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    Business Processes Automation for Distributed Companies

    Where information technology and business intersect, countless areas demand constant research, improvement, and evolution. Among them is business process automation. While not exactly a new phenomenon there are still many problems that business process automation can solve that lack well-conceived schemes or existing IT solutions.

    Over the past five years, at SECL Group we have been actively involved in crafting internal corporate systems to bring about automation across various industries and functions. In this article, we will share our experiences and provide some general thoughts and advice on business process automation.

    business process automation

     

    In our opinion, the larger the company, the more it will rely on internal IT systems to automate its activities. However, out-of-the-box ERP software systems often fail to meet all of the needs of owners and managers, and companies are increasingly adopting several IT systems simultaneously that must be integrated.

    Recently, we estimated that large retail companies with at least 100 offline retail outlets, or large online stores with 1000 daily orders, would utilize more than 25 internal IT systems. These typically include CRM and Accounting systems, as well as software for HR Management, Employee Training, Inventory Management, and so forth.

    All of these software systems can be integrated and work as a cohesive mechanism, but developing, implementing, and optimizing them to fit the business processes of a specific company can be complex and time-consuming. Let’s explore how business process automation is in greater detail.

    Business Process Automation: How It’s Planned and Done

    Decisions About Automation: Motives and Expectations.

    Company owners and management, as a rule, prepare to introduce business process automation to:

    • To maintain and strengthen business management. In emerging companies, the scale and number of operations grow so much that they become increasingly difficult to manage manually. The same applies to any data and documents attached to such operations, which are equally impossible to process without automated systems.
    • To avoid errors arising from the «human factor».
    • To quickly process and use significant arrays of additional information. Primarily, this may concern marketing and sales, where the trend towards personalization of sales offers, based on previous purchases and requests of individual consumers, cannot be followed without deploying automation.
    • To save data and provide quick access to it, preventing loss and reducing searching time for necessary information.
    • To unify processes, achieving constant compliance with any established business logic and well-founded algorithms. Modern businesses should not depend on the personal preferences and experiences of their employees. In addition, customers expect consistency from companies, so it is better to rely on automated procedures because this leaves less room for overly subjective decisions. Based on unified processes, it is possible to create internal corporate standards and monitor staff compliance with them.
    • To free up the working time of founders, managers, and other staff for more creative tasks, reducing their workload with repetitive routine processes. Automating manual labor in this way also presents a viable avenue for trimming a company’s budget by reducing its headcount.
    • To speed up the preparation and adoption of management decisions. This point is closely related to the previous one because by implementing the setting and execution of tasks, control, and analysis in one automated system, you can save significant amounts of time.

    As the modern economy evolves rapidly and leaves less time for manual management and lengthy decision-making, the automation of existing business processes stands as one of the most effective responses to the challenges it poses. What’s more, as consumers’ expectations have been shaped by the benefits they’ve encountered in dealing with highly automated sectors of the economy, increasingly they expect the same when dealing with businesses in other industries where perhaps levels of investment in automation have lagged. In this environment, staying competitive requires embracing automation as the way forward.

    If you’re considering going down the business process automation route yourself, try to clearly define at the very beginning, any reasons for why you are starting automation and what you expect as a result. This will allow you to maintain your priorities during development and implementation, and later evaluate the results and the ROI picture of everything that has been done.

    Preparation for business process automation

    From my perspective, it is not entirely accurate to interpret the concept of a business process solely as a sequence of actions aimed at providing products or services to customers. This is a narrow view that overlooks the internal work cycles of a business, which encompass not only customer-facing processes but also supportive and managerial processes. These business processes are not just unique one-time tasks or simple standalone operations that take place within a single unit of the organization, rather they span all levels of the company and are continually reproduced. As such, after being optimized, they yield more profit with each new cycle.

