How to get more done with workflow automation guide, Office advice, Workplace tips

How To Get More Done With Workflow Automation

21 July 2021

How to get more done with workflow automation

Productivity is essential to business success. Even the best ideas can be foiled by inefficient operations. Conversely, relatively mundane products and services can become smash hits when backed by the right processes. One of the best ways to improve your efficiency and get more done is to automate your business processes, especially document creation, approval and use.

Workflow Automation Systems and Their Applications

Workflow automation is a simple idea: use technology to complete business processes automatically with less or no human intervention. It involves designing and executing processes that are aided by computer systems. Often, this means replacing low-skill tasks such as data entry with computer-based solutions.

Of course, actually implementing a business process automation workflow is a little more complex. Fortunately, it is made significantly easier with modern automated workflow solutions. The right tool can help you to transform how your business operates.

Almost any business process, a structured and repeatable series of tasks, can be either fully or partially automated. There are still many tasks that require human “wetware.” However, the right software means that your people can spend less time doing mundane, repetitive work and more time being innovative, analytical and strategic.

There are applications for document workflow automation in many spaces. Some examples include designing and sharing construction plans, managing heavy equipment, tracking product development and recording transportation data.

The Benefits of Using a Workflow Automation Platform

There are a lot of substantial business benefits that can be gained from using more automation. If you implement automation at your workplace, you may see the following advantages:

  • Faster Turnaround: Typically, automated workflows can be completed much faster than manual ones. This is especially true for data-heavy processes. Computers excel at gathering and analyzing data. Even small improvements in productivity can turn into major time savings for regularly repeated processes.
  • Fewer Errors: To err is human. Fortunately, automated workflows don’t share the same weakness. Once they are set up, they can capture data accurately and consistently. They don’t make typographical mistakes. While there may be problems from unforeseen edge cases in your workflow, the errors overall are much fewer. This is great for compliance and critical processes.
  • Reduced Costs: When you save time doing work, you also save money. Human labor is almost always substantially more expensive than running computer systems. There may be an upfront investment, but that can pay off very quickly. For some businesses, reduced costs mean better margins. Others cut their prices to be more competitive and grow their market share. Either case can be a big win.
  • Improve Collaboration: Many workflow automation platforms make it easier for people to collaborate. For example, if you have a product plan, it can instantly be shared with all people who should have access. With the right tool, they can then give input, make changes and otherwise work together. Replacing some human work with automation can improve the efficacy of your other human work.
  • Increase Transparency: As mentioned above, workflow automation helps to ensure that the right people have access to documents and data. This can be great for improving transparency. Many organizations are hindered by silos and poor coordination between teams. Using a good document workflow system can help significantly.

Examples of Document Workflow Automation

It may be easiest to understand the impact of workflow automation systems in context. The following are a few examples of what automation can look like in an organization such as yours.

Equipment Field Report

Businesses that manage substantial capital assets in the field need to keep track of them. This could include energy-producing facilities, construction equipment, vehicles and more. If you have a team member working on that equipment who need to produce a report, workflow automation for documents can help.

That team member can start by pulling up an inspection checklist and filling in the relevant details. He or she can then go through the steps while filling out a report template. In some cases, data may be pulled directly from the equipment into the report. When the team member is ready, he or she can complete the report.

The report automatically appears on the device of a supervisor who can sign off on the report. When ready, it is also sent to the equipment servicing team if work needs to be done. Additionally, it is sent to the data team that is monitoring trends in equipment. Company executives can also pull up aggregated field reports to better understand the current status of all the company’s field equipment.

Customer Invoicing

All businesses need to earn revenue from their customers to survive. For most business-to-business operations (and even some B2C ones), this means sending invoices to customers. Depending on the size of the business, that may require multiple stages.

The team originating the invoice can start by opening the relevant template. This may be done by the sales team, service team or any other group providing products and services to the customer. The responsible team can fill in the invoice template with all the relevant details for the order. The software can automatically pull pricing information. If a purchase order has been submitted by the customer, the invoice content can be automated too.

Once the invoice is ready, it is sent for approval by the relevant teams. This may include ensuring that there is currently sufficient inventory to cover the invoice. If there isn’t, the invoice can be sent back with a comment.

After the invoice has been approved, it is sent to the accounting and accounts receivable teams. The sale is recorded and added to the receivables. The invoice is sent to the customer, and subsequent efforts to collect can be automatically created based on the invoice.

Product Plan Creation

Many businesses need to design new products from time-to-time in order to stand competitive. Typically, this is a multidisciplinary process. Therefore, many groups may be collaborating on designs.

The process may start with a product manager outlining a product idea that would satisfy a current customer need. Additional details can then be added by the market research team, fleshing out the product requirements. When a fairly comprehensive set of requirements have been set, the product design team can start working on some plans.

As the designs are set, the engineering team can weigh in. They may suggest some revisions to the design to make it more practical to manufacture.

Once the designs are completed, the relevant managers can sign off on them. This may include the product manager, engineering manager and any involved executives. Finally, the approved plans can be used by the production team to start making the product.

Choosing the Right Automated Workflow Solutions

The right workflow automation platform can add a lot of value to your business. It can make running your day-to-day operations smoother and more productive. However, finding the correct solution for your needs may seem like a daunting task at first.

For document workflow automation, you will need to evaluate your requirements. Some features you may look for are smart form templates, powerful access controls, eSignature, mobile apps, geotagging, annotations and comments. Consider what document creation, collaboration and approval look like in your business.

It can be helpful to document your existing workflows. By writing out the steps involved, you can begin to imagine what they may look like once automated. Look for instances of data entry, repetition and collaboration. Additionally, examine your process performance to find common errors and bottlenecks that may be addressed through automation.

As you narrow in on your requirements, it may be a good idea to try some solutions. Consider running a pilot for just one workflow. Digitize your documents for that process, automate the workflow as much as possible and see the impact. If the pilot goes well for you, start rolling out the platform at a larger scale.

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