workflow automation

Ever heard about Workflow Automation software? What is it? Why should you care? What are the benefits? Don’t worry !! We’ll cover them all in this brief guide on workflow automation. Let’s get started.

The world is evolving rapidly with customers becoming more used to quick services and expecting perfection at every point. It doesn’t matter to the customers whether you are a multinational company or startup because people expect you to deliver with speed and quality in everything you do.

Business process management and workflow automation is one approach every business is taking to remove bottlenecks and inefficiencies from their business processes thereby significantly cutting down the time and cost of delivering products or services. According to a market research study, the SME segment alone is expected to spend more than $1.6 billion in workflow automation software during 2017-2026.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a workflow?

A workflow is a series of sequential tasks that are carried out to execute a business process.

An example of a very simple workflow would be a leave application process. In this workflow an employee applies for leave, manager approves it, and then HR processes it.

A little more complex workflow can be an employee clearance process at the time of leaving the company. In this case, the manager initiates the clearance, which is then routed to different departments like Admin, IT, HR and only after all clearances are obtained, the workflow moves to the accounts department for full and final settlement.

Workflow illustration

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is the automation of steps involved in the workflow to execute your tasks efficiently with consistent and accurate results every time the workflow is executed. In other words, workflow automation is a series of automated actions created for the steps in a business workflow process.

When does it make sense to use workflow automation?

Any automation requires time and money. So it would make sense to take it up only when benefits outnumber the costs involved.

So it would make sense to take up workflow automation only when:

  • the tasks are repetitive. It would not make sense to automate a workflow that is not repetitive or occur only once in a while.
  • the workflow is critical where tasks need to be achieved accurately and efficiently, eliminating chances of any human error and delay.
  • automation can bring out significant improvement in the time of execution or quality of the output.

Hopefully by now we are convinced about the importance of workflow automation. So now let’s see how we can put it to action.

5 steps involved in workflow automation

teammates illustration

1. Set Goals

The first and most critical step is to set the goals for automation. You must ensure that these goals are SMART i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. It could be the increased ROI, faster time to reach market demands, or increased team productivity.

Clearly define the goals..!

2. Identify repetitive workflows

Nest step would be to identify workflows which when automated can lead you to your set goals. The best way to identify these is by making a visual diagram of the current business processes and use it to identify critical repetitive workflows that you believe are hindering you from achieving your goals.

3. Choose the right automation tool

Now that you have identified your goals and the workflows, the next step would be to select the right workflow automation software. A few factors to consider here would the cost, ease of use, operations, and maintenance, proven track record, etc

4. Train the users

Next you would have to train the workforce to use the new workflow automation tool. Providing a simple transition path from the current manual process to the new automated system and providing them with sufficient training will go a long way towards making this transformation a success.

5. Measure key performance indicators

After you are done with the above steps, you are up and running on your new fully automated workflow system. Your customers, who might be your own employees, will provide feedback on the new automated process based on their experience and it is important to consider their views and suggestion to improve customer satisfaction.

Continuous monitoring and measurement of your newly upgraded workflow will help your team become more efficient. Based on the indicators, make changes to your automation and repeat this process to keep it in check at all times.

Now that we have implemented the workflow automation, let’s take a look at the possible benefits we might have achieved? Is it only time and cost savings or something more? Let’s explore

Top 5 benefits of workflow automation

automation

1. Streamlines communication

Workflow automation improves communication between the stakeholders involved in the workflow. This may be your employees, vendors, or customers. For example, once you have automated your complaint handling process through a self-service portal, customers may get access to the up-to-date status of their complaint without having to write an email or call you thereby streamlining the communication.

2. Creates accountability

For each step in the workflow process, there is one person designated to perform a specific task. By adopting this you are creating a system of accountability, where everyone knows what specific tasks they are responsible for. Every person involved in the process is held accountable for his or her specific task.

3. Reduces costs and eliminates errors

Automation eliminates errors from manual processes and saves operational costs. Imagine manual entry of insurance claims received from the customers in the form of paper-based files. Compare this to an automated workflow where the customer enters the claim information themselves in an online claim system and the agent only verifies that all necessary documentation is attached. You can visualize the savings in costs and possible errors.

4. Creates transparency at each step

Workflow automation provided real-time single window access to all the data from the automated workflows. You can see what tasks are at what stage or who are they currently assigned to. You can easily identify the bottlenecks and work on eliminating them.

5. Provides actionable insights

Reports and dashboards can be built on top of data collected from the automated workflows provided actionable insights into the operations. The data can also be used to make intelligent projections and forecasts.

Also read: Top 10 Business Process Automation Benefits

Now let’s look at some examples

Top 5 Examples of workflow automation

Workflow automation is not only easy to accomplish but can boost processes that you’ve never thought of improving before.

Here are 5 examples of workflow automation that are expected to make life easier.

Examples of workflow automation

1. Purchase orders

Purchase orders are repetitive tasks that can benefit from automation. Typically, an employee with a requirement fills out a requisition and sends it to the purchasing department. The purchase manager reviews the request and may approve or reject it. If rejected, the request is sent back to the requester. If approved, a purchase order is issued. Similarly, invoices also follow a workflow that can benefit from automation.

2. Leave requests

In this case an employee fills in a leave application. The manager reviews the application and then approves or rejects it. If rejected, the employee is notified. If approved, the HR team is informed who then processes the application.

3. Expense reimbursements

An employee initiates a reimbursement claim by filling out a form and sending it to the manager. In case of any clarifications, the form is sent back to the employee. If approved, the form is forwarded to the accounts department. The accounts officer verifies all details and then processes the claim for reimbursement. The employee is intimated.

4. Content approvals

Anyone in the marketing team initiates a content request with a topic and a brief description. The editor reviews the topic to check for alignment with content strategy and then sends it to the SEO expert. The SEO expert suggests keywords to be targeted in the content. The request along with the input from the SEO expert is assigned to a content writer. The writer completes a draft and sends it to a designer for visual elements. Once done the output is shared with the editor. The editor either approves it or sends it back to the writer or designer for changes. Once approved, the content is published.

5. Task Management

A manager creates a task for a team member and assigns a priority and due date. The task is routed to the assigned employee. If any clarfifcations requires, the team member asked the manager to provide more clarity. Once done, the team member resolves the task. After verifying the output, the manager closes or re-opens the task.

Conclusion

Every business is seeking efficiency in its processes to meet the stakeholder requirements. Workflow automation, if executed effectively, can provide huge benefits towards this goal. By automating, companies save time and reduce the risk of manual errors enabling them to deliver faster and better services.

Quixy is among the top no-code business process management platforms that can be used to automate any workflows 10X faster compared to traditional approaches. It is also extremely easy to use. We recommend that you sign up for a free trial to check it out for yourself.

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