    When an owner or manager is considering business automation, a common question that may arise is whether it is realistic to have an automated system that covers all, or at least most, of their processes. The answer, in general, is yes. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can encompass numerous business processes, however, it’s essential to consider the relatively high cost of such software, as well as the length of time it takes to implement, which includes staff training. Additionally, off-the-shelf systems from global vendors may not fully account for the unique characteristics of a business, and customizing them to your specific needs can be both time-consuming and expensive. Furthermore, the benefits of implementing such software may not manifest themselves immediately.

    For example, the implementation of an SAP ERP system costs several million dollars on average. In addition, your company must be large enough to use the full functionality of complex systems. Otherwise, you will hand over at least part of this money for features that you will hardly use.

    Another approach is to automate your business gradually: step by step, process by process. As a rule, stakeholders should first all focus on the automation of business processes that correspond to one or more of the following features:

    • A core business process: any improvement or shortfall which affects the company as a whole.
    • A weak link: a process that is currently so imperfect and hinders business development to such an extent that it is simply dangerous to leave it in its current form
    • A growth driver, i.e., a process whose optimization can bring about a rapidly significant effect on the business, for example, in the form of customer attraction or retention, reduction of expenses, positive differentiation among competitors, etc.

    Let me give you a concrete example from our own experience. We recently created an automated system for a financial services company. As part of their work, they collected financial data from multiple sources, including government platforms, analyzed it, and provided financial analytics to clients in specific areas. Previously, this entire process was accomplished manually. However, we developed a platform that automatically collects the data, analyzes it based on predefined parameters, and generates reports. Now, only at the end of the process, just before a report is generated, a specialist checks to ensure there are no errors.

    In the department that does this work, there is now only one employee as opposed to sixteen. What’s interesting is that when the client first approached us with concerns about automating this process, they were skeptical that it could even be done, yet working together we carefully examined the problem, clarified the task, and only then proceeded to develop a solution which yielded a quick and visible outcome.

    Once you have selected the process you intend to automate, it is recommended that you conduct an audit to determine the best course of action. The primary questions that arise for company owners and managers are:

    • Has the process already been perfected and can it be automated without modification, i.e., «as is»?
    • Alternatively, should the business process in question be optimized as it is automated? In this case, the information system’s implementation will occur in tandem with the process’s transformation. This approach entails the creation of a superior process model, known as «to be.»

    The second approach is commonly used when desired improvements were previously unattainable due to inadequate IT infrastructure within the company. For instance, better practices might call for databases, fast robotic search capabilities for necessary information, and numerous other features that could only be realized through the use of automated systems.

    Based on the results of the business process audit, you will be able to plan the next steps to improve it, as well as highlight the existing best practices that are used by individual employees or departments, and consolidate them in procedures common to all personnel.

    The steps I will outline below pertain to the preparation for automation, but they are of such significance that they warrant separate emphasis.

    Process Owner

    Your business may have already incorporated a position responsible for the design, development, implementation, and effectiveness of the entire business process. In such instances, it makes sense for the owner of the business process to also be accountable for its automation. Alternatively, some companies may appoint a separate specialist to serve as the owner of business process automation, ideally someone with both managerial and technical expertise. In either case, these professionals who embody the company’s perspective on business process management and transformation are critical players in automation. In particular, they make a significant contribution to fostering successful collaboration with a software development contractor, a topic that I will delve into later.

    In corporations, each division or department represents an internal client for business process automation, each with its requirements. Furthermore, the implementation of these requirements is monitored by a manager allocated by the client, that is to say, the Process Owner, who is responsible for cooperation with the development team. In small companies, often one manager can fill several roles, and, for example, the CEO can take on the functions of a Process Owner.

    Business process description and modeling

    The starting point in business process automation is their description and modeling. You will repeatedly return to these materials, checking whether the development is moving in the right direction.

    When providing a detailed description of the essence and stages of the business process, it is helpful to include typical technological instructions, standard operating procedures, graphs, and samples of operational and analytical reports. All of this will aid in ensuring the automated system’s compliance with the recommended sequence of operations to be executed by the company’s staff.

