Automate processes without RPA - iPaaS as an alternative
Automating processes - what comes to mind first? We're not talking about industrial automation, where entire production lines work fully automatically with fewer and fewer people and more and more robots. No, we're talking about digital processes. Because what works for production works just as well in the digital world of work. Process automation takes over recurring tasks that are characterised by standardised steps. Well, you might think, there aren't that many processes.
Wrong: With the right preparation, namely the analysis and even standardisation of processes, numerous processes in companies can be automated - from automatic emails, master data maintenance and preparation of accounting to PDF creation, many things are possible.
One technology in this field is Robotic Process Automation, or RPA for short. This term has recently gained a lot of momentum and is advertised by corporations and large companies, which can realise huge increases in efficiency and productivity this way. But there is another way: optimising processes without RPA is just as good, no, even better. Why? We explain.
The automation industry is still young, so it is not surprising that numerous providers and technologies are vying for the market's favour. The two predominant approaches are currently RPA and iPaaS. Robotic Process Automation and Integration Platform as a Service - quite fancy terms. Here's a brief definition(a detailed comparison of RPA vs iPaaS can be found here):
RPA allows for huge custom developments of on-premise as well as cloud software. This means that your own hosted ERP system can be automated by RPA and thus exchange data with other applications.
iPaaS comes as a modular solution: the various cloud tools are linked together via a platform and thus create an automated data flow. This is done by using the interfaces of the individual programmes, which they make available to us. This means that what is already there is linked.
This results in decisive advantages for iPaaS that are relevant for a large number of companies:
1. iPaaS requires a significantly shortened time span for set-up
2. since no individual developments are required, iPaaS is significantly cheaper.
3. iPaaS works regardless of the amount of data: so the automations are scalable and grow with the business.
Automate processes without RPA - but how?
If you decide to automate, the following five steps are usually required. As is often the case, even the best intention is of no use if the project is not approached strategically. Selectively automating digital processes while completely inefficient, manual and perhaps even analogue processes are running elsewhere is rarely effective. Therefore, step 1:
1. identify the right processes for process automation
Most of the time, the relevant processes for automation arise by themselves, they impose themselves, so to speak. How? Think about the 5 processes in your company that are indispensable, important for the entire existence of the company, but also very time-consuming and resource-intensive. This is exactly where you should start. This is followed by what is probably the most important question: Does this process run completely digitally? If not, then digitisation is the mandatory first step. Because without it, it won't work.
Once you have identified these processes, you move on to the next point:
2. standardise identified processes for automation
As mentioned at the beginning, recurring and standardised processes are particularly suitable for process automation. But this standardisation does not fall from the sky. It is strived for and implemented at a certain point. Especially historically grown processes can seem quite chaotic at the beginning. Not only against the background of automation, but also against that of business process management, standardisation is inevitable sooner or later.
In our experience, this step should not be underestimated. Sometimes it is the first time in a long time that a process is analysed in such detail. Weaknesses that have existed for years come to light and should be reconsidered. Automating processes also means standardising processes.
Most likely you already use one or more software to support the previously identified and standardised processes. This can be quite different: ERP, CRM, emails, database, website, shop system and many more can be used. These need to be taken into account. Are these tools cloud-based? If so, chances are good that they provide a (good) programming interface. And it is precisely these interfaces that are crucial for process automation.
In this step, it may of course also be that a software proves to be defective, has to be replaced or new software is implemented elsewhere. This is precisely where another strength of iPaaS becomes apparent: it is based on SaaS applications, i.e. Software as a Service. What does that mean? Not only are these all cloud-based (and usually equipped with a good interface), but they often offer different pricing models: depending on the desired scope and requirements, different packages can be flexibly booked. It may be that you need the smallest and thus cheapest software package today, but the larger one in a few months or years. This way you only pay for the scope you really need.
Okay, you've identified the processes, standardised them and selected the optimal software, now it's finally time to get started
4. automate processes with iPaaS
If all three previous steps have been meticulously carried out, then this step is actually no longer that big a deal. The previously defined processes are digitally reconstructed and linked on a corresponding iPaaS platform. There are currently two providers vying for the favour of users: Zapier and Make. Both have an intuitive interface on which the necessary applications can be "plugged together" without (much) programming knowledge.
Admittedly, there is a bit more to it than that, but you can imagine it in a similar way. Like on a flowchart, the processes emerge from the individual applications. Zapier and Make only provide the interface to connect the already existing interfaces of the software used and thus exchange data automatically.
Both applications also promise that the interface is intuitive and understandable for both experts and people without programming knowledge. So you can plunge into the adventure of automation yourself.
5. automate processes in the long term and sustainably
All the previous effort would be in vain if your automations do not remain in place in the long term. However, this is exactly where the advantage of iPaaS mentioned at the beginning helps: Your automations can grow with you and your company. If you suddenly have significantly more requests from customers, that's no problem. You simply book the next largest package for your CRM and everything continues to run as before. Scaling is the keyword here. And that's exactly what process automation with iPaaS can offer: a long-term solution for standardisation and automation that relieves you of work in many places and carries out your digital processes independently.
Making process automation a reality thanks to iPaaS
Now that we've explained the five steps to successful process automation in such detail, there's really nothing standing in your way, is there? Fun, of course there is a bit more to it than described in these 1000 words. However, automating processes is not rocket science. Properly prepared and with the right choice of software, iPaaS is also a perfect solution for small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have the resources for individual developments, but at the same time want to relieve their own employees. Because that's exactly what it's all about: letting recurring, manual processes that are very time-consuming run automatically so that they have more breathing space and can devote themselves to other things, such as customer contact or business development.
In the meantime, if you need help with any or all of the five steps, we're here to help. We are happy to support you in the analysis and subsequent automation of business processes, explain possibilities and individually address your company's processes. We look forward to meeting you.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.