business process automation orchestration

Invest in Automation without Breaking Your Budget

Recession and inflation are also making the IT sector sweat. At the same time, studies reveal that investments in process automation continue to increase. Of course, this has an impact on the decision-makers in the software industry.

The fact that the economic situation has changed significantly in recent months and years is of course not lost on the companies. Savings have to be made everywhere. Medium to long-term goals in the digital transformation are also faced with uncertainties in the labor and resource market. How do companies deal with this?

The aim of a study commissioned by Camunda on the status of process orchestration in companies was to find out what is most important for IT decision-makers when it comes to digital transformation. One result of the survey is that investments in digital transformation projects have not declined despite the recession and inflation. The opposite is the case: Nine out of ten companies have not only already started to automate their business processes but plan to expand this project even further.

Don’t skimp on the customer experience

A company whose processes are automated end-to-end works demonstrably more efficiently, offers a better customer experience, and can react faster and more flexibly to changes. A vivid example is the banking sector. If you want to open an account in a conventional bank, you often must wait several days. New digital banks, on the other hand, make it possible to open an account in just a few minutes.

Why is that so? Both banks rely on automation. In recent years, many traditional banks have primarily digitized documents and automated individual tasks, often without an overarching strategy and, above all, without focusing on the end-to-end process. Your digital competitors, on the other hand, have thought through the account opening process from start to finish and intelligently automated it in its entirety.

So although individual tasks, such as credit checks or comparisons with sanctions lists, are automated in both scenarios, traditional banks tend to have isolated solutions that are not connected to one another. This leads to faulty or interrupted processes, which of course, has an impact on the throughput time. In addition, processes in traditional banks often involve people, which leads to additional delays.

Plan processes from start to finish

Opening an account is actually more complex than it appears at first glance. Some tasks can run in parallel to reduce throughput time, but others can only be triggered after the previous one has been completed. The overall process must also be able to deal with exceptions, such as terminations or subsequent changes. So, the trick is to map end-to-end processes in such a way that the individual tasks mesh seamlessly. If this succeeds, a bank can offer the customer experience required today and open an account online in minutes – probably even largely without human intervention.

But this is not the only reason why traditional banks should aim to automate the account opening process end-to-end. Another advantage is that employees who previously had to manually transfer customer addresses from one system to another now have more time to concentrate on processing individual customer requests. Especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers, it is helpful if employees can concentrate on tasks that cannot be easily automated.

Orchestration: Not a sure-fire success, but worth the effort

But how do you automate a process from start to finish? An important building block is the process orchestration, i.e., the automated coordination of the individual tasks using special software. This can integrate any endpoints, for example, existing systems such as microservices or RPA bots, devices, but of course, also tasks that are carried out by people.

However, introducing process orchestration is demanding and, of course, requires time and budget. Ideally, this is not seen as a one-off major project but understood as a continuous process in which individual processes are orchestrated step by step and then continuously improved.

In a first version of the orchestration, data may still be copied by hand, but the orchestration tool already coordinates this task so that nothing is left behind and the basic process can be validated. On this basis, an RPA bot can be controlled very easily, which takes over monotonous tasks. And later, the bot can be replaced by real interface calls, which are much more stable and require less maintenance. Step by step, this leads to more speed and process efficiency.

Despite everything, it is important not only to stupidly automate the conventional processes, but also to allow a “real” digital transformation. Process flows should be fundamentally questioned in order to see whether the many great possibilities of digitization are actually being used.

So instead of presenting opening applications to employees electronically for decision, a bank could better think about using artificial intelligence to decide on credit lines, for example. This can then already be done online when submitting the application so that you can interact directly with the customer and avoid nerve-wracking inquiries.

A meaningful redesign not only allows new business models but also brings with it increased efficiency. Ninety-five percent of those responsible for IT in the Camunda study also confirmed greater efficiency through automation.

Three steps to continuous process orchestration

In order to orchestrate a process, it must first be clarified with all stakeholders how it actually works. The first step is, therefore, visual modeling in a standard language such as Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) or Decision Model and Notation (DMN). The process is recorded from start to finish, with clearly visible dependencies and waiting times, the different endpoints, and unscheduled termination scenarios. This requires teamwork: all the specialist departments involved and the development staff have to get together and agree on this. This cross-departmental step alone helps many companies to better understand their processes, to record possible shadow processes, and to work together better.

The next step is the actual automation. A workflow engine can execute BPMN models directly and coordinate the tasks modeled in them. Complex workflow patterns, such as the parallel execution of tasks or the flexible reaction to events, can also be used. For example, endpoints are accessed directly using connectors. During automation, the workflow engine also collects a lot of audit data about the process instances.

This data plays a role in the third step: Optimization. Because the first automation project is not enough – an orchestrated process offers the ideal basis for continuous improvement. Tools such as heat maps visually show where bottlenecks are forming in the processes and help to improve the process. It is also possible to react to new requirements here – the use of a new microservice for a task, for example, or approval by an additional stakeholder.

Good automation is a good investment

Does a difficult economic situation inevitably mean saving everywhere? No – the budget has to be invested much more strategically. While orchestrating business processes may require effort, the improvements in customer experience and efficiency all help to stay competitive. In addition, processes orchestrated in this way offer the perfect starting point for continuous improvement.

The more complex a process is, the more complex it is to model, automate and improve, but all the more worth the effort in the end. A cloud-native orchestration solution can provide a great deal of support for a company, as it eliminates the cost of its own infrastructure and scales better than on-premises systems.

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