Workflow automation can be an excellent way for businesses to improve efficiencies in executing tasks and business processes.
By using various workflow automation tools, it’s now relatively easy to automate repetitive tasks that don’t require higher-order thinking, which in turn can help your business eliminate human error. At the same time freeing your employees’ valuable time so they can spend it on core tasks that will result in more productivity.
Here, we will discuss all you need to know about workflow automation and how you can easily automate your business process workflow in no time.
Should You Automate Your Workflow?
First things first, automation is not always the best solution. Some manual tasks and processes are better left as it is for several reasons:
- Automating the said task might be too expensive, and so you won’t be able to justify the costs
- It’s faster and/or more accurate to execute manually
- Automating the task is simply impossible, for example, when the process is too complex and requires human supervision/intervention
With that being said, how should we decide when to automate a task? Here are some important considerations:
- You have to do the task frequently
The most apparent reason to automate a task or process is when the task must be performed routinely and frequently.
By automating these tasks, you’ll get immediate benefits since you and your team will have more time available that would otherwise be spent on these repetitive tasks.
So, make a list of the tasks you perform most frequently, and they should be your top candidates for automation.
- The tasks don’t require complex decision-making
Another key consideration is whether a task requires human supervision/intervention or not. If, for example, the task requires a high degree of creativity and emotional intelligence, then automating it might be difficult/expensive, if not impossible.
However, if the task is fairly simple/easy and boring to execute, then implementing automation should be fairly easy and cost-effective.
- If the tasks take employees away from their core competencies
Even if the task is relatively easy/simple to execute, you should consider automating tasks that keep your employees away from what they should be doing: the tasks that can contribute more to achieving your business goals.
If, for example, a task takes half an hour of your employee’s time that can otherwise be used to accomplish core business functions, then you should consider automation.
- It involves data transfer and conversion
Transferring data from one app to another and from one format to another is essentially just a copy-and-pasting task: it is very dull. Still, it can be time-consuming, especially with the lengthy export/rendering process for specific file types.
It would be best if you considered automating tasks primarily about transferring data between one app to another.
How To Automate Your Business Process Workflow
By using the above criteria, by now, you would choose the process or task you’d like to automate. The next step is to prepare this task/process for automation, and while the process might vary depending on the unique requirements of the tasks, here are the common steps to follow:
- Gather as much information about the process/task
First, identify the person (or team) that frequently performs the task or process. They will be a great source of information for the task you’ll automate, so gather as much information as you can.
Automation is based on creating a predefined set of rules, so the more details you can gather, the more defined these rules can be.
Ask questions like how this workflow was executed in the past, have there been any significant modifications, and why. Be very careful when there are changes in the workflows that are actually caused by departmental politics, so don’t make any assumptions.
- Identify the purpose and objective
What is your goal of automating this task or process? Your objective can be:
- Saving time
- Improving cost-efficiency
- Track performance better
- Reduce waste
- Take more work off your employee’s time
And so on.
Your primary objective might affect how you will automate this task, so don’t try to achieve all of these, but keep your focus.
- Create a workflow diagram
The next crucial step is to create a detailed workflow diagram. You can use workflow automation and management software to help with the process and the fundamental steps of automating your task.
You’d want to keep each workflow diagram as minimal/short as possible, and if necessary, you can break down more extensive processes into smaller workflows. The shorter the workflow is, the lower the risks for errors, and the easier it will be to test the workflow.
However, be very careful about the details of your workflow diagram. While you should keep them short, make sure they are as detailed as possible.
- Test the automation
You should test the automated task by comparing its performance with the previous unautomated task’s performance.
Involve those who used to perform the task and all parties involved, and ask for their feedback.
Ensure all of your parallel branches, conditional paths, and so on are working correctly, and use different variable inputs to make sure the automated task is working as intended.
Your automated task is ready to go live. Again, involve the users and gather as much feedback as you can so you can make the necessary adjustments.
Workflow automation can be very beneficial for businesses that want to improve the efficiency of their business process. By automating repetitive tasks that don’t require human decision-making, we can free up our employees’ time to focus on more crucial tasks while reducing the occurrence of human errors.