Workflow Automation

Do you have manual processes that are slow, error prone and do not empower your workforce? Maybe you should consider workflow automation. Let’s start with some definitions to be clear what we are discussing.

First of all, what is a workflow?

It is a repeatable business process where tasks, information, or content moves from one person to another for an action, according to a set of rules. This could be a simple sequential process or it could be a more complex set of processes occurring concurrently.

What is workflow automation?

It is a set of automated actions. It takes these manual and paper-based processes often comprised of unstructured tasks involving people, content, and streamlines or systemizes these processes and puts them into an application.

How do you know if you are a good candidate for workflow automation?

Here are some guidelines:

  • Workflow automation is used when an organization has a series of well-defined repeatable tasks.
  • These tasks often include the processing or handling of paper documents, spreadsheets or emails.
  • You are looking to streamline these processes, reduce errors, and increase efficiency.

So, why would you want to implement workflow automation?

One reason is that it improves communications and accountability. When you have an automated system, anyone can see the status of a workflow. It makes processes more efficient, and reduces cost and rework since now everyone is using the same system. It enables employees to take better control of their responsibilities. With an automated system, everyone’s role is clearly defined and they know what to focus on. In addition, this type of a system allows the group to manage and monitor overall progress, look for trends and find ways to improve efficiency.

Examples of Workflow Automation:

Marketing/Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential clients even those who may or may not be looking to buy a product or a service. Traditional approaches to lead nurturing involve sending generic emails to every lead, instead of a targeted email campaign based on each lead’s behavior and the information they might be interested in. Workflow Automation solves this problem by using specific triggers for automatically identifying and segmenting leads. For example, if a potential customer likes a blog post on your company website, the customer can be automatically added to an email distribution list and be notified about future blog posts.

Sales

Depending on the size of your organization, your Head of Sales may not have the time to meet with individual sales representatives to keep track of every new sales account. Instead, by setting up a workflow with an appropriate trigger, he/she can be automatically notified only when an account with more than a certain number of employees is added to the system.

Human Resources

Instead of manually keeping track of whether each employee has submitted their timesheet, a workflow with a time-based trigger can be created to automatically remind employees to submit the timesheets each week/month. Employees can also be automatically reminded of overdue timesheets. In addition, an employee’s manager can be automatically notified if the employee’s timesheet has been outstanding for a certain duration.

Finance

Rather than manually routing an expense form to different departments for approval, a workflow can be created so that whenever an employee submits an expense form, the form is automatically forwarded to the employee’s manager. Once the manager approves the form, it can be automatically forwarded to Finance for reimbursement.

Implementation Options:

Off-the-shelf solutions

Whether it is CRM workflow automation you are looking for, or something related to HR Process Improvement, several off-the-shelf workflow solutions are available in the market today. These might satisfy most, if not all, of your organization’s needs.

Pros:

  • These solutions com with pre-built forms and workflow templates that can be deployed with minimal customization.
  • These solutions often leverage industry trends and best practices.
  • Solutions available for/from leading CRM vendors.
  • Cloud-based solutions are available.

Cons:

  • Specific scenarios unique to an organization may not be fulfilled, at least not out-of-the-box. Customization of the system might be necessary.
  • Can be expensive, if not all off-the-shelf features are needed.
  • Too much customization can lead to confusion and productivity issues.
  • Existing business processes might need to be modified to accommodate the solution.

Proprietary/In-house

In cases where an off-the-shelf solution doesn’t satisfy your organization’s needs, you might want to consider developing an in-house solution. This option might be particularly beneficial if your organization has unique business processes and constraints that no pre-built solution can satisfy.

Pros:

  • Can be tailored to suit the organization’s needs.
  • No need to pay for features that the organization wouldn’t use.
  • Users might consider the solution to be more ‘intuitive’ than a pre-built one.

Cons:

  • Can be more expensive than a pre-built solution, depending on the requirements.
  • Ongoing maintenance would add to the cost of the solution.
  • Bad business processes may go unaddressed.
  • Industry best practices may not be enforced.