A definitive guide to workflow automation

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  • What is workflow automation?
  • Why is workflow automation needed?
  • What are the features to look for in workflow automation software?
  • What are the benefits of workflow automation?
  • What does a general workflow automation process look like?
  • What are some examples of workflow automation?
  • What is workflow automation software?
  • How is workflow automation different from robotic process automation (RPA)?
  • How does low-code help in workflow automation?
  • FAQs on workflow automation

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is the process of automating a workflow, or series of tasks, within an organization. Workflow automation can be used to streamline any business process, including human resources, marketing, and customer service.

Note: What is a workflow?

A workflow is a process which is followed in order to complete a general or business task. The steps are typically sequenced and often recurring in nature.

What is workflow automation?

Why is workflow automation necessary?

Consumers today expect results faster, and automated workflows is the only way to deliver. By automating frequently occurring tasks, organizations can save time, effort, and money. By delivering quality work quickly and accurately, businesses gain an advantage over competitors relying on manual processes. This is why we should use workflow automation.

But workflow automation isn't a magic solution that'll change your business altogether. It's more of a catalyst to help you reduce your workload, invest time on things that matter, and save on costs-but only when applied to an already optimized system. Based on our experience, before automating workflows, there are a few steps to follow:

  • Identify repetitive manual tasks
  • Define your requirements clearly
  • Sketch a workflow of the processes that you'd like to automate
  • Choose workflow automation software that suits your needs
  • Train stakeholders on the software
  • Create workflows as simple or complex as you want
Why is workflow automation necessary?

Looking for workflow automation software for your organization?


What are the features to look for in workflow automation tools?

An ideal workflow automation tool should be easy to use, have excellent analytics features, and suit your business needs. We've compiled a list of 6 essential features you should look out for when making your choice:

Ease of use

Ease of use:

The software you choose for creating automated workflows must be simple to use by people of all technical levels. A tool with a drag-and-drop interface is ideally suited for this.

Role-based controls

Role-based controls:

While creating a workflow automation for an approval process, having access controls based on organizational hierarchy will help you better secure data.

Dashboards & reports

Dashboards & reports:

You should be able to visualize key performance indicators, and analyze business data with interactive charts, gauges, tables, and more, within a few clicks.

Seamless integrations

Seamless integrations:

Choose workflow automation tools that have prebuilt integrations with ERPs, payment gateways, third-party vendors, and authentication services.

Mobile support

Mobile support:

For in-the-field jobs, mobile support is crucial. Look for a workflow automation system that supports easy mobile access.



In case you want to incorporate more functionalities to your automated workflows, the platform should provide options like APIs and custom functions, to make your process as customizable as possible.

Learn how to choose the right workflow automation software

What are the benefits of workflow automation?

Having a workflow automation process in place can immensely benefit your business:

Boosts productivity

Boosts productivity:

By automating redundant processes, employees can save time on menial tasks and focus on solving more complex problems.

Reduces manual errors

Reduces manual errors:

With automated processes, errors can be avoided, and even if they occur, the system will notify you of where the error is, so you can fix them quickly.

Increases transparency

Increases transparency:

By defining workflows for internal communication, every detail can be shared, tracked, and accessed across departments by every stakeholder in real time, providing complete visibility.

Enhances customer satisfaction

Enhances customer satisfaction:

Setting up workflow rules to automatically route support tickets based on priority helps resolve issues faster and provides a valuable experience for customers.

There is plenty of workflow automation software in the industry that provides the benefits we mentioned above, and much more. But how do you find the right workflow automation software?

While it depends on a lot of factors, like your business needs, your technical skills, resources, pricing, and more, there are a few things you shouldn't compromise on. We'll go into more details on the steps involved in a workflow automation process next.

What are the steps in a workflow automation process?

The 4 major steps that are involved in automating a workflow are:


Define the workflow:

The first step is to clearly define the workflow that needs to be automated. This involves understanding the various steps involved in the workflow, the order in which they need to be executed, and the data that needs to be passed between these steps.

Define the workflow process

Identify the software to automate workflows:

The next step is to identify the software that will be used to automate workflows. This may involve using existing applications or developing/purchasing new ones.

Identify the software applications to be used

Implement the workflow automation software:

Once the software to automate workflows has been identified, the next step is to embed it into your process. This software will be responsible to automate tasks and pass data between the various steps.

Implement the workflow automation software

Deploy the workflow automation software:

The final step is to deploy the workflow automation software. This may involve installing it on the server where the workflow process will be executed or making it available to users through a web-based interface.

Deploy the workflow automation software

Looking for workflow automation software for your organization?


What is workflow automation software?

Workflow automation software could be one or more software that enables digitalizing tasks and processes at businesses. Most workflow automation software provide features such as drag-and-drop workflow creation, built-in task management, and integration with third-party applications. Other platforms may focus on providing a more user-friendly interface or offer more customizable options.

