Workflow Automation: What It Is and What It Can Do for Your Business

Maricel Rivera
Maricel Rivera is a financial researcher and freelance writer. She currently writes web content for MyAmplifiers.com, a market-leading provider of mobile phone signal boosters for homes, office buildings and vehicles. She also writes for Comindware, a BPM software provider. When not writing for various business and tech blogs, she writes about freelancing and writing at the The Sourcing Pen.
Maricel Rivera
Maricel Rivera
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We live in a world that operates on autopilot – the earth spinning in its orbit 24 hours a day, and revolving around the sun 365 days a year, unless it’s a leap year.

workflow automation

The average corporate busybody survives a workday comprised of routine tasks –organizing files and documents from varied sources, creating charts, graphs and other reports from spreadsheets spanning several different departments, reviewing and approving budgets, expense requests and invoices, resolving IT helpdesk issues – the list can go on and on.

Repetition may be the mother of learning, but repetition, too, is the father of boredom that then morphs into errors, mistakes, rework, missed deadlines, canceled contracts, and top talent leaving for life-work balance.

Some things are better accomplished by a live person, and some others left automated.

Workflow automation, in a nutshell

A workflow, according to Investopedia, is the sequence of tasks required to arrive at a desired outcome, usually involving multiple stages and participants.

In today’s business landscape where software utilization is the industry norm for streamlining business processes and operations, automating or managing a workflow entails investing in an application that’s either pre-made, customized, or both – both, meaning, the software, like Comindware Tracker, comes with pre-built templates that can also be tweaked according to your specific business needs, eliminating steep learning curves or complex programming know-how.

When automating your workflows, you first have to design a workflow model. The software then takes care of task tracking and administration while providing real-time visibility to all involved parties. This eliminates the need for constant status meetings or project updates just so everyone is in the loop, among many other things.

What can you get from automating your workflows?

Aside from not chasing your staff away with boring, repetitive work, here are some of the benefits of workflow automation:

1. Team collaboration

In the job site, individual processes are becoming obsolete. Jobs are now better accomplished by teams. Big tasks are broken down in smaller chunks and distributed to team members for faster and easier execution. Team collaboration, therefore, is essential. Team collaboration, as you are probably aware, is fostered by effective communication, which the right workflow automation

application encourages through threaded discussions, email, instant messaging and automated notifications.

2. Increased productivity

If every task is done right the first time, workflows and projects progress swiftly and smoothly, which, in turn, leaves room for more tasks to be accomplished. If every task is tracked and accounted for, redundancies are eliminated, freeing more staff to do other value-adding activities.

3. Data management

Imagine having to go through various files, documents and spreadsheets to secure the raw data you need for a report spanning, say, twelve quarters. That’s three years worth of data. If these are scattered across inboxes, hard drives, and stacks and stacks of manila folders, the report is going to take you a good bit of time to complete.

Automating your workflows allows you the benefit of a single repository, making your data search a relative breeze.

4. Real-time visibility

For a project or department manager, knowing the status of tasks assigned to his/her team as they happen is a must. Real-time visibility allows him/her to determine whether or not deadlines will be met on budget and according to specifications. With knowing comes the power to devise mitigating actions, if needed, to ensure that everything goes as planned.

Through workflow automation, you get a central dashboard that provides managers this level of visibility. Further, built-in but customizable charts, graphs and templates make reports generation relatively instantaneous.

5. Best practices discovery

If you have top-notch database management, plus an efficient reporting tool, discovering best practices and areas for improvement doesn’t have to mean jumping through hoops.

6. Improved customer/partner relations

The ever-growing prominence of Web 2.0 applications has empowered customers in ways unheard of decades ago. Using role-based access controls (RBAC), you can grant your customers access to information that will help them better understand your products and processes, and a platform that affords them the chance to air their views that can, in turn, help you better what you offer.

Your supplier/vendor partners can similarly be allowed access to data that concern them, speeding up transactions entered into with them.

7. Cost efficiency

Businesses, big or small, are continually finding ways to cut down on costs. Errors, reworks and whatnot do not obviously contribute to this goal. Having a reliable software solution in place saves you not just time but the added cost of having to redo erroneous tasks that, if not spotted at the earliest possible instance, may cause your business to lose more money by failing to meet deadlines.

Conclusion

Automation may sound a tad too mechanical, if you’re all for personalization. But if you’re to survive in today’s business landscape, streamlining routine processes to maximize your resources sometimes is a no-brainer.

Image credit: photostock | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Comments

  1. For some of the routine tasks, I can see the benefit of workflow automation. But I could not contemplate a career where most of my tasks would be limited by a software checklist.


