What is Digital Process Automation?

Explore the definition, examples, and benefits of digital process automation

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Picture the ability to harmonize your business operations with the precision and coordination of a well-choreographed performance by a professional dance troupe. 

Digital process automation (DPA) offers you the ability to accomplish just that. According to a study by Grand View Research, the market for workflow automation is predicted to reach a staggering $26 billion by 2025, a hefty leap from the $5 billion total in 2018.

With DPA, you can transform the engine that powers your organization by integrating innovation, efficiency, and customer-centricity into every facet of your processes. 

We’ll explore how DPA frees your workforce from repetitive tasks and provides digital experiences that improve the experiences your customers have.


What is digital process automation (DPA)?

Digital process automation (DPA) is an umbrella term that encompasses the use of technology and software to streamline, automate, and orchestrate business processes within an organization. 

Integrating digital technologies that replace manual, non-automated work and inefficient technology solutions, ultimately drive the organization toward the dream: end-to-end digital transformation.

What this means is going to vary from organization to organization and department to department. For instance: Are we talking about invoice management for a century-old insurance company or the sales qualification process at a 6-year-old software company? 

DPA’s goal is to focus on those areas that are still hamstrung by manual processes, improving data quality, or uncovering deeper insights from said data.

Digital process automation vs. business process management

Digital process automation (DPA) and business process management (BPM) are both essential frameworks for optimizing and streamlining organizational workflows, yet they differ in their scope, approach, and technological focus.

DPA is often seen as a subset of BPM, with a sharper focus on the implementation of automation technologies to achieve specific process-related objectives.

Business process management is less concerned with the ‘how’ from a technological standpoint and concerns itself with strategic planning, analysis, execution, monitoring, and continuous improvement. BPM focuses on aligning an organization’s processes with business goals, ensuring efficiency, effectiveness, and agility.

On the other hand, digital process automation is a more technology-centric approach that emphasizes the automation and digital transformation of individual processes within an organization. DPA looks to harness the power of various technologies to streamline and automate specific tasks and activities, which, like BPM, eventually leads to increased operational efficiency and agility. 

In short, while BPM provides a broader, strategic perspective on managing and optimizing business processes, DPA specifically targets the automation and digitization of these processes through technology-driven solutions. 

When these two frameworks are combined effectively, organizations will find their processes are more aligned than before and are rapidly executed with the help of an underlying technology stack.

Benefits of digital process automation

Digital process automation (DPA) offers substantial benefits in improving how organizations operate, from enhancing customer experiences to reducing operational costs and fostering innovation among employees.

Create more sophisticated and intuitive customer experiences

When done carefully, automating customer-facing processes provides more personalized interactions that cater to individual needs and preferences.  For example, DPA when automating the customer onboarding process, ensures a smooth and efficient experience for new customers. Additionally, by integrating DPA with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, organizations can automate personalized communications, targeted marketing efforts, and proactive customer support, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, DPA allows for the implementation of intelligent decision-making processes based on customer data, enabling real-time adjustments to products or services based on customer feedback and market trends. This level of sophistication in customer experience not only sets organizations apart from competitors but also fosters long-term customer relationships and advocacy.

Reduce operational costs

The first win recognized by organizations that implement DPA is often a reduction in operational costs. By automating repetitive and manual tasks, organizations can recognize cost savings across various functions previously hampered by manual tasks. For example, DPA can automate invoice processing, reducing the need for manual intervention and minimizing the risk of errors. The traditional way of handling invoice processing involves a person going through each and every single invoice, matching it to a purchase order, and issuing payments. Instead, this process can be completely automated with invoices submitted through email, processed automatically, and requiring a person to review the output or intervening when there is an issue. Moreover, by streamlining workflows and approvals through automation, organizations can eliminate bottlenecks and reduce the time and resources required to complete tasks, ultimately driving down operational expenses. Finally, with a much clearer idea of what resources are necessary, DPA enables organizations to optimize resource allocation.

Free employees from mundane tasks to increase innovation

When your employees are bogged down with mundane tasks, it’s that much harder to foster an environment of creativity and innovation. By automating simple, routine, and repetitive activities, employees are freed from the burden of (most) manual labor clogging up their days.

This shift in focus empowers employees to dedicate their time and energy instead to application development, process improvement, or customer engagement strategies. DPA helps organizations tap into the full potential of their workforce, leveraging human creativity and expertise to fuel innovation and drive consistent growth.

How to Achieve Cost Savings and Efficiency with Process Orchestration

Use cases of digital process automation

Digital process automation offers versatile applications across various facets of organizational operations, enhancing agility, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Let’s discuss a few key use cases where DPA can deliver value for the whole organization.

Add a layer of agility to legacy systems

Seems like every company’s got “that one system”. You know, the one that’s been around for so long that a single person knows how the whole thing works. These sorts of systems are often a huge obstacle in terms of adaptability, integration, and response time. 

DPA can help add a layer of agility to these systems without having to go through a costly rip-and-replace by automating workflows, data processing, and communication between disparate or legacy platforms. 

For instance, DPA can help you set up systems that automate data transfer and synchronization processes between legacy systems and modern applications, ensuring seamless interoperability and reducing the burden of manual data entry or reconciliation. 

Not only that but this layer can also facilitate the orchestration of complex processes across legacy and modern systems. With both types of systems playing nice together, you won’t have any more tech or data silos. Then, over time, you can improve operational efficiency while sunsetting those legacy systems to achieve digital transformation goals.

Approval processes

Document approvals, purchase requisitions, expense authorizations, project sign-offs, and similar approval processes can be a huge drag on your employees’ time. 

