You have probably heard of artificial intelligence and what it is capable of. You might be familiar with Terminator and robots but this isn’t the artificial intelligence from sci-fi movies, but rather a real-world tool that can help businesses increase their efficiency. This is but one tool though in the gradual move toward a more efficient workspace. Technology has given businesses a great opportunity to change how they operate by automating various processes and procedures within the company. For many companies, this is becoming increasingly essential as they need to look for ways to not only save money but also take some of the load off their overstretched workforce. This is especially important as we leave the dark days of the Covid pandemic behind. All of this is called workflow automation, and it is an important part of the business world and will continue to be in the future.
What is workflow exactly? Workflow is the stream of processes and functions that move tasks through the machinery of your company both literally and figuratively. To put it more simply, workflow is how various tasks move through your company. For example, You receive an invoice from a service you used, the invoice is sent to the procurement department to be confirmed, and it is then sent to the finance department to be paid. This chain of events is called workflow. These tasks are how companies work and they take a lot of time and energy from your employees who could otherwise be working on tasks that are more in the direction of revenue increases. This is why being able to automate these tasks is great. When you can remove these trifling day-to-day tasks, you can speed up the flow of these processes.
Understanding the Importance of Workflow Automation Strategy
When you are running or managing a business it is understandable to want to automate your workflow, but this is not as easy as waving a wand around. You will need some sort of strategy first in order to implement the automation system so that it will be effective, and the transition will be seamless. The steps to making a strategy are not complicated either. The main things will be identifying your pain points (areas where you are having trouble or progress is slow) and then researching what you need to do. There is more to it than this obviously but these are some of the key things to keep in mind regarding making a strategy to automate your business and make it more productive and efficient. For businesses, having a strategy to implement workflow automation isn’t just about getting ahead but also about not being left behind.
There are some consequences for a business that fails to automate its workflow. By not having a strategy for addressing mundane and routine tasks, a business can expect to fall further behind in terms of delivery times to customers, as well as customer satisfaction since more and more time will be spent on addressing things that could otherwise be automated. This may not sound like a big deal at first, I mean after all why not just work harder and not automate? The answer to this is that your competition is using all the tools at their disposal to automate whatever they can and improve their response time. For companies that do automate, the first thing that they will need to do to not get left behind is to analyze their own processes and potential failings.
Identifying and Analyzing Business Processes for Automation
The first step when making any improvements in your business is to find out where the improvements can be made. The best way to evaluate what can be automated is by asking two questions. What can be automated? And will benefit from automation. Not all processes can be automated, so you should first evaluate that. Secondly, once you have made a list of your processes that can be automated, you will be able to evaluate which ones should be automated. These are often processes such as sending documents from one department to another. Tasks related to sending out emails and communication, invoices, and potentially many other procedures. Once you have determined where the improvements should be implemented, then you can go about making the strategy for automating the workflow.
Best Practices for Mapping Out Workflow Automation Process
One of the ways we can analyze and understand how we can automate workflow is called mapping. Mapping in this context means mapping out the process and information/task flows within your company. To do this, there are some best practices to follow. These best practices lay out how you can look at your processes and chart them to see what can be automated and what should be automated. The first step in this in terms of best practices is to list the tasks and put them in order of how they are done. This allows you to first get a picture of what you are dealing with in terms of tasks. Another set of best practices involves creating a workflow process chart. This is a chart usually with arrows that shows how documents and tasks move through your company, who is doing them, and how long it takes to do them. Lastly, you can evaluate the pain points. These pain points are areas where your company has troubles such as a bottleneck where one person receives too much relative to what they can accomplish which in turn can cause a company-wide slowdown. By following these best practices, you will be able to map out and understand what your company does and what should be automated.
Implementing Workflow Automation: Key Considerations and Challenges
The first thing to think about when automating workflow is how to do it and what should be automated. This might not sound like it, but this is the easy part. There are many tools and processes that can be used to automate your tasks in a company. These could be some automatic features such as an email manager such as MailChimp, a CRM such as Salesforce, or many other tools. Another useful tool for automating your workflow is a PDF editor. If you have an online PDF editor such as Lumin PDF then there are a myriad of other functions that you can do while automating your workflow such as using a merge PDF tool, converting them into a different format for storage, and many other useful features.
The more challenging part as is often the case is the human part. It can sometimes be a challenge to bring your people along when it comes to workflow automation since it could mean big changes to their daily work and in some cases threaten their positions. This can be solved by being honest and bringing them in as part of the process. Listen to their feedback and consult with them along the way and things will go a lot smoother.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Your Workflow Automation Strategy.
Ultimately, the only way to measure the effectiveness of your workflow automation is to measure the results quantitatively. Once you have finished the process, it is advisable to once again map out your company in a flow chart and compare after the fact how things have progressed, what has helped, and what could continue to change. Remember automation is a process, not an end goal.