How To Prepare For An Effective Automation Of Your Workflow
One of the non-negotiable priorities in any business is being able to improve efficiency and productivity. That’s where the importance of workflow automation plays an important role. Machines are starting to perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks on behalf of people. Such automation is changing work and commerce as we know it.
Business automation and robotics have become more mainstream in the past few years. At least 58% of businesses have now embedded artificial intelligence in one or more functions in the company. So any business that isn’t still applying automation into their business workflows needs to start jumping on the bandwagon if they don’t want to get left behind.
What is workflow automation and why does my business need it?
Simply put, workflow automation is the process of automating human tasks, data, and file routing between individuals or systems. The application of artificial intelligence can facilitate your workflow by having bots carry out simple and repetitive tasks instead of humans. Think of having your own system that can churn out tasks like encoding, analysis, approval, notification, and many more at a faster and more accurate pace.
What are the benefits of workflow automation? There are many ways that workflow automation can benefit a business. Here are some of the most prevalent.
- Streamlined operations. Streamlining processes is an activity as old as commerce itself. We’re always trying to find better ways to do jobs faster and more precisely. Once people built simple machines like levers and wheels to do that. Today, we’re using computer learning to achieve streamlined processes.
- Productive staff. With automation in place, staff can focus on more high-performance activities. Sales teams can keep networking and strategizing. Marketers can keep conceptualizing campaigns. Accountants can keep discovering better ways to save company resources. All menial jobs like data scraping, lead generation, and approval can now be completed by a bot.
- Lesser error. When a bot that doesn’t get distracted or exhausted does a repetitive task, there’s less chance that it’ll make any mistakes. In all senses, it’s putting in a well-oiled machine to do a job with more accuracy.
- Improved sales. Studies show that companies that automate their business processes have a sales increase of up to 20% or better.
Determining what processes to automate
Of the tasks that businesses-whether large or small-can automate, there are very few limits. Here are some of the processes that you can automate in your business today using workflow management and automation tools.
Client relationship management
The heart of any business growth strategy is lead generation. Manually scouring for leads and putting them through a funnel can be tedious. In the process, many of those leads-sadly sometimes even hot ones-fall through the cracks. By building a CRM tool and automating tasks like reminders, email send-outs, follow-ups, and lead qualifying, sales teams can become more effective at turning potential customers into actual paying clients.
Electronic document management
Documents are a necessity in business operations. We use electronic documents for all kinds of activities, including accounting, billing, project management, and so on. Managing those documents can be very tedious and time-consuming. By putting a system that automates processes like organization, notifying people of new documents, analysis, archiving, and so on, business operators can save hours every week and redirect that time towards more important management tasks.
A workflow automation software can also take care of approvals of budget requests, project initiation, and so on. Computer learning systems can now do more than process and organize documents. They can also read and analyze them. For instance, an automated system can determine if a document like a request or a report has missing fields. The system then informs the document's author providing a list of the fields to be completed.
Billing and accounting
Any business that struggles with pending accounts receivables knows how that can cause many operational delays and deadweight loss. An average company will have multiple accounts receivables from clients, which causes many issues to the company’s bottom line. Automated systems can take care of the follow-up process and save billing departments the hassle of having to follow up on missed invoices.
There are many automation tools for sales departments and customer service staff that help streamline customer relations. One of the most common expressions of customer AI is chatbot creation. A chatbot can respond to customers with canned responses so that response times decrease and customers get responses to concerns in a shorter time.
Workflow automation can also aid in the project management process. A common use-case scenario is task deadline automation, the process of placing time limits and deadlines to certain tasks and setting up notifications for any delays. Workflow automation can also take into account certain unforeseen factors such as staff leaves, official days off, holidays, and so on to adjust a deadline as needed.
Systems can also detect multiple missed deadlines for case escalation to the proper executives so that certain issues get addressed before it becomes a recurring problem that causes the company delays and concerns.
Steps to creating an automation
Now that we know what kinds of tasks and business operations a workflow automation system can streamline, the next step would be to build out an automated workflow. Here are the necessary steps to automate a manual process.
Step 1 | Model
Business process automation generally starts with creating a model to follow. Think of this as the blueprint before constructing a building. The modeling process helps avoid any major issues when building out the automation. It’s at this phase that key creators and tech support staff can flesh out all the possibilities and ideate on functionalities they would like to see in a system.
Step 2 | Execute
The next step is to execute the model in an automation system. At this point, business process teams will need to have a workflow automation tool ready. The importance of workflow automation software selection depends on three factors.
- Applications. Knowing the business applications and functions will help you select the best tool for the job. Do your best to land on the least number of tools that can provide the automation you will need.
- Cost. Not all workflow automation systems are alike in pricing. Choosing the tool that offers the best value-for-money is key to determining what tool to use for the long run. Take note that some tools might charge set-up fees so factor that into your costing.
- User experience. Most people in charge of systems are those with a business management career and not necessarily a tech background. So it’s important that the user experience be simpler and less technical. That’s why there is now an emphasis on low-code solutions.
Step 3 | Monitor and Improve
The thing about workflow automation and the application of AI is that they evolve with time. We learn better ways to streamline processes and use them to improve our systems. It’s recommended that the companies that use automated software set regular maintenance checks to see if a tool has any bugs or issues. Assign a team to monitor the automations and come up with ways to improve them along the way.
Will robots take over our jobs?
The million-dollar question people ask in the light of artificial intelligence progress is “will a bot replace me at work?” 11% of employers look to use automation as a substitute for human labor. While it’s assuring employees that the number is low, it should still be a challenge for workers to find ways to use automations to their advantage and adapt accordingly. Treat AI as an opportunity for career growth by learning how to use these tools to remain a linchpin in the workplace.