Every company has tons of work that requires a defined set of tasks in sequential order. They are repeated regularly and have a step-by-step procedure. If companies were to automate these repeatable processes, also called business workflow, they would save a lot of effort and time, which they can use elsewhere. This blog lets us learn more about business workflow and the top reasons why businesses must automate these workflows.
What Is A Business Workflow?
A business workflow is a repeatable process that consists of tasks to be completed sequentially. It is simply the steps that a process flows through before it gets completed. Workflows occur across every industry, and every time a set of data is passed between humans and systems. They are the paths that describe how work goes from being undone to done. Since workflows have a set of steps that need to be completed, it ensures that the process is properly done each time.
Top Benefits Of Automating Business Workflow
The business workflow, as mentioned earlier, can be automated using technology. This shifts the responsibility of humans’ work to machines, thus minimizing manual efforts. here are some of the top benefits of automating business workflow
- Saves Time
Workers spend a lot of time on administrative work like collecting information, approving paperwork, and processing documents.
- Minimizes Errors
Manual slip-ups, inefficiency points, and delays are inevitable. Automating workflows allow businesses to eliminate the risk of error, making the process smoother.
- Reduces Cost
Organizations lose a lot of money due to inefficient processes. By switching to automated workflows, companies can minimize errors, thus eliminating the cost of fixing issues.
- Increases Productivity
When cumbersome tasks are automated through digital solutions, multiple processes can be completed simultaneously, thus increasing the organization’s productivity.
- Increases Efficiency
A process becomes efficient when a great outcome is achieved through less effort. When the tasks are automated, workers do not have to put in much effort while still getting completed effectively, thus increasing efficiency.
- Standardizes Processes
An automated process is performed as a consistent workflow with each step followed systematically until you get a standard outcome every time. Therefore we can say that automation is a great shortcut to standardization.
- Provides Auditable Records
Each phase of an automated process is always recorded in an audit trail. This allows tracking of documents involved, mapping their course and timing. Such control improves processes’ accuracy and reliability and provides organizations with auditable records that can be useful in the future.
- Ensures Compliance
As everything is traceable and under control, automation ensures better compliance with relevant regulations.
Examples Of Automated Business Workflow
Here are 5 examples of automated business workflow that could help your business
A task management system set up to the automated workflow can ensure that tasks are not undone or missed. In addition, they can notify the assigned person about the task and check back on him for updates.
An automated workflow can be used to create and send invoices on a set schedule, thus reducing the load off of workers.
Lead management tasks like going through customer inquiries, populating CRM systems with relevant information, routing the lead to the sales team, etc., can be automated to focus on many important tasks.
Reimbursing Employee Expenses
Workflow automation can simplify long and time consuming processes like reimbursement of employee expenses.
Onboarding New Employees
Workflow automation can speed up processes like recording new employee details by having new employees input their information and submit it directly to the human resources staff.
Major Business Workflow Processes Every Organization Should Automate
Here are some of the business workflow processes every organization should automate to make their operations easier. These processes are likely to be there in most organizations, and automating them will help them save a lot of time and effort.
1. Document Approval Workflow
The document approval workflow begins with creating a draft and self-review before sending it to the manager for approval. If it is rejected, the document is sent back with comments of updates. The updated document is then sent for approval. Once approved, the final document will be saved and sent to the respective stakeholders.
2. Expense Approval Process
Expense claim is an important activity for all the companies’ teams, and the finance team can reduce their burden with a stream; in the workflow for the review process. An expense form is filled with receipt attachments and comments and is sent for approval in this process. The method may have the option to reject or clarify the items in the expense request.
3. Leave Approval Workflow
The leave approval workflow is one of the simplest and most often used workflows that every organization can automate. First, the leave request form is filled out by an employee and sent to the respective manager for review and approval. Then, the system can automatically notify the employees to plan their vacation.
How Can I Create and Manage Automated Business Workflow?
You can use many tools to digitize your workflows, but you need to find a tool that helps you automate the process as much as possible to manage them better. The most important thing you require for automating workflows is workflow management software. They allow you to create a visual representation of the workflow, including conditional tasks and exceptions. Also, the best tools will let you create a robust form that acts as a carrier of all the data required to complete the process correctly. The user fills out this form, and the softwares takes care of its movement through the workflow until the task is completed.
Most workflow management softwares are only towards process workflows, i.e., the predictable and repetitive ones. However, organizations must find a solution to handle case and project workflows from a single platform. And to do the same, organizations that are serious about workflow management usually have a central workflow management software that each department can use to create their workflows.
Automated vs Manual Business Workflow
The basic difference between automated workflows and manual workflows is that-
In manual workflows, a human is responsible for pushing each item from one task to the other. However, in an automated workflow, after the human initially completes the task, they are not responsible for passing the data to the next task. Rather the workflow is programmed to handle it. In short, the system manages the flow of functions, including notifications, deadlines, and reminders.
Tracking items is much easier in automated workflows when compared to manual workflows. It instantly shows the item’s status after each task is completed, while manual workflows require manual updation on spreadsheets and other notifying processes to update the status.
Business Workflow vs Business Processes
You may wonder if business workflow and business processes are the same. Well, the answer is no. While workflows only describe the sequence of tasks, a method is a broader term that includes data, forms, reports, and notifications required to get an item from start to end in a structured environment.
