What is Workflow Automation?
The need to ease out tedious manual work was the basis of automation. When we think of automation, the first thing that comes to our mind is industrial automation. Automation has its roots in the manufacturing and automobile industries.
Workflow automation in simple terms is the approach to making the flow of tasks, information, and documents across processes free from human intervention. The basis of workflow automation is business rules, according to which the workflows. Implementing automated workflows should be a straightforward process that is carried out regularly to improve process efficiency and productivity.
To understand workflow automation, you need to first understand what workflows are. Workflows are a series of activities that are carried out to complete a task. Automating workflows requires an organization to first identify the tasks that make up the job. Once the tasks have been mapped out, the next step is to create rules and logic that dictate how the tasks should be done.
The sequence of tasks is determined by the pre-defined business rules and logic. The rules or business logic is often a series of if-then statements that act like instructions for the program on what actions to take and how to move from one task to the next. The software follows these rules and logic for performing tasks from beginning to end so that no human intervention is needed.
All organizations could benefit from automating repetitive notifications, approvals, permissions, and other basic tasks that do not require human intelligence. What is an automated workflow? Let us take an example to understand what is automated workflow – submission of a visitor form through the website.
The visitor submits the form on the website. The submit action enrolls the visitor in a drip campaign. The first email of the drip campaign is sent to the sales lead, requesting to schedule a meeting. The lead then clicks through the scheduler to set an appointment. A thank you note is sent as an email to the lead, informing the date and time of the appointment.
The CRM then automatically creates a task and assigns it to a sales rep. The sales rep then reaches out personally to the visitor, which is the last step in the automated workflow.
To automate workflows, you need the right workflow automation tool. Workflow automation can be used virtually in any team and any business scenario. Automating workflows helps boost productivity, eliminate redundancies, and increase efficiencies. Workflow automation can be considered the heart of modern business management. As more businesses start to infuse automation into their business processes and realize its benefits, the market for workflow automation is bound to grow at exponential rates.
Automating workflows reduces the need for manual work and repetitive tasks. Workflow automation optimizes processes by replacing manual tasks with software that executes all or part of a process. Implementing automated workflows also eliminates the redundancies and bottlenecks from business processes.
To derive maximum advantage from workflow automation, it is important to use a no-code workflow automation tool that simplifies the automation process.
Steps to Automate Manual Processes
Workflow management involves setting up your workflow in advance so that it runs smoothly at all times. It also ensures that each step within your workflow has been completed correctly before proceeding to another step in the sequence. The goal is to eliminate manual tasks as much as possible, so you don’t need two people doing them at once – and instead focus more on what matters most: getting things done right now!
When there is a process (usually repetitive) to implement a series of tasks, it is typically managed manually with a bunch of paper files or at best with a combination of spreadsheets and good old email.
Workflow Automation helps streamline this process with less human intervention, thereby removing the possibility of human errors.
Business process management gives you better visibility of the various tasks, can pinpoint bottlenecks, and suggest areas of improvement thereby increasing the overall business productivity.
Now, with all these thoughts on automation, how exactly does a business identify the steps to reach the stage of maximum efficiency or a fully automated workflow process?
Before a business moves to workflow automation, the management must perform a self-evaluation with their team to come up with answers to the following questions –
- Is the organization ready to work smarter?
- Are the employees ready to move from the traditional working methodology of spreadsheets and files to a new system as a team?
- Once automated, can the organization work with less manpower and still deliver products or services with the same or better quality?
The answer to all the above queries will determine the decision the management makes and a workflow application to make a smooth transition from your traditional mode of working to the automated approach will be inevitable.
The automated workflow that your organization opts for should only automate the repetitive steps of your workflow for better results. It should give you the flexibility to make any additional changes in the future if required.
The new automated implementation workflow should not be a forced-upon system added to your existing workflow, it should be just an improvisation of the required specific areas of the workflow. It should not require the users to master any new programming languages or skill sets to operate the automated workflow.
Disadvantages of Manual Processes In Your Business
From the CEO to new hires, a considerable amount of time is spent on routine, repetitive tasks. The time an organization spends on repetitive work eats away at productive time. Freeing associates from such tasks will significantly increase productivity, which translates to better performance.
Manual workflows are time-consuming and ridden by inaccuracies. Even the smallest manual process can pile up and distract you from more challenging, productive project work.
Here is how manual tasks can slow down your business…
- Increased dependency on people: Manual processes are people-centered. Human errors and biases creep into the process inadvertently. Verification and rectification of the data generated by manual processes can be a huge burden on the employees.
- Limited visibility: Manual processes operate in silos. As a result, data visibility is localized. Even the top leadership has a limited view of the critical path and is unable to take immediate action. The immediate tasks might not be known to the team members and may cause a needless delay.
