Business process automation (BPA) is the use of software to automate repeatable, multistep business transactions. In contrast to other types of automation, BPA solutions tend to be complex, connected to multiple enterprise IT systems, and tailored specifically to the needs of an organization.
It’s common for organizations to apply BPA as part of a digital transformation strategy, in order to streamline their workflows and operate more efficiently.
To understand business process automation, let’s start with a basic overview of what’s meant by a business process. A business process can be any set of activities that help a business reach a specific goal. In the context of automation, it’s usually a repeatable transaction that involves a series of steps touching multiple IT systems.
Some common business processes include fulfilling a customer order, approving a loan application, processing an expense report, or onboarding a new employee.
When managed in an ad hoc way, these processes typically involve multiple email threads, documents, and handoffs. Even a minor error can set in motion a cascade of inefficiency, with communication breakdowns and missed deadlines. These issues multiply at scale.
Automation software aims to prevent these problems. With a reusable and extendable business automation strategy, an organization can regain control over business processes, improve communication, and reduce confusion. Automating a business process can free time and resources, allowing employees to focus on core work rather than tedious, repetitive, and often frustrating tasks.
BPA solutions increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to better interpret unstructured data. This leads to a better user experience as the technology learns to overcome ambiguity and interact with user needs without requiring a technical specialist.
Business process management (BPM) is a collaboration between business teams and IT teams to model, analyze, and optimize end-to-end business processes to help meet strategic goals. BPM is a continuous process that leads to improvement over time.
BPM is a practice that takes a wide view of the organization, while BPA is a strategy to improve specific processes.
BPM attempts to eliminate ad hoc workflow management practices and optimize business operations in order to deliver better products and services to customers.
BPA can be a standalone effort, or it can be part of an overarching BPM initiative.
Both BPM and BPA attempt to improve tasks and processes that are repeated, ongoing, or predictable. Both aim to improve efficiency, and to reduce costs and errors.
A BPA and BPM combination can be powerful, as BPM outlines and provides an architecture for all of the business processes to be mapped and automated. When applied within a BPM practice, BPA can be used to continually monitor and improve process efficiencies.
But they can work separately, too. Decoupled from an integrated business automation solution, BPM and BPA can function as standalone initiatives for improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Robotic process automation (RPA) uses software to automate specific repetitive tasks. RPA software is trained to mimic repetitive steps that humans take, like copying and pasting data into a field.
BPA software tends to handle more complex tasks than RPA. BPA outlines automated steps for multi-step transactions that involve a series of business systems.
Many RPA solutions are easily installed pre-built software tools that run on top of existing systems without connecting to databases or accessing application programming interfaces (APIs).
BPA solutions are complex and customized for a specific organization, typically integrated into data systems or connected to APIs. It’s possible for a BPA solution to incorporate some RPA software.
As businesses look to save money and streamline operations, they may turn to business process automation software to help improve specific areas of the business. These areas can include inbound detection, decision automation and augmentation, and automated response.
How business automation software is architected can make a big difference. It’s beneficial if business automation tools can run on different kinds of infrastructure—such as at the edge where business decisions take place, and in cloud environments that can scale to meet demand. One increasingly common strategy is to separate the user interface from the workflows themselves, which are constructed as services called through APIs.
These considerations are all part of the design of Red Hat® Process Automation Manager.
It’s a series of lightweight services that can be deployed in containers—including on Red Hat OpenShift®—and also embedded in custom solutions. These qualities bring both scale and flexibility, making it useful for larger enterprises that have to automate many business decisions.
Red Hat Process Automation Manager includes tools for business rules, complex event processing, business optimization, and process management, as well as a UX platform.
The focus of IT has shifted from serving internal needs, like efficiency and cost control, to engaging with external customers and creating new business opportunities. That’s why Red Hat believes the traditional business automation model needs to evolve. Instead of focusing solely on streamlining processes, businesses need to develop new strategies to automate the business itself.
Red Hat works with the greater open source community on automation technologies. Our engineers help improve features, reliability, and security to make sure your business and IT performs and remains stable and secure.