    Graphical depictions of business processes are also beneficial. They go beyond being mere illustrations for descriptive purposes and instead involve modeling business processes using graphic notations. These visual representations of the primary components and the sequence of actions involved in executing the process are highly useful.

    There are a variety of systems for drawing up graphic diagrams for modeling business processes. Let’s recall some of them:

    • Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). Perhaps this is the most well-known specification of graphic symbols for business processes. The development of this system by releasing updated versions takes place constantly, and there are also relevant certifications. BPMN allows you to create business process diagrams (BPDs) using various combinations of basic elements of four categories, namely:
    1. Flow objects (Events, activities, gateways);
    2. Connecting objects (Sequence flow, message flow, association);
    3. So-called Swim lanes (Pool, lane, Dark Pool);
    4. Artifacts (Data objects, groups, annotations).

    Additional types of flow objects or artifacts can also be created and used to better understand BPD.

    • Event-driven process chains (EPC), the creation of which is associated with the Architecture of Integrated Information Systems (ARIS) and related software.
    • Activity diagrams in the Unified Modeling Language.
    • IDEF Modeling Techniques.

    Many process modeling practices are united by the concept of Business process mapping. There are also comprehensive standards, such as the BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) of the global non-profit OASIS consortium. Interestingly, the loading and unloading of data in BPEL are carried out using web service interfaces.

    I gave examples of the aforementioned graphical notations due to their popularity and practical application, which allows us to expect a quick understanding by all participants of business process automation. At SECL Group, for example, we use BPMN diagrams in our work on almost every project.

    BPMN diagram

     

    Various other methods can be employed to map business processes. For instance, if you are accustomed to using applications such as Microsoft Visio, you can create a process diagram using this software. The Gantt chart is another widely recognized tool that can be valuable, particularly as it displays the sequence of actions and the interdependence of tasks. Multiple tools are available to help build Gantt charts, with the Microsoft Project software being a noteworthy example.

    In any case, it is possible to systematize all the requisite information about the particulars of business processes, even with the aid of a self-created table. The critical points to bear in mind when drafting textual descriptions or process-visualizations are as follows:

    • Inputs — required resources or data, as well as triggers, that is, different types of events that initiate a process.
    • Outputs — i.e. results. Outputs for external customer-oriented business processes are products or services. For internal company processes, these are events that are required to launch other business processes.
    • Mechanisms. Business process engines are tools, including machines, systems, and employees, that perform actions on inputs. Depicting the distribution of roles and functions among employees is also essential.
    • Control points — requirements, mandatory actions, conditions, restrictions, as well as regulations and rules regarding actions on inputs.

    Metrics for process analysis and control, quality control methods, and how to correct errors and respond to failures are also important in understanding business process automation.

    Possible ways to automate business processes

    Traditionally, companies have had two main ways to meet their software needs, namely:

    • Purchase ready-made solutions;
    • Order custom software development.

    Accordingly, companies planning business process automation study and compare the pros and cons of both of the approaches we have mentioned.

    Vendors try to meet the expectations of the client audience and release standard out-of-the-box solutions to market. The advantages of this include the possibility to become acquainted with the functionality and use cases of such a product in advance. The ability to quickly purchase and implement a system is also attractive.

    At the same time, you should be aware that a ready-made solution may not deliver all the features of the business process you have set up. In addition, the vendor, not you, determines when a software-updated version will be released. Therefore, out-of-the-box product updates may lag behind your company’s business process transformations.

    As for development from scratch, there are certain risks, as with any project. Theoretically, there is always the danger of overspending on budget and time, as well as not being completely satisfied with the developed product. However, in most cases, careful preparation according to the algorithm I have outlined above and the right choice of a software development contractor will allow you to achieve the desired result. There are also many managerial and technical methods to mitigate risk.