- Low productivity: Most of the work hours are spent on repetitive tasks or data validation and rectification of errors that arise from manual processing. The availability of time for productive work is reduced, which brings down productivity.
- Waiting time and bottlenecks: Manual approval processes are ridden by long waiting times and bottlenecks. Due to limited visibility of the process flow, pinpointing the reason for bottlenecks is a challenge.
Every company desires smooth and efficient business processes, and manual business flows are not going to help in achieving the targets. Freeing employees from mundane tasks, improving productivity, optimizing process operations – achieve all this and more with automated workflows.
Basics of Process Automation
The design, execution, and automation of business processes based on workflow rules are called process automation. Business workflows involve the routing of data, human tasks, or files between people and systems according to pre-defined business rules. Automation of workflows is done to eliminate the redundancies of manual processing and to optimize business operations.
Common business workflows that can be automated include
Creating a comprehensive workflow diagram is the best way to build an automated workflow.
Once you have the workflow diagram ready, building an automated workflow can be done very easily with a drag-and-drop interface provided by new-age automation software. Cflow enables businesses to automate workflows within minutes with an easy-to-use visual form builder.
Fig: Budget Workflow
Workflow automation can be done for simple as well as complex business processes. Apart from simplifying the business process, automation also saves on costs. Employees and leadership can get rid of repetitive tasks and can spend time on more productive, strategic initiatives.
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5 Practical Steps for A Successful Workflow Automation
Now, let’s take a quick look at the 5 major steps every business will consider before they move completely to process workflow automation.
1. Identify Repetitive Tasks:
The first step to approaching automation is Identifying the area that has repetitive tasks should be the first step when a business considers workflow automation.
To identify the problem, a deep understanding of the business is essential. The best way would be to make a visual representation of your as-is workflow with the help of flow diagrams to understand your business workflow better and identify the repetitive tasks.
Now you can create an ideal workflow that improves your existing workflow and may simplify the process by automating repetitive tasks. This is a key step that needs to be done in close consultation with the other stakeholders and the actual users of the process.
You might also consider the net benefits in terms of time saved and effective cost savings. This will help in presenting a clear business case to support the automation of these business processes.
2. Define Business Goals:
Once you identify the problem, the next step will be to define your business goals using your current manual workflow as the benchmark.
Your target could be related to improving the throughput or reducing cycle time on a single processor optimizing resources for more productive tasks.
You might want your workforce to deal with less data entry and focus more on process insights and optimization.
It could be anything, but you need to be able to justify how your business goals will be achieved by automation and how you will measure them.
3. Select the Right Workflow Automation Solution:
The next step would be to decide on the means to the end. How do we wish to achieve the business goals? To arrive at a solution, your next priority step will be to select the right workflow automation solution.
Choose the right software to get an idea of the best way to choose your solution provider.
There are a plethora of options available in the market for an automation tool. It is important to understand the ideal fit for your organization.
More and more companies are moving to the cloud option that provides tremendous flexibility and lowers costs.
- Would that work for you?
- How important is data security?
- Do you need to have a vendor that is compliant with government regulations like HIPAA or certifications like ISO 27001?
Based on your specific needs, you might want to shortlist 3 to 5 vendors and then do a deep dive into the pros and cons of each solution. You might consider a cloud-based safe and secure software like Cflow which can design your workflow in minutes, but you might want to see a complete demo of the Cflow workflow software before you make this decision.
Select your workflow software to automate your business process based on the goals you have set in your previous step. The selected workflow should be simple user-friendly and easily adaptable by your users.
4. Train the Users:
The next step would be to train the workforce to use the new workflow software.
Any new change brought in by the management is always met with resistance as it is seen as unnecessary by the employees.
So it is imperative to involve the end-users right from the first step and include them in the discussions so that they are made an integral part of the decision-making process. This sets the end-users to be accountable and brings the best ideas to the fore.
Providing a clear transition path from the current manual process to the new automated system and giving them adequate training to help them get up to speed would go a long way in making this transition successful.
Also Read: Ways To Improve Upon Work Performance
5. Measure Key Performance Indicators and Improve Your Workflow:
After you are done with the above steps, you are up and running on your new automated workflow system.
Your business users will provide feedback on the process based on their usage and it is important to fix the kinks in the armor at this point. Then you are ready to do the final step which would be to measure the key performance indicators and improve your workflow.
Continuous monitoring and measurement of your automated workflow will help identify bottlenecks and suggest areas for improvement. Continuous assessment of your newly upgraded workflow will help your team become more efficient.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. – Henry Ford.
I hope the above steps guide you in the right direction to move your business workflows toward automation and greater productivity.
Let us know if these steps helped migrate your manual processes to automated processes. Feel free to share with us your experiences.
When you clearly define business goals, you can easily create workflows based on team requirements and implement them to streamline the daily process. Cflow provides all the tools you need to build productive workflows using a visual workflow designer in a no-code platform.
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