In any organization, achieving greater efficiency is an ever-present goal. Greater efficiency helps businesses be more competitive—getting work done faster and with fewer resources needed. However, finding new efficiencies can be difficult.
One tool that many organizations find useful for creating efficiency is workflow automation. What is workflow automation? What are some other ways that automating common business processes and workflows helps an organization?
What Is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation is a solution for businesses that help to automate previously-manual tasks. The specific nature of the automation and the workflows automated can vary significantly from one organization to the next depending on their processes and platforms.
Wondering how to use automation for workflows? There are a ton of ways depending on what you need to automate!
For example, a company might use automation workflow solutions for sending emails to their customers. HubSpot, a marketing platform, notes that: “With marketing automation software, you can set up workflows that nurture certain types of prospects with email offers.”
Manufacturers might use workflow automation and custom shop floor setups to create an automated manufacturing process that takes parts or raw materials through the whole process to assemble a final product.
Offices can use workflow automation in the workplace to set up common tasks like human resources (HR) team responses to frequent employee requests (like updating personal information or processing sick day/vacations), financial processes like tax withholdings, and setting up employee tasks or work reminders.
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Benefits of Automation Workflow Solutions
So, what are the benefits of using automation solutions to manage workflows? After all, it takes some time, effort, and money to set up and manage workflow automation. How does using it pay off for your organization?
Some key benefits include:
Saving Time and Improving Speed
One of the biggest delays in any workflow is waiting for someone to manually do something. Waiting for a person to see a notification, process it, and respond can cause large delays. This can cause long lead times for some workflows.
By automating key processes and workflows, companies can eliminate this delay and greatly improve their speed of response for common tasks.
Reducing Human Error
Another major issue with many manual processes is the risk of human error. According to data cited by Risk Management Magazine: “Combined, U.K. and U.S. enterprises are losing an estimated $37 billion every year” to what they call “employee misunderstandings.”
Worse yet, sources like Threat Post claim that “One quarter of all data breaches… were caused by human error.” This can cause even more severe losses for a business than simply missing a deadline or spending 5% too much on labor for a given task.
By leveraging workflow automation, and other automation solutions, you can reduce the risk of human error in your organization—which can help to indirectly control costs and improve the business’ resilience.
Improving Labor-to-Productivity Ratios
Introducing automation solutions for common business workflows can allow a business to scale back on labor while still hitting productivity goals. How? By reducing the need for team members and leads to manually supervise and manage their project management tools or business processes.
Instead, they can dedicate more time to getting work done—which helps improve the ROI for a company’s labor expenses.
Improving Accounts Receivable Processes
Automating billing for customers can be an enormous benefit for organizations of all sizes and industries. Being able to collect payments in a timely manner helps improve cash flow—which is key for any healthy business.
Using automated workflows to send billing notices and invoices helps ensure customers know exactly what they owe and minimizes the risk of errors from manual data entry.
Improving Metrics Tracking and Reporting
Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), a.k.a. performance metrics, can be vital for finding opportunities to improve the business or even individual employee performance. However, manually logging performance data can be a major time sink.
Automating the collection of data with specialized tools can help make reporting simpler. Doing this can enable decision-makers to spend more time actually looking at performance metrics so they can make data-driven decisions that work—improving strategic planning.
Data collection and reporting workflow automation can also be useful for generating client reports—showing things like total amount of work completed or progress towards important goals and objectives. By automating this data collection and report organization, project managers in the company can save time and ensure that key metrics aren’t missed.
How to Integrate Workflow and Process Automation with Your Business
One of the challenges of integrating workflow and process automation in the workplace is that not all solutions are the same. Some workflow automation software companies may require your business to add a dedicated platform for their solution to work. Others might have you add their app to your existing workflow management tool/platform.
Also, what you use the process automation for can impact how you decide to integrate it.
So, it can be a little hard to generalize about how to use automation in your business’ workflows.
A general outline for integrating workflow automation includes:
- Picking a Workflow Solution. Choose what workflow automation tool you want to use. Be sure to consider the functionalities it has, what it’s designed to do, and how it integrates with your existing tools (built-in integration, application programming interface (API), or a custom third party solution). Also, consider how much coding is needed to operate the solution: Is it a “low-code” platform that uses easy visuals to make it simple to manage, or a code-heavy solution that can be optimized more precisely?
- Documenting How the Automation Software Will Change Your Processes. How do you expect the automation solution to impact your business workflows? Create an impact analysis that highlights expected changes and steps you can take to prepare for them.
- Start Small with a Test Environment. Before rolling out a major, company-wide change to workflow management, it can help to test the automation software using a test environment and having a business unit operate on it for a few weeks. How does the new workflow automation software actually affect their work? Does the software create unexpected problems with other systems in the test environment? Running this test can help identify problems early on so they can be addressed before rolling the solution out to your whole company.
- Demonstrate How the Automation Helps Employees. Whenever introducing a change to employees, it’s important to show employees how they benefit. This can be crucial for overcoming resistance to change and getting workers to adopt the tool wholeheartedly. After all, it doesn’t matter how good an automation solution is if everyone tries to ignore or bypass it whenever they can.
Need Help Creating or Adopting Workflow Automation in Your Enterprise?
Systems X is here to help you! Our IT advisory services include process assessments that can help you identify potential strengths and opportunities for improvement—such as adding workflow automation to your business.
If you have questions about automation software, integrating new software with your existing business practices, or any other IT topic, reach out to the Systems X team today!