We’ve all experienced the pain of having to manually input information from an Excel spreadsheet or any other form of manual task. As you sit there, frustrated by the time-wasting activity, you wonder if there’s a better way. In this article, I will tell you what is workflow automation software and how you can use it to eliminate frustration.
According to a recent report by Zapier, 65% of knowledge workers are less stressed because they have automated manual tasks. From the stress of having to do manual tasks to the stress of making mistakes, which often happens, a workflow automation platform can help eliminate inefficiencies.
Therefore, I want to discuss workflow automation, what automation software can do for you, and some tools that can help you get started on your way to happiness. If you are experienced with workflows, you may want to skip to the question you are looking to answer. Otherwise, let’s start by defining what a workflow is.
What is a workflow?
A workflow is a series of steps that describe how people get work done from beginning to end. Following these steps in that exact sequence produces the same result each time. Therefore, it is common to represent workflows visually using workflow diagrams. This diagram can help you to identify and track each step or task in the project as it progresses toward desired outcomes.
Examples of workflows are:
- How to create social media collateral
- New employee onboarding
- A travel request authorization
- Document approval workflows
You can learn all about workflow diagrams in our guide to workflow diagrams for project managers.
What about workflow automation?
Now that you have a diagram that represents your workflow and clearly lays out the different steps involved, it’s time for the next level. Workflow automation needs you to create rules around these steps. These rules will govern how human tasks, documents, or data will be routed within the flow.
Workflow automation in project management can be used to automate tasks such as creating task lists, assigning tasks to team members, tracking progress, and sending reminders. In addition, workflow automation can also be used to create reports and track project costs.
The rules in workflow automation are mostly if-then statements that cover the alternative paths the information can take. Once the rules are determined, we are ready to input this information in workflow automation software.
Examples of workflow automation include
- Handling task management-related activities, like assigning work items to the person responsible for the next step.
- Notification messages that you get on Slack, but come from a CRM, ERP, or some other tool.
- Data synchronization that happens after receiving a form submission, like creating a record in a CMS.
Learn about some examples that you can automate in project management in our guide to workflow automation, like sending a dashboard to a distribution list on a specific day.
What is workflow automation software?
Workflow automation software is a digital low-code or no-code solution that allows you to automate tasks and complete them without the need for human intervention. Workflow automation software usually includes:
- A builder with drag-and-drop functionality that helps you streamline business process automation
- A notification system where you can configure in-app information displays or email alerts
- A list of triggers that you can use prompt decision-making.
- Audit trails where you can review the steps that were taken on each flow
What are the benefits of workflow automation software?
A workflow automation system helps you:
- Save time. Process automation will help you save time because it forces you to grab manual processes with repetitive tasks, like data entry from spreadsheets. Then, think of the rules that will create a predictable flow. Finally, perform the tasks for you, freeing up time you would have spent doing it.
- Increase productivity. The rules you set will make the information flow smoothly through different steps. This reduces the time it takes for someone to intervene to forward communication or do follow-ups manually, for example. Think of an approval process that involves several stakeholders. If the system handles the asset handover for review, you get to focus on other, more important stuff.
- Minimize errors. And by errors, we mean human errors. Manual data entry is known to lead to mistakes, and it increases as the workload does.
- Save money. Freeing up someone because of automation saves you money, especially if you are paying resources by the hour.
- Remove bottlenecks. Human resources (a.k.a. people) can become a stopper in any workflow if they are not fast enough or never seem to get to information on time. Just think of Brad, who’s been sitting on your last email for the past week. Automation software would ping Brad every day until he completes his task and sends it to the next step.
Which are some examples of workflow automation tools I should pick?
Different workflow tools apply for different use cases. However, here you have a list of tentative options you can look into as you look for an automation solution that can start routing information according to your workflow process.
If you want to get more information on these cloud-based tools, their pricing, how they can help you create business rules, automate a business process, and connect with other tools through API integrations, check out the best workflow automation software list.
Workflow Automation Is Here To Stay
I consider workflow management as part of a company's digital transformation. Embracing automation is embracing efficiency and walking that fine line between what robots and humans should handle. Speaking of which, I’ll tell you about Robotic Process Automation some other time, but it’s really cool. It handles the creation of robots that emulate human interactions with software and systems.
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