It’s understandable to be worried about attempting anything these days that has to do with the “digital transformation”. The success rate for digital initiatives hasn’t been the best.
But there are plenty of reasons for this (and plenty of ways to avoid it). Once you have a clear strategy in place that avoids common mistakes, you can reap plenty of rewards from automating various workflows.
But what exactly are these benefits?
Don’t worry, there are plenty. But before we lay all those out, we need to understand what workflows are and what workflow automation is. From there, you can witness the competitive advantages that automated workflow management systems can provide your organization.
What Is Workflow Automation?
Workflows are actions that go through several stages in any business. At each stage in the process, there’s usually some form of oversight. While this is usually in place to ensure the work being completed is in compliance, it tends to create problems. Bottlenecks, errors, and unnecessary oversight are common.
Workflow Automation, or Workflow Optimization, aims to reduce these problems by using technology-based systems that remove the human component.
By connecting these various processes, you’re actually reducing steps required to complete a task. And as you will see, the benefits of doing that cannot be understated.
The Long-Term Benefits of Workflow Management Systems
Having an automated workflow management system in place can give your business a competitive advantage. But rather than give you a simple outline of the benefits, here’s a picture that lays out the problems of manually completing tasks and the importance of workflow automation in any-sized business.
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How Manual Workflows Create Problems
Whether you’re an SME or an Enterprise, you’ve probably noticed that growth creates problems. Sure, it’s incredible to finally hit your sales targets. But as your business grows, it becomes more complicated to manage. While you may have had a handful of systems and applications to run your organization before, you find yourself juggling more and more.
At some point, you need to start hiring more people to handle more tasks. And this creates more problems as well. Now you have more onboarding and paperwork to handle along with the costs of training and paying new employees. To balance those costs, you expand and take on new clients and customers…and the cycle continues.
People can only do so much. Your employees can only do so much. And let’s face it, the last thing any of us wants to do is menial tasks. Have you ever felt the frustration of hunting down an email or a paper invoice or scouring an excel spreadsheet looking for some elusive bit of information?
It’s time-consuming, for one. Plus, no one really likes looking at spreadsheets and doing menial tasks. Human beings are horrible at them, by the way. Menial tasks are not our forte. We do better with complex thought processes and dealing with other people. So, when you put people in front of these repetitive, agonizing tasks, not only are they slow, but they tend to not fully pay attention.
And that’s when mistakes happen.
As a company, you have a responsibility to protect your customers’ information. You also need to be reliable. And you have to truly know your customer if you want to remain competitive.
But all this is hard to do if you have data scattered about your business from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, application to application, and platform to platform. Especially if the only way you have to move that information around is through your already very busy employees.
Now, despite your growth, you’re running around putting out fires while trying not to drown at the same time. Hard to imagine? Maybe. But that’s what so many growing businesses end up doing every day.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the dangers of a data leak. When that happens, well, you end up in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
How Automating Workflows Provides a Competitive Advantage
In short, workflow automation removes the human component from the equation. Rather than have people running around moving data between platforms themselves, the machines do it. And they’re way better at it.
Once a system of parameters is in place, tailored to your business, these flows function on their own. You break up data silos, bottlenecks, and reduce errors, just like that. As a result, the benefits are pretty clear cut:
- More Time: Employees aren’t wasting time trying to locate/search through documents and spreadsheets. These processes happen automatically and instantaneously. Also, redundancies get eliminated reducing waste further.
- Fewer Errors: Once you establish parameters for your workflows, they will function within those parameters. No more repetitive corrections and far fewer mistakes along the way.
- Less Cost: Suddenly, your back office is a lot less crowded. You don’t need to hire more personnel to complete simple tasks. Instead, automated solutions scale with your businesses and take care of it.
- More Time for Customer-Facing Operations: Customer expectations continue to grow. Despite all of the technological innovation, people want to feel less like a number and more like an appreciated part of the customer/business relationship. Freed from menial tasks, your employees can deliver on that expectation.
- Less Turnover: People really do hate menial tasks. Employees want a job that feels rewarding. And the more repetitive, low-level tasks required in a job, the less likely your employees will want to stick around.
- Fewer Liability Concerns: Errors and ineptitude can cause security breaches. With fewer people accessing vital customer data, you’ll decrease the risk of finding yourself in the wrong kind of news headline.
- Increased Agility: Cloud-platforms pump out 100’s of new features a year. That’s lightspeed. If your business isn’t set up to adopt these new systems, you’ll struggle to remain competitive. Agility is the solution.
- More Time to Innovate: With less brain drain and time wasted on boring tasks, your teams will have more time to innovate and grow your business.
- Increased Visibility: Because everything is automated, you can also track it. This allows you to spot other bottlenecks, bad data, and even fraud. You can also access real-time, up-to-date reporting.
- Go Greener: Businesses use a lot of paper. One benefit of electronic workflows is that everything is digital. And when the average employee prints 10,000 pages a year, those savings can add up quickly.
Is Workflow Automation Only for Enterprise?
One common misconception about workflow management is that these systems are a better fit for large businesses and the Enterprise. However, workflow automation doesn’t need to be expensive. Low-code platforms can even cut back on the need to hire IT personnel for your company.
Platforms like Quick Base have easy-to-use graphic interfaces that empower employees to create workflow solutions catering to their exact needs. And Workato makes integrations as easy as dragging and dropping existing recipes to fit your needs.
This ease of use and adaptability of low-code platforms is why businesses of any size can experience the benefits of automating work processes without an initial high-risk, upfront investment.
The Most Efficient Way to Automate Workflows in Your Business
If you want to reduce costs, go one step further and hire a business process management consultant. A trusted consultant will have top-rated integrations specialists and application developers on staff who can rapidly create automated solutions for your business.
They’ll leverage industry experience to map out effective strategies for workflow optimization, allowing you to reduce risk and cost while remaining competitive in the market.
If you prefer to automate your company’s workflows within, all you need is a low code platform, a map of your business processes, and a few bottlenecks to fix and you start improving your business today.
Meet the Author
Kevin Shuler is the CEO of Quandary Consulting Group, a team of tech consultants that specialize in business process management. They use integrations and automations to help businesses scale as they grow, giving them more time to focus on what matters most.
Find him on Twitter.