    With the right approach, the benefits of implementing all the features of your company’s business process in an automated system will more than cover costs. In addition, in the case of custom business process automation, your developed software can then be updated in sync with any changes in the company. In an era of continuous management changes, this is an extremely valuable feature.

    Generally, most companies have both standardized business processes that closely resemble those of other companies, as well as unique business processes. For automating typical processes, many companies select off-the-shelf software that can be slightly optimized to suit their specific requirements. For instance, it would be impractical for a small company to build a Helpdesk system from scratch when numerous high-quality tools are already available on the market.

    However, there are occasions when the quest to automate a process that is fundamental to the entire business cannot be serviced by an out-of-the-box solution, either through a complete lack of available solutions or due to those that are available not satisfying their functional requirements. Under such circumstances, many companies choose to pursue custom development.

    Can a trade-off be found between procuring off-the-shelf solutions and creating a custom system from scratch? In certain circumstances, such a compromise may be attainable. It may be feasible, for example, to develop supplementary features for ready-made solutions or integrate them with custom software. However, it’s worth noting that the feasibility of such an approach depends upon the complexity and scale of the IT product. Generally, the more intricate and large-scale the product, the more time-consuming and costly it would be to modify it based on the individual needs of a company.

    At the same time, there are whole ready-made platforms on which applications can be built. A typical example of this type of solution is the Salesforce Platform (also known as Force.com), which specializes in the automation of customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, sales, service, and related analytics. This platform as a service (PaaS) allows users to create additional applications that are then hosted on the Salesforce infrastructure and integrated with its core software.

    In addition, most ready-made solutions have an API, which allows them to be integrated with other software. We often deal with the integration of different IT systems with each other. We have had a cause, in particular, to integrate SAP, Salesforce, Xero, PayPal, Stripe, ActiveCampaign, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Maps, etc.

    Indeed, every company now uses many IT systems for different purposes and processes at the same time. The choice of automation path depends a lot on the specifics, priorities, and financial capabilities of the company in question. If the functionality of the out-of-the-box product matches your business process, then the conclusion here is obvious. If the software and process match is not perfect, but the process itself is not critical or rarely used for your business, then you may choose to simply put up with it. However, for core business processes, the efficiency of which affects competitiveness, then custom automation is the best option.

    Unsurprisingly, the approaches to automating the same business process may evolve at various stages of a company’s development. Allow me to share a case from our company to exemplify this point, where we automated one of our internal business processes.

    A few years ago, as our team expanded, we recognized the need to implement recruitment software. We had numerous open positions, and for each one, there was a pool of candidates who went through multiple stages of selection. With a growing volume of recruitment data, we realized that we risked losing vital information. Conducting recruitment and manually processing data was feasible when we had up to 10 vacancies, but as the number of open positions rose to several dozen, managing the process became challenging, so to address this we initially adopted an off-the-shelf solution optimized for the needs of an IT company.

    In the next stage, we integrated this software with our other IT systems, enabling us to automatically transfer information about a new employee to the accounting department, for instance. As of now, we are gearing up for the next phase of recruitment automation. As we have grown again, the out-of-the-box solution no longer meets our needs, given its limitations and insufficient functionality, so as a result, we are planning to develop a custom solution.

    This example illustrates how our own company is evolving and, correspondingly, how our automation requirements are evolving as well. As IT experts, it is relatively straightforward for us to determine the methods for automating a business process. However, in other industries, the situation may not be as straightforward.

    The truth is that company owners and managers may find it difficult to assess the feasible alternatives for automating business processes without consulting external experts. Therefore, the following section of this article delves into how to select a suitable partner for business process automation.

    Choosing the right company for business process automation

    The thought process behind selecting appropriate automation methods necessitates specific knowledge, experience, and sifting through vast amounts of information. If your team comprises IT specialists with implementation experience, you can accomplish a great deal autonomously. If needed, you can later enlist external experts to solve complex issues and begin constructing an automated system.

    choosing the rcompany for business process automation

     

    If you lack in-house IT expertise and staff, you should take a different approach. It’s recommended that you work closely with a software development company to fully prepare and implement business process automation in such circumstances. This collaborative effort will ensure a smooth and successful automation process.

