What is Digital Process Automation? (DPA)


What is Digital Process Automation? 

Digital Process Automation (DPA) is a practice that leverages low-code technology to automate and orchestrate business operations. Today’s business processes often span multiple people and systems, and this method helps businesses digitally transform those end-to-end processes, providing greater efficiency, visibility, and auditability. 


What is the goal of Digital Process Automation? 

The primary goal of DPA is to deliver digital transformation. Organizations run on countless processes, and those processes still depend on unstructured work using emails, spreadsheets and even paper. This way of working is near impossible to measure and manage. It’s frustrating for employees who have no direct visibility of the status of their work, and its challenging for leaders who have no visibility into where the bottlenecks are in their operations, preventing them from increasing efficiency. What’s more, unstructured work is often not secure or compliant with regulations, creating a risk to the business. Digital Process Automation provides a way to digitize operations, creating a way of working that’s more efficient, measurable and compliant. 


What is the history of Digital Process Automation? 

The DPA software category originates from the more traditional practice of Business Process Management (BPM). Over time, BPM software became associated with expensive and lengthy projects that targeted process perfection and took too long to deliver value, particularly when working with some of the largest vendors in the space. Software vendors, particularly the smaller more innovative companies, therefore shifted their focus towards providing low-code software that enabled a more agile approach, with the emphasis more on automation than on continuous optimization to achieve the perfect process. 


What’s the difference between Digital Process Automation and Robotic Process Automation? 

Robotic Process Automation has become increasingly popular in a bid to drive efficiency, but organizations have discovered it isn’t a silver bullet for digital transformation, but simply one tool in the box that could be helpful for your transformation initiatives. RPA is used to automate repetitive tasks. Its strength is in task automation rather than process automation, so the name can be a little misleading. RPA bots mimic human inputs to complete tasks such as extracting and processing data, performing calculations, and executing predefined actions. RPA is used by many organizations to move data from system to system quickly, massively reducing human effort in some cases. However, at times, it is used incorrectly. Common mistakes have included using RPA as: 

- A temporary digital-band aid, when a more complete long-term solution would have been a better approach and implementing RPA bots has simply added to the technical debt and associated costs. 

- A tool to simply accelerate a bad process. In some cases a more holistic view of the challenge would have made it clear that a different approach was needed, rather than simply accelerating a flawed business operation. 

- A way to accelerate the movement of data, but delivering no tangible business benefit, simply moving faster for the sake of it. This happens when the task automation is viewed in isolation and not considered for its part in the wider end-to-end business process. This causes problems when organizations look back to evaluate the ROI of their technology investment. 

Digital Process Automation (DPA) however, is used to automate more complex processes from end-to-end and can incorporate rule-driven decision logic, handling processes that involve multiple systems, applications, and human interactions. Importantly, DPA software creates forms and interfaces (applications), that employees interact with. This is a fundamental difference between DPA and RPA, although some RPA companies also offer application technology. 


What’s the difference between Digital Process Automation and Business Process Management? 

The two categories are closely linked, with DPA having evolved out of the BPM industry. Business Process Management (BPM) primarily focuses on the design, execution, monitoring, and optimization of business processes. Digital Process Automation (DPA) can include some of this practice, but it focuses on automating processes by creating workflow applications and orchestrating end-to-end processes across an enterprise. 


What are the benefits of Digital Process Automation? 

Increased efficiency and productivity 

By building structure into the way people work, automating business rules and providing visibility into operations, DPA enables greater efficiency and for employees to get more done. 

Reduced costs 

By increasing visibility, highlighting bottlenecks and automating steps, DPA enables organizations to reduce costs, either by enabling the reallocation of employees or enabling the workforce to manage a higher workload without hiring additional staff. 

Increased accuracy and reduce errors 

Data can be automatically captured, validated, and transferred without manual intervention eliminating the risk of human-related mistakes.

Greater transparency 

Standardization, real-time monitoring, auditability, access to information, reporting, and collaborative workflows enhance visibility across processes. 

Better quality data to inform business decisions 

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Digital processes provide a data source that leads to a more accurate picture of business performance and allows leaders to make better decisions.

Improved customer experience 

Slow and disconnected internal processes lead to delays for the customer. By automating processes, organizations can deliver faster and more accurate services to their customers. DPA can enable self-service options, reduce response times, and provide personalized experiences. 


What are the features of a Digital Process Automation platform?  

Workflow automation

A good DPA platform should automate the flow of tasks, data, and documents between users and systems. It should also support task assignment, notification, escalation, and tracking, enabling seamless process execution. 

Process complexity

For long running or complex processes platforms must be able to incorporate the complexity needed to comply with local, global or industry regulations. 

