Workflow automation is a regularly used buzzword when discussing business efficiency and productivity. The basic idea of workflow automation is simple: business processes can be significantly improved if you remove human interaction with low-value repetitive tasks. Workflow automation allows us to effectively do this, allowing human resources to concentrate on high-value tasks that are more profitable to the organization.
As a result, businesses implementing workflow automation can be more efficient, save time and money, and reduce and even eliminate the risks of human errors.
What Is Workflow Automation
In a nutshell, workflow automation is a process of identifying repetitive tasks performed by employees that can be automated and then automating these tasks with technology, software, apps, and other solutions.
For example, there are relatively simple but repetitive tasks like sending follow-up emails, data entry, simple approval (i.e., invoice), lead scoring, and others that can be automated with the help of automation tools. Doing so can allow the employees to use their time on other tasks, saves your business valuable time and money, and eliminates the risk of human error.
Benefits of Workflow Automation
There are plenty of benefits of implementing workflow automation, but some of the most notable ones are:
Implementing automation workflow typically means involving only one person (the workflow’s supervisor) responsible for every part of the process. The said person would only need to monitor the automated process from time to time and make relatively simple necessary adjustments now and then.
We can effectively create a system of accountability where everyone can be accountable for just one specific task (or a few simple tasks). Proper workflow automation can also clarify which tasks take the most time to complete and what we can do to improve them.
One of the critical benefits of workflow automation is the streamlined business process and internal communication. This, in the long run, can effectively reduce the rate of employee turnover since it can provide a more transparent, more automated communication path between employees and management.
When proper workflow automation has been implemented, no one has to remember to tell another; it’s their turn to execute their tasks, effectively automating communication throughout the business process.
Reduces costs and eliminates errors
Workflow automation reduces the risk of human errors by replacing human actions with automation. People might forget executing essential tasks from time to time, but with automation, we can avoid this issue.
This will ensure work and projects stay on deadline and budget and produce better, more on-time deliverables. In the long run, this won’t only save some money for the business but also improve profitability.
Improves employee’s satisfaction
Nobody likes inputting 2,000 fields of data repeatedly, and workflow automation can free employees from doing these repetitive, tedious tasks and let them concentrate on more profitable tasks.
Workflow automation allows every employee to understand their role and responsibilities, and at the same time, can help management in tracking their progress. As a result, your employees’ performance will be much more visible, allowing an easier time for promotions and rewards.
Steps in Implementing Workflow Automation
Once you’ve decided that your organization needs to implement workflow automation, there are still various challenges you’ll face in implementing the automation:
This is why implementing workflow automation will need a proper framework, and below are the typical steps you can perform in executing workflow automation to your organization:
Step 1: Identify which workflow to automate
One of the critical challenges in implementing workflow automation is identifying which workflow you’ll want to automate. While this might vary depending on your business process, objectives, and many other factors, the general principles in choosing a workflow are:
- It must allow automation. Pretty self-explanatory, not all workflow can be automated
- The more repetitive and straightforward the tasks are, the more benefit you’ll get from automation
- Whether automating the workflow will bring significant benefits to your organization
Step 2: visualize the workflow
Once you’ve identified a key workflow to automate, it’s best to create a visual representation of the workflow. A workflow management software like Aproove can help considerably in this process, allowing every stakeholder and team member to view this workflow visualization in a single dashboard.
You can use Aproove to create a workflow map or workflow diagram with standard workflow symbols for easier visualization:
- Ovals for the start of a workflow process
- Rectangles for process/action that require execution
- Diamonds for required decisions
- Arrows, connecting the other shapes to define sequences and relationships
Visual representation of the workflow can help clarify the workflow’s process, allowing us to identify gaps and challenges and help decide where the process can be streamlined and automated.
Step 3: identify user needs
Workflow automation is based on the user’s needs.
For example, if you are automating content approval, you would want to get input from the content marketing team and probably the sales team. In general, ask for feedback from departments that will use the workflow the most.
You might want to conduct interviews or run online surveys so to gather as many insights as possible.
Step 4: setting workflow KPIs
A key factor for any automation to work is to define KPIs, so the automation tools/solutions can adequately identify whether an automated process is a success or failure.
KPIs would depend on the workflow’s objectives, but some of the common KPIs you can set up include:
- The average time to run a workflow process
- The success rate of the workflow (the percentage the process runs to completion)
- The error rate of a workflow
Also, don’t forget to consider the user’s needs (as discussed above) when defining the KPIs of the automation. Ask for feedback from users on what kind of performance they would expect from the automated workflow.
Step 4: testing the workflow
Before you deploy the newly automated workflow, you might want to repeatedly test it to ensure there won’t be any issues in the actual execution. Automation testing is essential, especially in workflows that involve sensitive information or critical operations.
Involve users who will frequently use the workflow when conducting your tests and help identify gaps and potential errors. You’d want to avoid deploying an automated workflow, only to find failures with it.
Step 5: monitor and improve
The automation process does not end as you deploy the workflow, but it’s important to use the KPIs you have defined earlier to monitor the automated workflow’s performance.
Doing so will help us monitor whether the workflow performs as intended to make the necessary adjustments to improve the automation further.
Implementing workflow automation can be the best thing you can do to improve your business’s efficiency, allowing your organization to produce a more accurate and consistent result every time in a repetitive workflow.
Using workflow automation tools like Aproove, you can get a clearer picture of the different tasks involved in a workflow, making it easier for us to identify gaps and areas we can improve upon to increase overall productivity and profitability.