How to deploy agile process automation to simplify your back office

By Dick Steiner

If your organization is like many, your back-office business processes need help.

Some of these processes may no longer be executing as designed, requiring time-consuming (and costly) manual adjustments and corrections. Others may have grown over time to become so complex, they’re actually bottlenecks.

Fortunately, a new approach to process automation can help. Known as agile process automation (APA), it combines software robots, the cloud, data analytics and machine learning. APA can not only improve your business processes, but also deliver valuable business benefits.

These benefits typically include improvements in speed, quality and compliance. You can expect process cycle-time reductions up to 30%. Process error-rate improvements up to 60%. And dramatically improved compliance with accuracy-level requirements, reducing your exposure to possible penalties and rework.

Fast first steps

Sound interesting? Getting started with APA can be straightforward and fast.

The first step is to conduct a proof of value project using discovery and analysis to identify opportunities for improvement in your business processes.

The next step: Examine the application and system logs associated with the business processes you’ve already identified as good candidates. This is done with a software tool designed to read machine data. In sharp contrast to traditional process automation, extensive interviews with your subject-matter experts will not be required.

Your third step involves automation. It’s actually three steps in one: defining, building and deploying. That may sound complicated, but the entire process — from discovery to deployment — typically takes just 6 to 8 weeks. Even better, once the newly automated process is deployed, you can expect to see benefits in a matter of days. And a true ROI within the first 9 to 12 months.

Automate invoice complexity

Wondering how APA could help your organization? Consider as an example one basic business process: how Accounts Payable processes an invoice.

At its most basic, this process involves just four steps — receiving, validating, releasing and paying. Yet over time, this kind of accounts payable process can swell with exceptions: Cutoffs for different dollar amounts, routing CapEx from OpEx, special reviewers and validations for new buying standards, to name a few.

What’s more, these exceptions are not readily visible. The end result? The seemingly simple act of paying an invoice has become a big, complicated process – a process that may be far bigger and more complicated than anyone in your organization realizes.

Now bring in APA. Discovery and analysis can reveal the exceptions in this invoice process. And then each process variation can be automated so that it is handled in the future by a software robot.

Invisible robots tackle mundane tasks

Unlike robots in movies or even on a factory floor, APA robots are invisible. They exist only as software code. Using what’s known as robotic process automation (RPA), they sit inside a system, inputting, checking, updating and processing far faster than any human could.

But RPA isn’t designed to replace humans. Instead, it works best where humans don’t. For example, RPA is great for tasks that are mundane, repetitive, frequent and high-volume. For decisions based on rules rather than judgement. And for processes that are both manually intensive and prone to errors.

For this reason, many early adopters have applied APA to their finance, accounting and HR processes. But APA can help improve and automate any back-office process. And it can do so far faster than more traditional approaches — in days and weeks instead of weeks and months.

APA is deployed in the cloud, so you also gain all of cloud computing’s traditional benefits of greater scalability and flexibility. That’s especially important if you have processes that are cyclical. Whether that cycle is weekly, monthly or seasonal, APA lets you add capacity as needed, then back off when the intense process period ends. And all the while paying only for what you actually use.

Ready to get started with APA? See how DXC Technology can help you.


Dick Steiner is a senior managing partner in DXC’s Business Process Services group. In his role, Dick drives strategic engagements by overseeing the portfolio of service offerings and next-generation business process services. Previously, he was vice president of IT infrastructure and operations at HPE.

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