Case management

Many uses of DPA incorporate a need for case management, so your DPA platform should include a strong set of capabilities that enable employees to manage cases efficiently and to track cases as they move across the enterprise. 

Modern applications

Platforms must enable you to create modern applications that are scalable, secure, cloud-native, fast-to-deploy and easy-to-change.  

Integration capabilities

Business processes rely on information from multiple sources internal and external to the organization. Connectors and APIs that enable integration with existing software, databases, and external services make accessing and utilizing this information quicker and easier. 

Forms and document management

Easy-to-use form builders to create digital forms for data capture and user input. Additionally, it should support document generation, storage, and retrieval to manage electronic documents associated with the processes. 

Business rules engine

The ability to define and enforce business rules and policies within the automation workflows enables decision-making based on predefined conditions, routing tasks, and implementing logic to ensure compliance and process efficiency. 

Task and activity management

Task management features assign, track, and prioritize tasks within the workflows. Task assignment notifications, reminders, and escalation mechanisms ensure timely completion of activities. 

Analytics and reporting

Capture process data, track key performance indicators (KPIs) and provide insights into process efficiency, bottlenecks, and trends. This allows organizations to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions. 

Exception and error handling

Detect and address errors during automated process execution to avoid delays and costly mistakes. 

Security and compliance

Robust security measures such as authentication, access controls, data encryption, and audit trails are required to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with relevant regulations (e.g. GDPR, HIPAA). 

Scalability and performance

It is important that your chosen DPA solution can accommodate the growing needs of the organization. It should handle increasing volumes of data and process instances without sacrificing performance. 

User-friendly interface

An intuitive and user-friendly interface with a visual design environment and drag-and-drop functionality is essential for both business users and developers to collaborate on projects and is the key to adoption and success.  


Digital Process Automation best practices 

Here are 6 tips for ensuring Digital Process Automation delivers maximum ROI across the organization: 

1. Aim to build a business capability to support digital transformation 

The most successful DPA programs are found in organizations that use DPA for a wide range of use cases. This comes from the strategy of building the capabilities within your organization to train your people and develop a Center of Excellence (COE). With this, you can produce new automations quickly delivering results for the business faster. A COE means you can also avoid being dependent on 3rd party consultants once your capability is up and running. 

2. Define clear objectives and scope 

Work with business users to create a roadmap of all the processes that you want to automate and the results you are aiming to achieve to inform direction and ensure that you are working towards goals that align with the needs of the business. 

3. Engage stakeholders early and continuously 

Talk to everyone involved in the processes you’re automating to discover their current pain points and how automation can help solve issues. Hold regular check-ins to ensure that the project is on track to deliver on the requirements discussed at the start. 

4. Start small and scale fast! 

Choosing a mature process that can deliver value to multiple business areas fast allows you to learn how to use the platform and implement the methodology to demonstrate the benefits of a digital process automation initiative. It’s important to deliver business benefits as soon as possible to show value to the organization, then go out and repeat that success. 

5. Prioritize user experience and change management 

Improving user experience is one of the key drivers of a digital business automation initiative. Communicating the benefits of digitizing processes to employees that work within them is key to ensuring the new method is adopted, creates value and the project is a success. 

6. Measure and monitor performance 

It’s important to remember that initial implementation is not the end. While the newly automated process might deliver results, customer demands and business requirements continually change and the business must continue to evolve to keep pace with this. Reviewing process performance regularly is key to identifying and making improvements that can deliver further results.


Examples of Digital Process Automation 

adidas used DPA to connect systems and automate workflows to fix gaps in processes across e-commerce, operations, marketing, finance and retail. The sportswear giant was able to gain complete visibility and tracking of the vendor onboarding process and reduce onboarding time by 50% and cut operational supply chain costs by 60%. 

VKB Bank used DPA to go from ‘a jungle of systems’ to a single platform helping the Austrian bank to increase the efficiency of the credit deferral process in response to an influx in demand.  

Insight Investment used DPA to coordinate and hand off tasks between the different teams involved in the client change process. The global asset management company integrated Bizagi with key insight systems such as Tableau and developed dashboards to gain visibility of task status to increase the efficiency of completion. 

Tatweer Petroleum aimed to eliminate ambiguities and bottlenecks from core operational processes. The Bahraini oil company created a Center of Excellence (CoE) that guarantees continuity, improved performance and adoption across the organization. 


How does Bizagi support Digital Process Automation? 

Bizagi’s low-code process automation software creates an agile layer that wraps around your existing systems to connect the people, applications, devices and information across your organization. Find out more about Bizagi's DPA capabilities in The Forrester Wave™: Digital Process Automation Software Q4 2023.