  2. Twitter:
    Great post. This is something that I will keep in mind as I develop my business. Anything to deal with all of the administrative tasks so that I can focus on the bigger picture is great. Thanks.
    Dr Sarita Jackson recently posted..APEC Summit and Asia’s Alternative Trade PolicyMy Profile


  3. Twitter:
    it is all about the synergistic effect caused by the team work.
    When we have a whole lot of team to accomplish certain task, the task becomes quite easy to handle and the results arrive on a very positive note.
    yogesh recently posted..Space Telescope: The James Webb Space TelescopeMy Profile


  4. Twitter:
    Automated business are a great thing to have start head with but do you think you can run a pretty successful business via autopilot.
    I think it is really hard to say like that
    SAJID recently posted..FIFA 14 free for iOS and AndroidMy Profile


  5. Twitter:
    Sajid, thanks for dropping by. It’s hard to run a business on autopilot, which is why automating repetitive tasks can save you a lot of time to properly run your business. :)
    Maricel Rivera recently posted..A Virus Got Me and I’m Stuck in a Room with No InternetMy Profile


  6. Twitter:
    Where is the fun of working on a business which is on autopilot?

    Kind regards,
    I. C. Daniel
    I. C. Daniel recently posted..Get Paid to Complete Surveys, Offers, Tasks and MoreMy Profile


    • Twitter:
      Hi, I.C.

      Thanks for chiming in.

      Based on your comment and some others before yours, I think the article has been misunderstood. You cannot run a business on autopilot because that’s not how businesses are run, especially in today’s fast-paced environment. The whole point of automation is work simplification, meaning, automate repetitive tasks (which also are usually the ones that are error-prone) so you’re left with more time to properly run your business.

      Let’s take email as an example. Business owners oftentimes receive lots of emails from clients, prospects, suppliers, contractors, etc. Now, if you get, say, hundreds of emails a day, surely, to sort through all those, you will have to burn up a good bit of time, time better utilized to run your business, right? This is where an email automation software becomes essential. That is, if you can’t afford a personal assistant.

      That’s just one example. In HR, there are things that need to be automated, too – filing of vacation leaves, tracking of benefits and all the other HR admin stuff that take up time if still being done manually. And then, there’s finance as well. The list can go on.

      I’m not sure, maybe it’s just the word “automation” that’s being misunderstood here. But at the core, given the pace at which things happen nowadays, it will be very difficult to keep up, if we insist on doing everything manually.

      Then again, not everything can be automated. And not everything has to be automated. Running a business is one of them.

      Thanks again and all the best,
      Maricel
      Maricel Rivera recently posted..Why Self-Confidence Is the #1 Weapon in a Freelance Writer’s ArsenalMy Profile


  7. Twitter:
    Automation can help so much to get more exposure and do more manual stuff in the time you are left with, thanks for your tips.
    Jafar Dhada recently posted..HTC One Price in IndiaMy Profile


  8. Twitter:
    I once worked with a certain company and we used workflow automation kind of a thing and it worked very well. The delivery per day was actually good and the manager used to be pleased by the whole team. I would also urge anyone who works with a team to introduce workflow automation or even share this post with them. Nice post. ~ Anetta
    Anetta Bursh recently posted..Facebook APK for Android DownloadMy Profile


  9. Twitter:
    Nice arguments for implementing this but workflow solutions cost a lot to design, develop, test, roll out and maintain. Do you have any suggestions workflow solutions which are lower cost? That might have been useful for smaller business owners that are more likely to read this website.
    goivvy recently posted..Steps To Increase Magento Site SpeedMy Profile


  10. Twitter:
    Hi Goivvy,

    Thanks for reading and chiming in. Let me point you to an article that lists down a few of these tools: getbusymedia [dot] com – 7 Mobile-Ready Productivity Tools for the Busy Entrepreneur. (Sorry, I tried including the link in here, but the ComLuv blog apparently doesn’t allow links in comments.)

    Some of the tools mentioned are free.Thanks again!


  11. Twitter:
    Hi Goivvy,

    Thanks for reading and chiming in. Let me point you to an article that lists down a few of these tools: getbusymedia [dot] com – 7 Mobile-Ready Productivity Tools for the Busy Entrepreneur. (I tried including the link to the article, but the ComLuv blog apparently doesn’t allow links in comments.) Some of the tools mentioned are free. Thanks again!


  12. Twitter:
    This is something new for me, I love this post and thanks for sharing this. This is really nice post.
    Prakash recently posted..InstaFrame for PC, InstaFrame for MAC, InstaFrame for AdnroidMy Profile

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