Here are some of the differences between business workflow and business processes.
- Workflows are created by listing out steps and tasks. On the other hand, processes require a broader set of actors, data, reports, and business impact.
- Workflows focus on moving a task to completion, while a process focuses on achieving a key business goal.
- Workflows are tactical, and processes are strategic.
The Main Phases of Automating A Business Process
The main phases of business process automation are as follows. Since all major workflows follow the same pattern, we could also consider these steps as phases of automating workflows.
Step 1 – Document the current manual process, i.e., the process flow.
Step 2 – Visualize the newly automated process flow.
Step 3 – Identify the right tool for automating the workflow.
Step 4 – Design the newly automated process in the selected software and deploy.
How To Streamline Your Business Processes And Workflow In 2022
Streamlining business processes and workflows makes it more efficient as it reduces the amount of time an employee needs to carry out the operation. It also minimizes errors and increases productivity that employees can use to accomplish more prioritized goals. Proper streamlining of processes can also result in employee satisfaction, enhance collaboration and improve customer satisfaction. Sounds amazing? Well, here are some key strategies that you can use to streamline your business processes and workflows-
- Assess current processes and workflows
Take a close look at all the existing processes and workflows in your business and identify the ones which are likely to benefit from streamlining. Asking the employees who do the task can help you get exact information regarding the working of the process and its uses. You should also document the currently running workflow, the people involved, each person taking the time to complete their part, and the result. You must also consider how important that particular task is for the organization.
- Evaluate the costs
As you document the processes, you must also pay special attention to the cost involved with each of them. You must calculate the number of resources they consume in employee time, supplies, and technology. Once you have figured out a budget required to carry out the processes, you can determine which ones should be prioritized for streamlining.
- Consider what can be automated.
Organizations use automation to streamline various core business processes like invoicing, expense reports, employee onboarding, and more. Automation can also simplify industry-specific processes like insurance claim adjustments and patient billing. As you review the current operations, you must also consider which ones would most benefit from automation.
- Look at your skills and expertise.
Once you have picked a task to streamline, consider who will be responsible for executing the process improvement. You must assign a project leader who will primarily be responsible for improving workflows and assign them with at least one executive sponsor. If your company is streamlining workflows for the first time, you may not have enough internal skill sets to execute the process successfully. In that case, you must decide how you will fulfill this requirement- either by partnering with a process automation company or by engaging a consulting firm.
- Do a cost-benefit analysis.
Once you know the rough costs of each of your existing processes, consider the investment you will need to make to streamline them, including employee time, technology, and consulting fees. Once you have this information, it will be easier to compare and analyze the cost and benefits of each of these processes.
- Rank and prioritize processes
Now it is time to organize the process changes in priority. With all the collected information, you must have discovered that some processes are either interrelated or redundant and can be striked off. The rest of the processes can be organized as lists with the most prioritized ones at the top.
- Select a process to streamline first
Now that you have a priority-based list of processes that need to be streamlined, you can choose the most prioritized yet less risky method to streamline first, as you do not want to test run with a large or complex process. Then, once you have completed streamlining a fairly easier process, you can choose a more complex or larger process.
Workflow Automation Trends For Businesses In 2022
Automation is sure to see more growth and popularity in the years to come. This has made business operations so much smoother and easier, which means companies are not going back to their manual task operations ever again. So, here are the top trends in process and workflow automation that we can look forward to in 2022.
- Automation as a growth strategy
Workflow automation gives organizations opportunities to improve processes and data integrity, save labor costs, speed up ROI and improve employee morale. In 2022, organizations must closely examine and decide on which workflow automation technologies they must adopt to have a robust growth strategy. They must also find solutions on how to ensure information security and control.
- Low code and no code adoption
The pandemic has forced many organizations to digitize their operations. This sudden change has led them to face skill shortages and skill gaps within their teams while facing intense time pressures. They require faster solutions for app development that require less effort and low code is the answer. It enables rapid scaling, business continuity, and ease of deployment- the three essential requirements of businesses during this crisis.
- Process automation at levels higher than RPA bots
RPA bots achieve automation at a task level and improve productivity in a specific area of operation. On the other hand, automation at the process or workflow level enables overall efficiency and can help organizations to scale and optimize costs. Therefore, a combination of task-specific RPA bots and digital process automation will provide a more intelligent automation strategy for the company.
- Multi-cloud environments
2022 is likely to see large-scale increases in cloud data storage and application deployment. However, cloud infrastructure will become more complex, and complicated business processes will require various cloud services from different providers.
- Hyper automation
Hyper automation focuses on discovering the processes that require or benefit from automation and then using various process automation solutions and techniques like AI, RPA, and low code platforms to automate them. Hyper automation is rapidly shifting from an option to a key survival condition, and its various tools have proved to be essential ingredients for architecting and addressing critical business demands.
In this digital world, the most critical competitive element for businesses is technology. Companies that integrate the latest technologies tend to always be ahead of their competitors. This is because technology enables faster and more efficient working conditions for businesses. One of the most trending and highly popular advancements in business operations is automating processes and workflows. Since most organizations implement automation, it reduces the time consumed to complete a process, improves efficiency and productivity by eliminating errors, and saves cost. ‘Faster with less effort’ is the motto of the current digital world, and automation does the exact same thing.