gets an automated email prompting them to share needed data and forms on a portal page.
  • IT gets an automated prompt to prepare the person’s device and software access in time for their start date, based on business rules about the person’s job.
  • Facilities gets prompted to set up an office workspace, and this information is shared back to the employee’s portal page.

This automated process saves valuable time, emails, and headaches for both the internal teams and the new hire. 

2. Proving a banking customer’s identity and fighting financial crime.

Right now, Know Your Customer (KYC) processes are separating banks that retain customers well from banks that do not. The health of those processes shapes how well banks and financial organizations can deal with dual pressures: speeding up their business growth while ensuring compliance with volatile regulatory demands. 

The KYC process starts with KYC verification—a personal or corporate banking customer proving their identity—and proceeds to checks and balances designed to prevent financial crimes and fraud. This set of processes is one of the most complex and highly regulated aspects of banking. Customers demand KYC process speed—and will switch to rival institutions if they deliver a better customer experience.

Banks can use process automation to automate workflow triggers and analysis and reporting tasks, for example. This adds speed and accuracy at four key stages in the financial crime lifecycle:

  • Compliance – implementing governance structures and crime strategies.
  • Prevention and detection – conducting enterprise fraud management, including advanced analytics.
  • Investigation and remediation – assessing allegations, responding to regulatory requests, remedying issues, and preventing recurrence.
  • Monitoring and reporting – assessing and updating systems and reporting.

Without a platform for process automation, many of these steps would have to be done in a linear fashion. With process automation, banks can do work in parallel, using data from disparate systems in real time. For example, a bank can speed up a workflow after an analytics system surfaces a potential risk. Parallel work, fueled by real-time data, distinguishes today’s advanced financial organizations.

[ Does your organization know how to connect disparate data sets? Learn how data fabric technology creates a unified view and eliminates data silo headaches.] 

3. Solving supply chain challenges.

Companies apply process automation in multiple ways to address supply chain management challenges, such as weather events and geopolitical disruptions. End-to-end supply chain automation can help organizations ensure manufacturing quality, prevent shortages, and make faster deliveries. Consider these supply chain process automation examples:

  • Manufacturing shop floor use cases – speed production and improve predictive maintenance.
  • Office administration use cases – improve forecasts using real-time demand signals from point-of-sale and eCommerce systems or other data from sales teams.
  • Transportation and logistics use cases – assign delivery drivers to specific routes to assist with last-mile delivery.

For a detailed look at four real-world examples of supply chain process automation, read our related article: Supply Chain Automation Examples From 4 Industries

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Scaling process automation for speed.

As these examples demonstrate, process automation reduces friction for both internal teams and customers as organizations strive to increase speed and resiliency and ensure regulatory compliance.

In the digital transformation era, time and energy spent on repetitive processes add up to a competitive disadvantage. For example, Gartner found that the average amount of avoidable rework in accounting departments can consume up to 30% of a full-time employee’s overall work time. That’s another example where process automation can come into play, along with complex workflows in realms such as:

Here’s a parting takeaway: Many organizations struggle to scale automation efforts because they hit a wall when multiple process automation technologies don’t work well together. A process automation platform can help organizations avoid that challenge by unifying work and cutting through data silos.

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