    A trusted partner can offer a range of services tailored to your specific needs at each stage of the automation process. For instance, they can conduct an audit of your current automated systems, identify areas for improvement, and suggest solutions to address any gaps.

    As you consider various automation options, taking expert advice is crucial. The practical knowledge of developers becomes invaluable in providing accurate estimates of the time and cost required to create a customized automated system versus implementing an off-the-shelf solution. To clarify your vision for your automated system, it is recommended that you work closely with the development team during the Discovery phase, which will be critical in ensuring the successful delivery of your project.

    Of course, the choice of IT partner represents a crucial moment in your automation journey. We recommend looking for a partner with:

    • High technical expertise, mastery of current technologies, and the ability to apply advanced software development practices.
    • A flawless reputation and portfolio of successful projects.
    • Knowledge of your industry and experience in projects of the same type as the one you are initiating. The willingness of the potential contractor to delve deeply into the specifics of your business is also essential.
    • Maturity of the team not only in technical matters but also in project management.

    If you’re planning to automate crucial business processes, it’s recommended that you engage in dialogue with several potential contractors. Allow them to share their ideas on the project’s vision, the product, the cooperation model, and other pertinent factors to facilitate your decision-making process. If, after consulting with these professionals, you conclude that an off-the-shelf solution is suitable for your business process, you should prioritize training your staff on how to use it effectively.

    Ultimately, developing a customized business process automation solution involves going through the systems development life cycle with your project team. In this process, the integration of the developed software into your company’s IT infrastructure, as well as your staff’s ability to use it and subsequent updates, are all critical considerations. As your employees work jointly with the contractor’s specialists, they will learn and become proficient in using the new system, leading to positive impacts on the automation of your company’s future business processes.

    Business process automation system development

    It’s not possible to describe the entire software development process in a brief section of this article. However, there’s no need to do so, as I frequently blog about various aspects of software development, particularly web development. Instead, in this article, I would like to emphasize specific points that require special attention when developing a business process automation system. Let’s take a look.

    Requirements analysis. In this article, I have already talked about preparing for development, including describing and modeling an automated process, creating a vision for a software product, and collecting requirements for it. If a customer lacks employees with the necessary expertise, the contractor can offer appropriate support. For example, a business analyst can analyze the client’s business process, discuss it with the process owner, gather software requirements, and prepare a functional requirements document and development specification.

    Project management. I advise you to work using Agile methodologies, for example, Scrum, conducting two-week sprints. With such a model, on the one hand, progress and results are visible, and on the other hand, it is possible to quickly identify areas where development is slower than we would like and then strengthen them. A helpful approach is when one of the software versions, at least the minimum viable product (MVP), is transferred for use by company staff. Regular feedback and updating the product accordingly after each sprint significantly speed up development and implementation.

    Design. Remember that this is an internal corporate product. Therefore, a catchy design with excessive frills is not necessary. The priority here is usability. From experience, I can say that it is often enough to use the standard Bootstrap style. Client employees who have to spend a lot of time using an automated system will appreciate the intuitive interface and visual comfort.

    Programming. An experienced project team will always provide an optimal architectural solution and recommend the appropriate technology stack. As previously mentioned, having a high-quality technical development specification is crucial. Additionally, ensuring constant communication between the project team and customer representatives, good sprint planning, and utilizing helpful development tools like dynamic prototypes in Figma can all contribute to a successful development process. With these factors in place, we can expect high-quality code and a faster development pace.

    Testing. You’ll never create quality software without effective testing. Therefore, it is imperative to provide both manual and automatic testing. By the way, with manual testing, built on modeling the behavior of end users, employees of the customer often take part. Developers striving for the high quality of the system will most likely offer to conduct unit testing and write tests for this.

