When thinking of business workflow automation, think of all the tasks or activities that you do every day or every week. Then, think of all the manual, repetitive, and menial tasks or activities that you do every day or week.
Now, automate them.
If you were a 90s kid, think of a Slinky going down a flight of stairs.
You set the Slinky right at the top of the stairs, give it a little nudge, and then it walks down the stairs on its own until it reaches the bottom.
Automation is kind of like that.
In this article, we will explain what business workflow automation is, how it works, and why it just might be one of the best things you can do for your team.
What is Business Workflow Automation?
Business workflow automation is an automated set or series of tasks, actions or events that occur within a workflow.
Workflow vs. Process: What’s the Difference?
A workflow is a series of repeatable activities that you need to carry out to finish a task.
A process is a set of repeatable activities that need to be carried out to accomplish or reach a higher-level organizational goal.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “those sound like exactly the same thing…” you aren’t wrong. The major difference between the two is the final output or end goal. Let’s clarify:
- A workflow involves completing a specific task.
- A process involves accomplishing an organizational goal.
If you read our blog on “What is a Process?”, we will refer to the same example of both a process and procedure here:
New Client Kick Off
Receive signed operating agreement.
Add client information into billing software.
Create a folder on Google Drive to store all client- and project-related files.
Add client project to master production calendar.
Schedule internal kick off meeting with team.
In this particular example, the “workflow” is made up of the list of tasks mentioned above. The process is kicking off a new client in a way that is efficient, organized, and ensures a seamless client experience.
Furthermore, “organizational goals” can be interpreted differently among teams. This is often why many use “process” and “workflow” interchangeably. Therefore, it’s important for teams to be on the same page when discussing workflows and processes.
For example, some leaders and team members might refer to their workflows as “automated processes”. In this context, the “process” is a high-level list of tasks that a project leader or team member is responsible for carrying out in order to ensure a client has a great onboarding experience. The great onboarding experience is the organizational goal.
On the other hand, a workflow is made up of the specific tasks that a team member must complete that are also in line with that high-level process.
How Do Teams Benefit from Business Workflow Automation?
Okay, so you get the point about what workflow automation is, but does it really help teams?
Here are some real-world examples by department or functional area:
- Capture all leads so none slip through the cracks
- Simplify the list-building process
- Save time from making phone calls, sending emails, and other touchpoints
- Receive reports related to the number of leads, contacts, and deals in the pipeline
- Lead qualifying and nurturing
- Streamline the content production process—and approvals along the way
- Collaborate on workflows with teammates in multiple locations
- Run multiple campaigns simultaneously
- Receive “help desk” or support tickets and assign to appropriate team members
- Assign tickets and escalations to available team members
- Deploy product features and web updates
- Schedule and perform regular backups
- Reduce technical debt
- Reduce time spent on recruiting candidates
- Setup and automate payroll processes
- Reduce paperwork and input errors
- Streamline employee onboarding/offboarding processes
- Organize document control policies and procedures
- Process payments for recurring invoices and bills
- Streamline purchase order issuing processes
- Reduce paperwork and input errors
- Streamline bookkeeping processes
How to Set Up Business Workflow Automation
At this point, you probably have a better idea of what business workflow automation is, and how it can help teams in some real-life examples.
Now, how do you do business workflow automation. How do you set it up? Where do you start?
Here is a quick step-by-step process on how to get started with business workflow automation for your team:
Step 1: Identify repetitive tasks and activities within your current workflows.
This goes back to the start of this article. Your first order of business is to think about all the things that your team needs to accomplish within a specific workflow. Again, refer to the examples in the previous section if you need to, to help you think of your own processes and workflows.
Step 2: Audit your existing workflows to see if they are right for automation.
Although business workflow automation might seem like it has wizardly powers (and it kind of does…), the truth is that not every workflow can be solved by automation. The processes and workflows that make the best candidates for business workflow automation have the following characteristics:
- They are repetitive.
- They are “mature”, meaning that your workflows aren’t brand new and have been utilized for some time, but could be better.
- They involve tasks or activities that are overly complex.
Once you’ve identified a good workflow to automate, the next step is to speak with your team. Are they overloaded with work or are struggling to complete certain tasks or activities on time? Are they open to the idea of automation? Team adoption and buy-in will be crucial to seeing the benefits and ROI from automation.
Step 3: Define goals.
After completing steps one and two above, now it’s time to think about what you want to get from automation. Here are a few examples of business workflow automation goals:
- Increase ROI
- Increase time-to-market
- Increase team productivity and velocity
- Reduce overhead costs
Although the benefits of business workflow automation are many, you will set your team up for success if you can clearly define goals.
Step 4: Map out and design your workflow.
Now we get to the good part: mapping out and designing your workflow. Take some time to draw out a process, and how that process would flow with automation. This might include building or setting up automated forms or integrating a suite of digital tools.
Step 5: Build your workflow into a workflow management system.
Once you’ve designed and mapped out your workflow, now it’s time to build it into an automated system. Build it according to your map and assign permissions and rules for each project team member or stakeholder.
Step 6: Train your team.
Once you get all the workflow system setup out of the way, now it’s time to train your team. Don’t forget to communicate the value and benefits of using business workflow automation software to your team. Focus on how it will help your team, saving them time and effort from doing repetitive and menial tasks, and taking them off their plates. If your team understands the value, they are more likely to use it. Encourage them to provide feedback!
Step 7: Measure KPIs and ROI.
Sure, setting up business workflow automation is a HUGE step in the right direction, however, your automation goals aren’t fully realized until you are able to measure performance and ROI, and any improvements it has made on previous processes.
Remember defining your goals for business workflow automation? You can measure the performance of your workflows by monitoring the following metrics:
- Number of tasks created vs. number of tasks completed\
- Velocity rate before and after workflow was developed
- Cost savings vs. costs spent on a workflow tool
- Estimated financial value vs. costs spent
Select the Best Business Workflow Automation Software for Your Team
Rindle is a workflow automation software that is designed to automate all different types of workflows. It is also easy to set up and use, encouraging team adoption and buy-in. Any team member can pick up the tool and use it, regardless of skill or experience level. It is also incredibly easy to make updates and adjustments to any existing workflow.
Build a new workflow with Rindle today for free to see how it can benefit your team in action.