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How to implement workflow automation to improve efficiency

All businesses of any type involve at least one administrative process: data entry, manual approval, route information, scanning of document

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All businesses of any type involve at least one administrative process: data entry, manual approval, route information, scanning of documents, etc.

These manual, repetitive tasks often cause two major problems: first, it takes valuable time from employees that can be used to perform other tasks that will contribute more to the organization’s overall goal. These are often administrative tasks that require employees to perform beyond their core competencies, so such an organization wastes essentially time and resources to perform these tasks.

The second is that the repetitive execution of funny, tedious tasks is prone to human error, and even simple administrative errors can have huge negative impact if not managed properly.

So how can we streamline these administrative and repetitive tasks while ensuring accuracy in execution?

The answer is workflow automation.

In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about workflow automation: the concept, how it benefits your business, and especially how to implement it.

What is workflow automation?

As the name implies, workflow automation is the process of using workflow automation software and other digital tools to automate workflows which must otherwise be performed by hand.

We can define a workflow as a set of tasks or actions, typically consecutive, that will achieve a goal and result when achieved.

There are two critical ideas behind automating a workflow:

  1. Today’s software, especially with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), can perform simple tasks much faster than human users. Although it can take hours for an average data entry administrator to enter 1,000 fields of data, it can be completed in a matter of seconds with the right software.
  2. Software programs are consistent and accurate, so we can reduce or even eliminate the likelihood of human error by automating the workflow.

A typical implementation of workflow automation is document approvals such as compensation form approvals, purchase order approvals, and more. Typically, this type of workflow follows a predictable and repeatable set of steps: a reviewer manually reviews the document against a set of criteria and approves or rejects the document.

By automating these predictable steps, this entire workflow can streamline while avoiding human error, such as sending the form to the wrong person or calculation errors.

How to automate a workflow: step-by-step

Automating a workflow can seem like a complex and challenging task, but by following these steps, you will find that it is much simpler than it seems.

Step 1: Identify your goal

What is the purpose of automating workflow in the first place? Ensure efficiency? Increased output? Reduce errors?

Each workflow is unique, and to ensure successful implementation of workflow automation, we need to identify what goals we want to achieve. Doing so will also help justify the investments that may be needed in implementing the workflow automation to ensure stakeholder purchasing.

Step 2: Identify the workflow to automate

If your business involves only one workflow, it will be a simple process.

However, most businesses have more than one workflow, so it’s crucial to identify a workflow that you are going to automate.

First, not all workflows can or should be automated, and you should consider:

  • Whether it is possible to automate the workflow (or there is the technology that can automate the workflow)
  • Whether it is financially feasible to automate the workflow (ie whether the benefits you will get from automating the workflow justify the required investments)

You can then use one or more of the following approaches to select a workflow to automate:

  1. Strategic: choose a workflow that has a significant impact on the business (ie, has a direct impact on revenue)
  2. Reactive: choose a workflow with obvious problems to solve (ie repetitive and inefficient approval process)
  3. Customer-centered: choose a workflow with a direct impact on client experience (ie shortening of waiting time)

Step 3: Gather information

Once you have identified a workflow to automate, the next step is to gather as much information about the workflow as possible. Observe how the workflow is currently executed, and get feedback from stakeholders involved in the workflow. The information you need to gather includes:

  • The start and end points of the workflow
  • The list of tasks required to facilitate the workflow
  • Information needed to accomplish each step / task
  • If the workflow involves decisions, what information is needed to make these decisions?

The more information you can gather, the better the workflow automation will be.

Step 4: Choose your technology solution

Different workflows may require other technologies to automate them, so the next important step is to choose the right technology solution to effectively automate your desired workflow.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, here are some key features to consider when choosing a workflow automation software solution:

  • Drag-and-drop workflow chart builder (no coding required)
  • Easy to use (preferably drag and drop) shape and visual rule builder
  • Automatic notifications and reminders
  • Mobile friendly and easy to use interface
  • Analysis and reports
  • Integration with your other solutions

Step 5: Map your workflow

Most workflow automation software solutions will automate your workflow using a flowchart-based workflow diagram.

With Aproove’s workflow automation solution, you can easily map a workflow diagram and customize each workflow step to fine-tune the automation. For example, you can add conditional rules to your workflow to automate decisions.

The biggest concern of this step is accuracy: make sure the diagram is as accurate as possible, based on how the workflow is currently executed.

Step 6: Evaluate the automated workflow

Thoroughly test the automatic workflow before starting it. Involve the original stakeholders of the workflow to evaluate how the automation is performing, whether the workflow is more efficient than before the automation, and whether it is the other way around.

It is crucial to make sure that the workflow is already as efficiently as possible before automating it. Automating inefficient workflows will only intensify their inefficiency so that it will be counterproductive.

Analyze your workflow for inefficiencies and bottlenecks, and re-optimize your workflow as needed.

In today’s fast-paced business environment that requires agility, workflow automation is more important than ever.

By automating your workflow, you can free up your employees’ time to perform repetitive administrative tasks. At the same time, improve the accuracy of workflow execution by reducing human error. In the long run, workflow automation will increase your business’s operational efficiency and productivity.

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