Whether it’s marketing, sales, finance, or customer service, tedious, manual tasks are a part of everyday jobs in any team. According to the state of business automation report by Zapier, 94% of workers admit that they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
At the same time, 74% of managers and employees think their jobs could be partially automated. Realizing the need to streamline workflows, executives and business owners are increasingly pursuing new solutions such as workflow automation. Their goal: save time, money, and effort spent on manual tasks to redirect resources to higher-value tasks.
But as with all new solutions, adopting automation comes with many questions. What’s workflow automation? How does it work? How do businesses use it? This article has you covered.
What’s workflow automation?
Workflow automation refers to using technology and software to streamline and automate sequences of tasks. Users define a series of actions that must be performed to achieve that. As a result, they create a digital representation of a workflow and rules that dictate how each sequence step should be executed. Following the sequence, workflow automation software can handle manual business processes end-to-end.
Workflow automation aims to:
- relieve workers from the manual effort,
- enhance efficiency,
- minimize errors,
- reduce employee frustration,
- improve collaboration,
- enhance accountability,
- standardize task execution.
Workflow automation is a flexible tool that can be applied to various business processes in all departments.
How does workflow automation work?
Workflow automation implementation starts with identifying optimal processes and breaking them down into steps. Mapping the process onto a diagram or flowchart helps everyone involved learn more about the workflow, find potential challenges, and see which apps are used. First and foremost, this analysis enables you to assess if the workflow is suitable for automation and evaluate automation ROI.
Once you choose the process to automate and map out its steps, it’s time to configure the workflow steps. Workflow automation systems use an if-then, event-based logic. It serves as a blueprint for the software to follow when executing the sequence and how to move from one step to the next. With properly defined logic and conditions, the sequence can be performed end-to-end without human intervention.
These blueprints are made up of three main components:
- Triggers: Events that automatically initiate the workflow once they occur. Workflows can be triggered by various conditions, such as form completion, scheduled date, or data reaching a specific value.
- Actions: Steps that are performed in the sequence, like data entry, document approval, or sending notifications.
- Conditions: Conditions dictate how the system should execute actions depending on variable criteria. For instance, an approval process might follow different paths for different amounts requested.
Integrating third-party software used in the workflow is an important part of the configuration. Automating SAP, Salesforce, Jira, Slack, and other critical applications is necessary for the workflow to function correctly.
Before deploying your workflow automation, you must test it to see if it works as intended. Plug the workflow into test datasets to ensure that it produces the expected results without errors.
Still, no matter how well-programmed and carefully tested workflow automation is, exceptions will happen eventually. These exceptions may be business-related (e.g., missing or incomplete records that are required to perform a step) or caused by technical reasons (e.g., apps used in the process failing to load). In both cases, unexpected errors can bring the execution of the workflow to a halt.
Exception-handling systems help you handle errors differently depending on the event. For some actions, a simple retry may troubleshoot the problem; for others, the system may notify an employee to fix the issue. Exception handling can also be programmed to try an alternative approach. That’s why setting up methods of dealing with unexpected errors is vital during workflow automation implementation.
Workflow automation vs. RPA
If all that sounds familiar, you’re on the right track: in some respects, workflow automation and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) share some common characteristics. They both aim to streamline business processes and offer similar benefits.
Where they differ is scope.
Workflow automation focuses on streamlining and connecting all steps of a more extensive business process, such as employee onboarding or invoice management. RPA, on the other hand, replicates human behavior to automate individual tedious tasks like data entry or document verification.
Despite these differences, the two can successfully complement each other. Mapping step sequence before implementing workflow automation can reveal high-effort, manual tasks that can be expedited through RPA. In the combined approach, workflow automation links together individual tasks, which can be executed faster thanks to RPA.
It’s also worth mentioning that leading automation platforms such as UiPath and Power Automate combine both approaches to offer their users the best of the two worlds.
What is the best software for workflow automation?
