Everyone wants to know how they can take their workflow and automate it so that they don't have to worry about repetitive tasks and human error anymore. But with all the tools on the market, how do you decide which one is best for your needs? In this post, we'll explore some things to consider when choosing a tool for your company's workflow automation needs.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation is the use of business process management software to create, monitor, and edit defined steps within a workflow. These workflows are typically created to define specific tasks that must be completed before moving on in an automated system. The entire goal behind this type of automation is to streamline the overall process so that there isn't any downtime or unnecessary handoffs between various team members. This can save time while also decreasing costs, by limiting mistakes caused by human error along the way.
For example, an insurance company may use workflow automation to ensure the claims process runs smoothly. All files are routed, monitored, and approved at each step along the way, without any human intervention necessary. This type of system can save time while also reducing costs, by decreasing mistakes caused through human error in routing or approving documents.
At every stage of the claims process, all data is stored on one platform, which makes it easy for employees to access pertinent information at any time throughout their workday. For instance, a claim may require hospital records from three years ago that need to be obtained by mail instead of email, due to HIPAA regulations. This entire task can be completed within minutes, with no additional human effort, since everything was already in place and ready to go at the very beginning of that workflow.
Who should use workflow automation?
Workflow automation can be used by businesses of all sizes, for various reasons. The overall goal remains the same, though—to increase efficiency and save time, while also decreasing costs.
Smaller companies may also use workflow automation as a way to handle simple tasks like expense reporting or invoice processing, since they can't afford their own dedicated IT department. Larger companies could implement this type of software in order to manage more complex processes, like billing cycles or inventory management, which would typically require much more human effort. This can potentially lead to costly mistakes, due to overworked employees along the way, if left unmanaged.
Why is it important?
Workflow automation is important because it empowers you to streamline your business with a minimal investment of time and money. This can lead to increased profits, since employees are now able to focus more time on other tasks, which may have been pushed to the back burner due to a previous lack of available hands.
When do you need workflow automation?
Workflow automation can be implemented at any stage in a business. It all depends on the amount of input that needs to go into each step along the way, and how much oversight is required by managers or executives before moving forward without human intervention.
For instance, a company may choose to automate the invoicing process in order to increase efficiency and meet deadlines more quickly. In that case, workflow automation would decrease or eliminate human error by allowing for simple tasks like sending an invoice from one platform that's then routed through various approval steps, before being sent out into the world, where it can be paid by a client with minimal effort on their end after receiving the notification email.
What are some things that you should consider when looking at workflow automation tools?
Here's a list of some major considerations before investing in this type of tool:
The overall cost associated with your chosen platform, aka total cost of ownership (TCO)
Some tools may include the basic functionality you need for free, while others offer similar services but charge per user or at different subscription levels. That means that there will be an ongoing expense depending on how much effort is required by employees within each step along the way, throughout various processes in your company's daily operations.
How complex is the software's process?
Is it easily streamlined without human intervention? Do I have multiple users involved who require oversight and approval from managers/executives before moving forward? Will certain steps within this process involve collaboration between several users at once? All of these things will determine how much time and money you can expect to invest in your chosen workflow automation platform.
Does the software offer integrations with other tools I use on a daily basis?
These may include accounting platforms, communication apps that employees already rely upon for day-to-day operations, or even marketing/sales tools which are used when interacting with clients from start to finish. This feature is becoming more common within workflow automation platforms, as companies begin looking for ways they can cut costs while increasing efficiency across the board throughout their entire company's lifespan.
Is the software easy to use or will I need training on how to implement it into my company's workflow?
If your employees are not technologically savvy, then you may want to choose a platform that's very user-friendly. Choosing something with an intuitive system along the lines of drag-and-drop may prove easier for users who don't work every day with technology, rather than choosing something more advanced, which requires extensive knowledge about coding or programming languages.
How many team members can use the software?
Some of these software solutions are offered on a per-user basis, while others offer everyone within the company access to certain levels of functionality. If just one person is responsible for multiple steps within your company's process, then you may want to consider choosing a tool with this aforementioned per-user option. If everyone in your organization needs access to some level of functionality, including executives, managers, and other employees, depending on how many are involved in each step along the way throughout various processes, then an all-inclusive pricing model would likely be best suited towards these goals.
Does the software offer reporting and analysis?
This is an important part of the process that will determine how much money you can save by choosing one solution over another. Some tools deliver simple data in a table form, which requires filtering before users are able to take any action on what they see. Other solutions allow for complex visualizations, so managers/executives can get real-time results without having to wait around for them every time they run reports or analyses. Depending on your needs, this may be something incredibly crucial when deciding on which tool would work best within your company's current structure.
How does the user community feel about the software you're considering?
Even though the marketing team is responsible for this aspect, it's always best to do your own research about how people currently using one tool feel about its user experience. This will help you make an educated decision before choosing something that could potentially be very difficult for key members of your workforce to learn. Knowing what other users are saying in regards to their experiences with workflow automation software can save countless hours of frustration and headache down the road, when employees who were involved in training processes begin complaining left, right, and center, because they found out learning a completely new system was way more work than expected.
Does it offer support?
If there are any problems or glitches within the app, then you may want to choose a platform which offers around-the-clock phone/email support with a higher level of service. Some companies offer this type of dedicated assistance, whereas others may only be available during business hours, so it's important to look into these details before making your final decision.
How stable is the software?
If you plan on using this tool for multiple processes across your entire organization, then it could be detrimental if one aspect of that process breaks down due to some issue with the underlying system. It will be beneficial, in this case, to choose software that has been around for a longer period and has proven its worth to business owners that belong to various industries. Purchase software that's highly reliable and helps you get things done efficiently every single day. without worrying about any downtime.
Many companies have a hard time finding workflow automation tools that don't compromise their company's internal systems with viruses, malware, or anything else that can harm their IT infrastructure or put sensitive information in jeopardy. Look for products that provide enhanced security features, such as data encryption, authentication procedures, and more, so that you know any workflows created are safe from people who want to break into them.
The time is now: Workflow automation tools are here
Workflow automation is one of the most important tasks that a business owner can undertake. The more processes that can be automated, the more time and money will be saved, which businesses need in order to grow stronger every day. Choosing a good software platform to automate your workflow should take precedence over anything else.
But it's important that you do as much research as possible before making a final decision about what works best with your company's current structure, budget, culture, and more. In order to make an educated choice, it's crucial to evaluate key aspects, like security, support, and ease-of-use, which will help determine how beneficial the outcome from this process is going to end up being down the line.
Thanks for the reminder that getting ample support is essential when it comes to workflow automation. I plan to look for a good workflow automation software someday because I want to be able to managed projects more efficiently. That way, when my friends and I start our game development side project, I will be able to allocate our resources well for it.