By automating approval workflows, organizations can implement business rules and logic to facilitate efficient routing of requests, escalation of approvals, and real-time tracking of process status. 

This not only accelerates the pace at which approvals are granted but also provides visibility into the approval pipeline, enabling proactive management and alert team members in a timely fashion should an intervention be necessary.

Customer onboarding

Customer onboarding is a critical touchpoint in the customer journey. You only get to make one first impression after all. DPA can make sure it’s a good one by making those first interactions smooth and seamless across the board. Automating tasks such as form submissions, identity verification, account setup, and personalized welcome communications are a popular option for any organization looking to improve this aspect of their business.

The result is not only an accelerated onboarding process but also ensures consistency, accuracy, and regulatory compliance throughout the customer acquisition phase. 

As a bonus, DPA can help you integrate customer relationship management systems to automate follow-up interactions, introductory offers, and post-onboarding surveys, nurturing a seamless and engaging onboarding experience.

Back-office tasks

What constitutes a back-office task these days isn’t easy to pin down. It encompasses a broad spectrum of operational activities, including data entry, record keeping, inventory management, and reporting. As with any other task, DPA can keep these processes neat and tidy, automating the repetition and making manual intervention easy. 

DPA can automate data entry processes by extracting information from documents, emails, or forms and populating relevant fields in enterprise systems. This not only saves time but also mitigates the risk of data entry errors, ensuring data integrity and accuracy. 

Moreover, DPA can automate routine reporting tasks, generating predefined reports on a scheduled basis or in response to specific triggers, thereby freeing employees from repetitive reporting efforts and enabling them to focus on more strategic activities.

Loan and credit approval

For financial institutions, speed is everything. No customer is going to wait 3-5 business days to hear back from the underwriters. DPA can automate the end-to-end credit application and approval cycle, from initial application submission to credit decisioning and disbursement.

By leveraging DPA, financial institutions can implement rule-based decision engines, automated credit scoring, and real-time risk assessment algorithms to expedite loan processing and approvals. 

This not only accelerates the time to decision but also ensures consistency and fairness in credit assessments. Additionally, DPA enables seamless integration with all systems necessary in this process (banks, credit bureaus, regulatory frameworks) and allows your process to have the needed depth to ensure that you’re both remaining in compliance while still processing customer requests quickly.

Implementing digital process automation for your business

By using the following steps, you can lay a solid foundation for embracing DPA as a catalyst for sustainable growth for your organization.


Assess current processes and identify opportunities

You can’t take the first step without understanding which direction you’re going. Begin by conducting a comprehensive assessment of your current processes to identify areas where automation can deliver the most value, quickly.

This assessment should encompass a thorough analysis of repetitive, rule-based tasks, workflow inefficiencies, and manual touch points within your operational landscape.

Once you’ve got a clear view of these processes, begin to pinpoint specific opportunities for automation that align with overall business objectives. Be sure to talk with stakeholders from various departments to ensure you’ve got a holistic understanding of process dynamics across the organization.


Set clear objectives and success criteria

Once you’ve identified potential areas for DPA implementation, the next step is to define clear objectives and success criteria. 

These objectives should outline the specific benefits you aim to achieve and which business objectives they align with. This would include metric improvements like operational efficiency improvements, cost reductions, error rate reductions, and enhanced customer satisfaction. Establishing these criteria upfront will allow you to understand the effectiveness, ROI and help you make data-driven decisions throughout the automation journey.


Select appropriate DPA tools and technologies

With your roadmap in place, it’s time to select the right DPA tools and technologies. As we’ve already discussed, the technology that underpins your efforts is pivotal to a successful implementation. 

This step is likely to be the longest as it involves evaluating various automation platforms, software solutions, and integration capabilities to ensure that they align with your specific process requirements, scalability needs, IT infrastructure, etc.

Keep in mind: regardless of whether you’re looking at Robotic Process Automation (RPA), business process management (BPM) software, or low-code/no-code development platforms, be selective in who makes the cut. The chosen DPA tools should offer intuitive process design interfaces, robust integration capabilities, and analytics-driven insights to support continuous improvement.


Develop a pilot implementation plan

Before you start rolling out DPA across the entire organization, it’s imperative that you develop a pilot implementation or proof of concept first. Crawl before you walk and all that. This way you can test, validate, and refine each process in a controlled environment.

This pilot phase should target a specific set of processes identified during the assessment stage, enabling you to evaluate the impact of DPA on key performance indicators, user experience, and system interoperability. 

Use the pilot as an opportunity to gather user feedback, assess scalability requirements, and address any unforeseen challenges or dependencies that may arise. 

An iterative approach like this not only mitigates risks associated with full-scale deployment but also allows for a chance to fine-tune your automation strategies. You’ll then be able to leverage based on real-world insights and user input, fostering a more seamless transition to enterprise-wide DPA adoption.

Choosing the right digital process automation tool can make all the difference

While there are myriad benefits to DPA, it’s important to implement this framework slowly.

Understand the processes you’re trying to automate, get a clear view of the landscape, and then pilot the solution before rolling it out enterprise-wide for maximum effectiveness. As every business strives toward greater efficiency and flexibility while also meeting rising customer demands, DPA is becoming an urgent need for all.

With all those newly defined digital processes, orchestrating them becomes the work of a tool, not a person. Camunda can serve as the cornerstone of your DPA implementation, offering a robust and flexible platform that empowers organizations to model, automate, and optimize business processes no matter what systems or processes they involve quicker than you can say “what is digital process automation”.

Highest Scores Possible in Vision & Innovation Criteria

The Forrester Wave™: Digital Process Automation Software, Q4 2023