Workflow automation tools combine mapping, configuring, monitoring, and other essential features you need to streamline business processes. But with dozens of workflow automation platforms, which one do you choose?
To help you out, we’ve selected five workflow automation platforms that will meet the needs of all organizations.
Easy-to-use and set-up automation software that offers thousands of integrations with popular business apps. Zapier serves as a connector between them, allowing users to automate multi-platform workflows seamlessly. With the free plan, users can automate up to 100 simple tasks per month, which makes it a good option for first-time workflow automation. Advanced users can also use Zapier’s developer platform to create custom applications for more complex sequences.
monday.com is a user-friendly project management platform with simple yet efficient workflow automation features and integrations. You can use one of its many purpose-made automation templates or build a custom workflow. The main focus is on standardizing and expediting workflows across teams by automating statuses, notifications, updates, comments, and other routine work management tasks. monday.com takes a visual approach, allowing managers to automate and monitor processes from customizable dashboards.
Low-code workflow automation software that relies on drag-and-drop automation design tools to facilitate visualizing and automating even complicated tasks. Pre-built process maps and automation templates allow you to develop workflow automations quickly. Its standout features include e-signatures that enable users to produce, share soon, and sign documents, as well as robust reporting, analytics, and monitoring. Overall, Nintex is a scalable platform suitable for businesses of any size.
Being an open-source workflow automation platform, Process Maker puts customization first. Automation developers can leverage API access to adjust the platform to their organization’s specific needs. On the other hand, Process Maker is built around an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows all users to design processes without coding. Similarly to monday.com, users can track workflows and KPIs from a configurable dashboard.
A scalable workflow automation tool targeted medium- and large-sized businesses with more complex automation requirements. Integrify focuses on enabling communication between departments during the implementation process. It also offers enhanced testing and auditing features for faster and more secure deployment. As a long-standing workflow automation company, Integrify offers exceptional customer support and consulting services.
Use-cases of workflow automation
Workflow automation is a flexible solution that can be applied in all industries. Let’s take a look at three success stories from various sectors.
Zoom x Nintex — rapid scaling through automation
Although the pandemic hampered the growth of most businesses, many others experienced a sudden surge in new users. One was Zoom, with a 354% increase in customers compared to the previous year. Zoom needed to expedite manual processes that used email and spreadsheets, such as order management, to accommodate that demand.
The company offloaded these processes to an automated integration between Zendesk and Salesforce built with Nintex that automates all steps from order intake through confirmation and provisioning. As a result, the automation now handles 90% of all orders, allowing Zoom to scale its customer base quickly.
Integrify x SONY — getting more from reporting.
As SONY added new features to its Network Entertainment service, its Content Operations team struggled to keep the platform updated and personalized without detailed metrics. SONY turned to Integrify to help improve its data capture and reporting tools.
Integrify’s solution was to improve ticket request prioritization and categorization. The deployment was entirely cloud-based, eliminating the need to install software and reducing the overall implementation time. The results came in quickly: SONY achieved an ROI in less than three months, reducing workflow costs by over 30% and the process management cycle by half.
monday.com x Canva — creative campaigns on a global scale
Canva, an online visual design platform, was going through a period of hypergrowth that overwhelmed its creative and marketing teams. To efficiently manage project progress, creative requests, and new employee onboarding while launching ad campaigns in over 20 new markets, Canva needed help.
The answer was threefold: automate creative request management, increase project status transparency, and improve communication through automated Slack notifications. The team did all that using monday.com, replacing 657 manual actions, increasing creative output three times, and reducing production time by 40%.
What’s workflow automation got to offer your business?
Zooming beyond individual tasks is essential when looking for new ways to optimize business operations. By looking at workflows, organizations can get a complete picture of their processes and automate them from start to finish, achieving more with less.
At Flobotics, we know everything about automation, whether it’s relegating high-effort tasks to bots or improving business processes end-to-end. Get in touch to hear what workflow automation has to offer you.
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