Read more about workflow automation software

How is workflow automation different from robotic process automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is an innovative technology that also helps businesses. But what is its scope and when do you choose it over a workflow automation software? Here are three pointers to give you a better idea of when to choose which technology:

Workflow automation process Workflow automation is the process of automating the execution of business processes, typically involving the coordination of people, applications, and data. RPA is the use of software robots to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks typically performed by humans.

workflow automation macrosWorkflow automation often requires the use of specialized software to model and execute business processes. Robotic process automation can be performed using a range of tools, including off-the-shelf software, custom scripts, or even embedded macros.

workflow automation businessWorkflow automation can be used to automate a wide range of business processes, including marketing, order processing, human resources, and finance. RPA is typically used for more repetitive, rule-based tasks.

Read in-depth about workflow automation vs RPA

How does low-code help in workflow automation?

Low-code is a way of designing and developing applications that allows users with little to no programming knowledge to automate workflows with prebuilt code snippets or blocks and a drag-and-drop visual interface. A low-code approach to development means the technical resources required to build an application are minimal. The speed at which you can develop on low-code means you can plan your workflow automation journey in a more agile and cost-effective manner.

Why low-code? Low-code's intuitive development workflow enables businesses to adapt to market changes quickly, which in turn gives them an advantage over their competitors. Faster time to market, legacy system modernization, zero deployment, and high security are just a few of the many reasons why an increasing number of businesses are choosing low-code platforms for their business or workflow automation projects.

Looking for workflow automation software for your organization?

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about workflow automation

How is workflow automation different from workflow management?

Workflow automation and workflow management are concepts that are related to each other but have their own differentiating features. Workflow automation is defined as the use of software tools to streamline and automate repetitive tasks. The main intent behind this is to improve efficiency and reduce human errors associated with a workflow. It involves the implementation of rules and triggers to create an automated workflow.

Workflow management is a broader concept that involves designing, executing, monitoring and optimizing workflows. It deals with the coordination and oversight of all the tasks, activities, and resources involved in completing a specific process or project. Workflow management encompasses both manual and automated tasks, focusing on the overall orchestration and control of the workflow. Workflow management involves defining the workflow structure, specifying the sequence of tasks, assigning responsibilities, setting deadlines, and ensuring smooth collaboration between individuals and teams involved in the process. It also includes tracking the progress of work, managing exceptions or errors, making adjustments when necessary, and optimizing the workflow for better efficiency and productivity.

Can a workflow management tool be used for automating workflows too?

Even though workflow management tools are built to organize workflows, they can also help automate manual tasks to streamline and optimize most business processes. Workflow management systems can help with steps like workflow design, task management, data exchange, setting up approvals, and more.

What are the qualities of the best workflow automation software?

The best workflow automation software for your business will depend a lot on your use case. But ease of use, flexibility, integration capabilities, trigger and action-based automations, and collaboration are a few qualities that are good indicators when evaluating a workflow automation solution.

How are workflow automation and business process automation (BPA) different?

Workflow automation and business process automation are both approaches that ultimately aim to eliminate manual or repetitive tasks. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Workflow automation's scope of execution is limited to automating a specific task or process. For instance, you can create an automated workflow to manage your inventory process which sends automated notifications, adds new products, and raises procurement requests.

BPA's scope is wider than workflow automation. For example, business automation focuses on automating the whole supply chain process, including automatically managing the different business operations involved in the process. This can range from a comprehensive expense approval process to inventory management, and even to the document management involved in this process.

What are the different types of workflows?

There are various types of workflows based on the complexity and triggers. The most common types are:

  • Sequential workflows - A sequential workflow is one in which the tasks which need to be executed come one after the other. This means that the trigger for one task is the completion of the previous one.
  • Parallel workflows - These are workflows whose tasks are not essentially dependent on each other. Workflow tasks can be executed simultaneously and can be completed in any order.
  • Conditional workflows - The trigger for these workflows is a conditional logic which, when satisfied, leads to the flow of a set of automated tasks. The workflow can take different paths based on what condition is satisfied.
  • Approval workflows - Approval workflows involve the movement of a request or document to an individual or group for approval.
  • Human-centric workflows - This workflow involves a high degree of human intervention for execution. These are employed as a support system to streamline workflows that require a lot of human collaboration and communication.
  • System-centric workflows - System-centric workflows are used to automate interactions between applications. These are intended to assist with data transfer or integrations.
  • Event-driven workflows - When a workflow is triggered by an action or an event, they come under the event-driven workflow category.

What are the different types of automated workflows?

The 4 different types of automated workflows are:

  • Rule-based automation - When a task is automated based on a set of rules it's called rule-based automation. An example of this type of workflow automation is a vendor management workflow where vendors are added or removed from a preferred list based on certain performance criteria.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) - RPA is a type of automation that is implemented in scenarios which involve a lot of repetitive tasks, like manual data entry or customer service interactions.
  • API-driven automation - When redundant tasks require interaction between two software applications, API-driven automation can be the best solution.
  • Workload automation (WLA) - A workload automation is used to automate batch processes like billing, payroll, and report generation.