What is Workflow Automation and How Can You Keep It Simple?
A Practical Guide to Workflow Automation
What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation comes in lots of forms. Complex workflow software can be costly. Often the best solution is simple software that automates in minutes. Workflow automation is any series of automated actions created to carry out regular business processes between people or systems. Tasks that need repeating frequently can feel like an ineffective use of time for managers that could be better spent in more important areas. That’s where workflow automation comes in.
What does Workflow Automation Look Like?
When many think of workflow software and workflow automation, they will often picture something similar to the process flow diagram above. While, in the past, all workflow automation would have been carried out this way, there are now more intuitive and sophisticated forms available. Unlike ‘box and line’ diagrams, workflow software characterized by simpler concepts, such as checklists, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), or Kanban, that require little-to-no training. It is because of this progression in the simplicity of workflow software that more managers have been able to automate processes within their businesses.
How does it Save Time?
By automating the work that is required for the coordination, management, and execution of processes, workflow automation means that businesses not only work efficiently, but more effectively as a team. This is because, through automated processes, structure and accountability is guaranteed. With less time is spent on repetitive manually-intensive processes, a team can work to their own individual strengths to further progress a business, not just maintain it. Employee onboarding, for example, requires a routine and consistent approach within a HR department to make sure that employees are confident in their new role. An automated SOP can be a remarkably effective way to break down the individual components that go into onboarding, meaning that everything is accounted for. By designating clearly what the task is and who is doing it in an automated workflow, the risk of error, miscommunication or oversight is reduced dramatically. For automated employee onboarding, the time-efficient benefits are dramatic. By receiving the training and knowledge they require as soon as they need it, new employees will feel confident in the business and able to quickly become an active member of the team.
Example: How does Workflow Automation help CRMs?
When it comes to customer interaction, the details are crucial. Whether it is a refined customer relationship management process or email marketing campaign, a comprehensive understanding of customers and their past actions is crucial. From the collection of data relating to a customer, to billing systems, there is a lot of work that surrounds customer onboarding and future relationship management. By guaranteeing that important information relating to a customer is collected straight away and implemented routinely, future sales and customer retention can be improved considerably. With a successful CRM system or marketing campaign often involving a number of individuals in a team, workflow automation’s advantages have a direct effect on the quality of customer interaction:
- Structured CRM processes that can be refined
- Tailored customer experience from automated data collection
- Improved workload management so tasks are done effectively
- Efficient task coordination
- Reduced risk of error from manual handling of tasks
Business Departments and Processes that Benefit from Workflow Automation
Any business department can benefit from workflow automation. Here are some of the most commonly automated business processes:
|Employee Onboarding||Proposal Review and Approval||Procurement|
|Employee Termination||Pricing Discount Approval||Invoicing and Approval|
|Vacation or Leave Requests||Sales Quote Review and Approval||Product Pricing|
|Performance Reviews||IT/IS||Vendor Management|
|HR Project Management||Account Onboarding||Legal|
|HR Work Requests||IT Security||Contract Reviews|
|Candidate Tracking||Work Requests||Client Onboarding|
|Marketing||New Project Requests||Litigation Holds|
|Content Review and Approval||Expense Review and Approval||Resource Scheduling|
|Campaign Approvals||Capital Expenditure Requests||Access to Facilities|
|Expenditure Approvals||Move Requests|
|Pay Change Approval||Office Relocations|
How to Automate your Existing Workflows
At TeamworkIQ, automating your existing workflows is as simple as typing them up in a word document. TeamworkIQ does the rest for you. While traditional workflow software is effective at dealing with larger standardized procedures, the extensive costs, training and people required to use it often outweigh the benefits. TeamworkIQ’s innovatively simple workflow automation software is perfect for businesses that want instant results. Simply type out the way in which you are already managing workflow manually over email or in meetings, for example, and TeamworkIQ’s smart checklists will automate it for you.
Example: How to Automate your Candidate Tracking Process
The recruiting, interviewing and hiring of employees is a process that every business is familiar with to some degree. With the recruitment process being the first impression potential employees will have of your business, it is crucial that there are no mistakes or gaps. Anything less than professional is likely to deter the best candidates. That’s why it is best to have an effective and time-efficient automated workflow process in place. Simply type up the steps of your candidate tracking process and assigning the individual tasks to individuals or broader job roles as shown in our template below.
What Workflow Automation System Should my Business use?
To begin automating workflow processes, simply type out the individual tasks and subtasks of the process. If there is a specific person that needs to complete a task, begin typing out their name with an ‘@’ beforehand and they will be alerted to it. If a task is for a group of people, all that is required is their role to be typed out in the same way. For deadlines, TeamworkIQ’s software is able to smartly identify dates for you by calculating them from phrases such as “2 days after the start of the process”. Similarly, it can also identify dates by terms such as “next Wednesday” or “the first day of the month”. These tasks can then be tracked, with notifications of completion or delays being automatically sent your way. If workflows require further detail, conditional logic can be added easily within the software’s clear interface or further details can be attached to tasks in the form of instructions, videos, images, links and more. Have a look through some of TeamworkIQ’s templates to see how this intuitive workflow automation software works in action.
Workflow automation is related, and sometimes confused, with business process management (BPM), case management solutions, and business decision management (BDM):
• Business Process Management
Unlike workflow automation software, BPM is concerned with outcomes rather than regular processes. This kind of process management is something that, when done successfully, is concerned with identifying how to improve processes rather than carry them out repeatedly.
• Case Management
Case management works to improve a business’s performance by understanding all related case information ahead of the process itself, unlike workflow and BPM. Case management solutions are there to address and improve the overall outcome of multiple interrelated processes, not just one.
• Business Decision Management
At the foundation of all BDM systems is a business rules management system. This is a kind of software that gathers and references any required data needed to make effective and consistent decisions. BDM can, therefore, be used to decide whether to move forward with projects based on relevant data.
Start Building an Automated Workflow
Unlike other workflow automation software, processes can be automated within minutes with TeamworkIQ. From its simple and intuitive design, to its sophisticated functionality, processes can be automated at a fraction of the time and price of other software. Sign up for a 14 day free trial to put TeamworkIQ’s instant workflow automation to work for you today.
Keep Workflow Actionable and Collaborative
The first workflows you create with TeamworkIQ should be simple in scope and seek to solve your immediate needs. They can always be further refined and updated. TeamworkIQ provides built-in revision control tools so that one version of the workflow can remain in use while updated versions are being created, then rolled out. It’s better to get something into use that guides team members through a process now, then it is to strive for ultra-detailed perfection. When you use the templates and the examples above, you’ll be on the right track for a clear and concise workflow.
Remember to set your standards and scope and be consistent and clear in your steps then test, asses, fix and finalize. With these steps in mind, you will be able to develop a concise workflow template – no matter how detailed or complex the process is.
Let us know if you found this article helpful and share your tips and workflow examples in the comments below. To discover more about using TeamworkIQ to not only document your workflows, but automate the process it describes, get in touch today.
Automate processes in minutes. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
When typing up a process, simply outline who needs to do what. Reuse checklists as templates for recurring processes and standard procedures.
- Use numbered lists to outline step-by-step processes. Mix in regular bullets for work that can happen in any order.
- Add approval actions with one or more approvers.
- Attach files, capture and share data using form fields. * (coming soon)