    Documentation. Making and constantly updating quality documentation is an indispensable attribute of proper software development. I have covered this topic on our blog.

    At the end of a development project, I recommend doing a Post-Implementation Review and working to ensure that you get the most out of it. The assessments and conclusions received in the form of feedback from stakeholders and the first users of the automated system are valuable for subsequent updates.

    Business is an ever-evolving environment, and even the most successful automated system cannot work indefinitely. Companies and processes will constantly undergo updates and changes. Therefore, it’s essential for management to follow best practices and successful patterns when preparing for software development and collaborating with the contractor. This will ensure that the automation process is executed effectively and is adaptable to the company’s future needs.

    Does your business follow the process automation trend?

    No doubt you have a good idea of where your company is headed. But it is also essential to know where the trendsetters, your competitors, and the entire business world are moving.

    In our view, the trend toward automation is very strong. According to one Camunda study, the vast majority (97%) of participants from the enterprise sector consider the automation of business processes vital for the digital transformation of their organizations. Furthermore, the majority of those surveyed (84%) said they plan to increase investments in such automation.

    According to a global survey by McKinsey, in 2020, 80% of companies either engaged in process automation in at least one business function or division or planned to do so shortly, whereas only 20% of organizations found themselves “overboard” with automation.

    And as I’ve previously highlighted, it’s clear that automation is gradually transforming all aspects and divisions of companies. Gartner predicts that by 2024, 69% of daily management work will be fully automated. Yet it’s becoming increasingly evident that automation will impact an even wider range of occupational functions, with about one-third of the work in roughly 60% of occupations predicted to be automated, according to another McKinsey report, this time on the future of work.

    In short, modern businesses aren’t thinking about whether to automate processes or not, they’re thinking about how to do it. And with the help of software development experts, companies of all sizes, budgets, and industries can choose and implement automation solutions for their most common business processes. Whether it involves off-the-shelf products, customization of existing solutions, developing software from scratch, integrating all company applications, or selectively automating certain processes, there are a variety of approaches that can benefit your business process automation project.

    Practical Tips for Business Process Automation

    Based on our experience, we can identify certain factors to be considered when planning business process automation steps. Here are the major ones:

    • While companies may share similar business objectives, they often implement them differently. Sometimes, the distinct features and unique nuances of a particular business process or operation can provide a competitive advantage for the company. However, it’s not always possible for an out-of-the-box software solution to accommodate these individual features. 

    In such cases, two options are available:
    — purchasing a pre-existing solution and customizing it;
    — developing software from scratch for non-standard business processes.

    The former option is typically more appropriate for small businesses, while larger companies tend to opt for the latter approach, as they often have more specific processes and non-standard operations. For instance, our company uses off-the-shelf HR Management Software, but it doesn’t have a vacation module. As a result, we must utilize Accounting Software to facilitate this process. This is just one example, but you can find numerous similar cases in any company.

    • Of course, developing a large number of separate IT systems can be quite expensive. But business process automation benefits usually cover any costs with a vengeance.

    As a rule, companies have some kind of standard software for the main aspects of their activities, such as Accounting Software, perhaps with minor modifications, custom settings, and integrations with other systems.

    But to address more specific requirements, many companies hire professional development teams to create customized subsystems. Such decisions reveal a company’s priorities. If minor inconveniences, such as a mass-produced solution not accounting for all operation details, are not critical, then most companies tend to tolerate them and find simpler solutions. The example mentioned earlier about our lack of a vacation module in our HR Management Software is a prime illustration of such a scenario.

    However, when it comes to core business processes and priority growth areas, leading companies avoid compromises and strive for custom automation that takes into account every detail. For example, we are currently developing a DMS (Dealer Management System) for the Kia automobile corporation. This is a separate subsystem, one of many for this company. Each client division acts as a separate internal “customer” for us: they all provide their unique requirements, and our business analyst systematizes them and turns them into documentation, according to which the team then develops certain features. 

