Business process automation (BPA) is a technology-enabled automation of activities or services that accomplish a specific function or workflow. Business processes can be determined for many different segments of company activities, including sales, management, operations, supply chain, human resources and information technology.

A business process is often started by a trigger, such as the filing of an expense report, which initiates a set of predefined workflow steps, or processes, that conclude with the employee receiving reimbursement. Here, the goal of BPA is not to only automate business processes, but to simplify and improve business workflows as well. BPA can be a standalone initiative or part of a larger, overarching business process management (BPM) strategy.

Within BPM, automated business processes are managed collectively to improve an organization’s overall workflow in terms of achieving greater efficiency, adapting to changing business needs, reducing human error and clarifying job roles and responsibilities. BPM is itself a subset of infrastructure management, which maintains and optimizes an organization’s core operational components such as processes, equipment and data.

Business process automation projects need to focus on business outcomes, not only technology. Business leaders need to be part of the team. Successful BPA efforts depend on knowing how the automated parts fit into the end-to-end business process and, just as important, knowing what should not be automated. In other words, the emphasis in business process automation should be on improving business processes, not simply automating them. it saves money, cuts redundancies and enforces a fluid, repeatable workflow.