When we want to succeed at being efficient and effective, we must streamline processes, including redesigning them and automating them. Workflows must be customized for the business, and the end product of the workflow taken into mind, when we are designing, redesigning, and automating workflows.

What is Workflow Automation?

Workflow automation uses rule-based logic to launch a task or a series of tasks without any need for human intervention. They are run by a robot and can be set to run at any time of the day and any day of the week as they do not require to have breaks to sleep or eat. Workflow automation leverages repetitive manual tasks and automates them, leading to your business saving time and money, eliminating errors, and boosting business efficiency.

The difference between manual workflows and automated workflows is enormous. And it’s not until we start comparing the same process that is run manually and one that is automated, we can see the differences between the two. Let’s look at the differences between a paper-based manual process, and the same automated process, in the table below.

Workflow Manual Automated
Time Required Longer Shorter
Transparency Difficult to understand status Learn workflow status at any time
Risk of Physical Damage to Documents/Paperwork Yes No
Types of Error Penmanship, Transcription, Delivery to the wrong person, lost or damaged documents Data input error

When we think of the problem, an automated workflow solves compared to a manual workflow. The first to mind is how faster an automated workflow is—using the above paper-based workflow as an example. Physical documents can be damaged or lost. Traceability is also a problem with a manual workflow - it is challenging to know whether a step in the workflow was completed or not. Automated workflows allow users to check the workflow at any given stage to find out.

Most processes can be fully automated, but some workflows will always need a manual element. This is where you can deploy a hybrid approach and automate everything, with the rest handled manually. Automating will improve the speed of the workflow being completed and be completed with more accuracy, and be more compliant as an automated workflow lays down an audit trail as the workflow progresses.

Benefits of Workflow Automation

Here are a few benefits of automating workflows:

  • Reduce errors by limiting human error
  • Improve connectivity by connecting multiple entities, people, and software
  • Improved business and workflow efficiency
  • Multi-task by allowing different processes to flow through one workflow system
  • Meet compliance requirements and increate trust and control

Manual workflows are a headache for all sizes of businesses, yet many still continue to work with them. Taking an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. Maybe because we’ve grown accustomed to these inconveniences, they cause daily, or perhaps it could be because manual workflows have always been the go-to way of getting things accomplished, and the thought of change is scary. When you fail to recognize that nothing is broken, there are problems with your internal workflow management processes.

Finally, if we look at almost any business, you will find many opportunities for workflow automation. Onboarding, compliance management, payroll processing, document sign-off, and supervisory reviews typically slow manual workflows that drain employee productivity and are prone to errors.

If you take a look behind the scenes of nearly any business, you'll likely find numerous opportunities for more pervasive automation. Onboarding, complaint management, and payroll processing are all great places to start, as each is often typified by slow manual workflows, which drag down employee productivity. We can do much more than just smoothing out processes and enhancing efficiency by automating workflows, even though these two things alone are worth implementing automation technologies. We can move away from a static data model and replace it with a more adaptable system that’s continuously learning and being updated and coping with increasing demands for competitiveness and compliance.

Further Reading:

  1. Workflow vs. Workflow Automation

  2. Workflow Automation - What is it and Why Do You Need It?