    Writing and gathering requirements at the level of each division or branch is an approach that ensures that the subtleties of business processes are taken into account when they are automated. The example of this software development project for Kia shows that for large corporations, automation is a permanent process. Indeed, there will always be something to automate when you have tens of thousands of employees around the world.

    • Smaller companies are also engaging in the automation trend by actively optimizing their processes using information systems, yet their approach is very different from that of global corporations. One of our clients is a German company that specializes in preparing manufacturing enterprises for state certification. To briefly describe their activity, first, they provide advice on the type of certification that production requires. They then assist plants and factories in preparing the necessary document packages to obtain the desired certification. Finally, they submit the documentation to government agencies and acquire all the necessary certificates on behalf of their customers.

    In conjunction with our client, we divided the business process into stages, during each of which certain actions are performed and a certain intermediate result is achieved. Next, we developed a closed internal IT system to automate the entire process. Our client has gone on to become the market leader, increased its turnover several times over, and increased the efficiency of their internal processes, all while having less than ten people on regular staff.

    This case confirms that the automation model should be tailored to the specifics of a particular business. If the company ever grows to have 1000+ employees across different countries, then it will need dozens of different software packages. But at this stage, it is successfully growing thanks to one main custom business process automation system.

    • The success of how you implement business process automation primarily depends on the expertise of the project team and its knowledge of industry specifics. Internal corporate business process automation is often not as simple as it might seem. We typically need to develop advanced systems with complex interfaces. In some cases, developers must also pass state certification. For instance, to develop healthcare IT products, specialists need HIPAA Compliance certification, and this is well-justified because the cost of any possible mistake in this area would be people’s lives. Government certifications for the financial sector and the automotive industry are also often needed.

    However, whether certifications are required or not, it is fundamental that the software development company in question has expertise in the industry for which the project is being planned. It is also necessary to have analysts and product managers on project teams who understand industry specifics. A contractor that has all of these is more likely to deliver business process automation benefits to the customer.

    In different economic sectors, various aspects of corporate activity may be on the agenda. For example, business process automation for manufacturing often starts with quality control as well as supply chain management. And we should not forget about manufacturing process automation itself, since the management of technological operations is increasingly carried out with minimal human involvement. In business process automation in retail, inventory management is often in the spotlight, and when considering implementing E-commerce business process automation, it is wise to focus on reliable and convenient payments, including the integration of popular third-party financial solutions. As you can see, each industry has its range of problems business process automation can solve.

    • Business process automation is always a joint product of the client and the contractor. As a contractor, we can develop any IT system, but the business process to be automated itself is an internal matter for each customer company. Therefore, a client usually comes to us with a need for some business process automation steps, and in turn, we develop proposals on how to implement them correctly. To delve deeply into the needs of the client, we have analysts and UX/UI designers who help turn business requirements into technical documentation convenient to the development team. 
    • Customization of projects and products is essential. We always develop software for automation by taking into account the specifics of the client. Each customer has its own set of experiences, its teams, and its capabilities, which we integrate into the project alongside ours. Accordingly, in each project we apply a custom flexible approach, providing the customer with what it lacks.

    For example, some of our clients have in-house technical expertise. In such cases, they come to us with business requirements, a product vision, and even their IT teams.

    For instance, this was the case with one bank that had more than 300 offline branches. We were involved in a project to develop a scoring system and modules for credit workflow, which included applying for a loan, client security checks, loan processing, debt collection, marketing promotion, etc.

    We took over the development and testing, while business analysis and design were carried out on the client side. In addition, the bank, for obvious reasons, limited outside access to its internal information systems. Therefore, on the client side, there were team leads who checked all of our sprints and independently implemented the finished code on the production server. This example shows how the customer’s staff and our experts did not duplicate but rather complemented each other’s efforts.

    The opposite situation is also possible, which requires a different approach. Other clients may not have IT specialists and experience in software development at all. In this case, we help to create business requirements from scratch, providing the project team with not only developers, testers, and designers, but also business analysts and product managers.

