The boom of remote working has prompted most businesses to quickly adopt online tools that can enable their teams to collaborate and get things done efficiently. One of these tools is workflow automation software, which has become a staple digital resource of every company and professional. The concept behind the technology has been around since the 1990s, but today’s platforms are multi-functional and easy to set up.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about workflow automation. Whether you’re looking to improve processes and increase efficiency in your business, or you want to ensure your new business is set up for success from the start.
What Is Workflow Automation?
A workflow is a series of activities that need to be done repeatedly to accomplish a goal. Hiring an employee or sending an invoice to a customer are examples of tasks under a workflow.
Software is now available to automate different kinds of repetitive tasks. In its basic form, it entails defining the steps to fulfill a task and successfully get the results you want.
For example, if you’re a marketer, you can use workflow automation software to run an e-mail marketing campaign. All you’d need to do is create a standard e-mail to introduce a product or make any other announcement, input your intended message recipients, and set the date of its release. Then, the software would automatically send the e-mails to designated contacts, following the schedule you’ve arranged.
You can even program the platform to send follow-up e-mails to those who opened your original message. As long as you’ve crafted and uploaded the next e-mail to send, the software can do the work of sustaining engagement with contacts who respond.
Other top uses of workflow automation include the following:
- Reviewing and approving business contracts
- Processing employee salaries and benefits
- Processing and shipping customer orders
- Creating expense reports
- Assigning team tasks
- Processing employee vacation/leave requests
- Scheduling, sharing, and monitoring social media posts
6 Workflow Automation Benefits
Using automated workflow systems allows you to reap the following benefits:
1. Increased productivity
When you automate regular duties such as task scheduling or distribution and inventory tracking, you can remove or cut delays and disruptions that often happen when employees experience emergencies or heavy workloads. Two out of three knowledge workers say automation has helped them become more productive at work. More than 60% added that such tools have reduced their work stress. Meanwhile, 74% of employees said that because of automated tasks, they cut 4 to 28 hours extra hours from their workweek.
2. Streamlined processes
Workflow tools clearly outline steps and responsibilities, as well as keep track of actions through a visually engaging dashboard. These features take away the uncertainty about requirements and expectations. Once one step is completed, the system keeps the momentum going by notifying the next persons in line about their assignments.
Moreover, workflow solutions have built-in data storage. This allows you to safely access, save, and share files with colleagues from a centralized hub.
By having a shared platform and system for completing tasks, team collaboration can improve. According to 86% of business leaders, workplace failures happen due to poor communication and coordination.
3. Lower risks from errors
Workflow platforms help reduce manual data entry, which is prone to error. Unverified manual data entry can cost organizations an average of $12.9 million annually.
4. Greater transparency
Workflow software records and reports all tasks related to a project in the form of audit trails. This documentation enables you to spot and resolve any issue promptly. Reviewing the audit trail also gives you the chance to tweak your current processes so you won’t’ have to commit (or repeat) any costly mistakes in the future. These audit reports also help ensure your team and business follow company policies and industry regulations, respectively.
Audit trails don’t only benefit internal operations but can also enhance relations with customers through timely responses to queries or feedback and follow-ups for prospects.
The software can also generate performance reports, which can help you make informed decisions about your company’s future.
5. Cost savings
Savings from automation technology is estimated to be between 10% and 50% of the cost of manual processing. Meanwhile, around half of IT and engineering heads say they’re able to save 30% to 50% within their departments due to automation.
6. Easy approvals
With digitization, co-workers won’t have to deliver papers for approval by hand and chase after approving officers. Workflow solutions can automatically send these documents to the right approver and send alerts to notify them. Approvers can “sign” them using e-signature technology.
5 Factors to Consider When Picking Workflow Automation
1. Diverse features
Workflow automation software should contain the functionalities that you and your team need. Most platforms are geared toward human resource management, marketing, and customer service. Thus, you’re likely to gain the most advantage from the platform if your business is in retail, financial services, or healthcare.
Also, you should consider the size of your company. If you’re running a startup, you may need simpler software. However, you may need a more feature-rich tool if your company is already an established organization with several departments that perform several processes.
But regardless of your industry or size, you should consider:
- Whether you need on-premise software or a cloud-based solution
- If its features are diverse and customizable enough for the tasks you wish to automate
- If it has a KPI-based reporting function that will help you analyze team performance
- If it offers role-based access, which will allow you to adjust what each user can see and edit within the system
2. Compatibility with your legacy systems
Select a solution that can integrate with your current messaging, e-mail, customer relationship management systems, and other apps. This will lessen the time, effort, and money involved in transferring critical data to your new software.
3. Mobile phone accessibility
Access to the automated workflows from a smartphone and other mobile devices will help you and your team maximize working hours anytime, anywhere.
4. Onboarding and support system
Some software offers a free trial period. When you try out such a platform, assess the learning curve required for training and check the quality of their customer support.
Go over reviews, whether you opt for a one-time acquisition or subscription-based product. For subscriptions, you can start with lower-tier a package that’s within your budget. Then, move up to a higher subscription with more features as your business grows.
Tip: Your solution provider should show the software’s cost on its website. Otherwise, it will try to see how high it can charge you during your inquiry. A majority of companies offer monthly subscriptions that entail you to pay only for the number of system users.
Chintan Jain is the Associate Director of Product Marketing at Kissflow Workflow, a unified platform that enables organizations to manage all types of work in one place. Chintan is a skilled marketing practitioner who writes extensively on topics like workplace technologies, work management, and digital workplace. He also actively contributes to various business and technology platforms.