    In addition, as a contractor, we are always ready to use the project management methodologies that the customer prefers. Similarly, in terms of post-project work on the developed product: we stand ready to provide maintenance services and to transfer all the necessary documentation to the support team of the customer.

    Regardless of company size, any modern business needs automation. Companies like ours, with our specialists in all aspects of software development, as well as the necessary level of expertise, will always be able to choose the most convenient option for a client for a business process automation project.

    • When pursuing business goals, keep technology in mind. Of course, since we’re a software development company, we can’t help but mention technology. There are already a huge number of ready-made systems on the market, each of which is built on its technology stack. Very often, clients come to us when they already have something automated in their business, and they already have some kind of IT system. This means that any new IT system must be built into an already existing stack, and this is where additional and often complex integration issues arise when it is necessary to provide two-way data exchange between all systems, as well as manage different access rights for different employees or departments. 

    Here’s an example of how information flows through various systems in a company’s operations: When a new client is acquired, their information is initially recorded in the CRM system, while their payment information is recorded in the accounting system. Subsequently, the payment data is transferred back to the CRM. This information is then relayed to the warehouse system to facilitate the shipment of goods. Additionally, shipment details are transmitted to both accounting and logistics computer programs.

    The chain we have described here can make use of different systems based on different technologies. And all these types of software must be integrated. In IT terminology, this situation is known as a “tech zoo”. An IT company can be considered strong only if it can bring order to this «zoo» by integrating different systems. 

    At SECL Group, we have successfully integrated SAP, Salesforce, Xero, and hundreds of different IT systems in our practice, but we still recommend that companies stick to one technology stack. It will therefore be much easier and cheaper to develop and maintain all of these IT systems.

    I’ve covered advanced technologies on our blog more than once. For development from scratch, you can use different programming languages and frameworks. For the back end, this could be Python/Django or PHP/Laravel/Yii, or JS/Node.js. etc. For the front end, it is very popular to use Angular, React, or Vue. All of these are modern frameworks on which development will be fast, and interfaces convenient. Quite often, Java or .NET is used, but mainly because these technologies are either used in existing IT systems or are widely used within a certain industry, such as banking.

    As I’ve underscored elsewhere, the golden rule is this: do not forget that technology is chosen for the task at hand and not vice versa. If you do not know which tech stack is best for your project, then it is better to contact us for advice. Please be assured that at SECL Group, such consultations are free, and secondly, by choosing us, you will ultimately end up saving a lot of money by avoiding using too many different technologies in your corporate information systems

    • Finally, remember the importance of servers and backups. When it comes to corporate systems and business process automation, it is critical to play it safe. I would recommend putting your project in the cloud and asking DevOps specialists to set up servers, as well as their monitoring and protection. I would also make regular backups to a separate server (every day or maybe even for an hour). Then, even if the main server fails, all relevant information will have been saved.

    Conclusion

    Business process automation is now essential for any company, but as with any significant endeavor, it can be challenging to implement. The overall competitiveness of a company, financial savings, and management efficiency are all dependent on the quality of any automation performed. 

    Fortunately, modern technologies make it possible to find the right solution in this area for any business. Small and medium-sized companies can utilize off-the-shelf solutions to save money, while mature and growing companies can order custom IT products to optimize their business processes through automation. Regardless of the approach, it’s important not to delay the search for a place in the automated world due to the current market transformations. 

    Our experts can help company owners and managers plan long-overdue business process automation steps. If you have ideas for automating your business or are looking to improve existing automation solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our specialists are happy to advise you and help your company stay competitive.

    Author
    Mykyta Semenov
    CEO, SECL Group
    The CEO of a software development company called «SECL Group». Extensive experience in web development since 2002. An author of numerous studies and articles, a speaker at industry conferences, and an independent consultant for commercial companies and government agencies.

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