The Importance of Automating Workflows

TechTarget offers this definition of a “workflow”—“Workflow is the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task. Each step in a workflow has a specific step before it and a specific step after it, with the exception of the first step. In a linear workflow, the first step is usually initiated by an outside event. If the workflow has a loop structure, however, the first step is initiated by the completion of the last step.”

When starting a new company, or expanding an already existing one, a re-evaluation of your principal workflows should be a primary concern. You may have one main workflow, which services the bulk of your company’s revenue stream (with minor variations), or you may have several different workflows, all of which are essential in their own right. Whichever is your circumstance, there are numerous programs available that can assist in transforming your workflows from the standard, manual world, into a more advanced, and efficient, automated world. And, in doing so, making your processing leaner and more expeditious.

“The greatest benefit I got from creating a good workflow is the removal of tedious, manual work. Now, I get to focus on the more fun parts of work like the creative tasks. I have also experienced a drop in the number of errors, simply because it becomes easier to handle work since (the automated workflow program) is doing all the error catching for me.” (Observation by Klaus Jørgensen, freelance frontend developer).


For example, if your employees are currently still in the manual workflow world, they would receive an order or instructional element, make an evaluation of that event, and process it individually using their experience as a guide. The order, or element, would then move along the workflow towards whichever stream is appropriate.


But, in the world of the automated workflow, the decision of where in the stream the order, or element, is directed, can be made with a single keystroke, and a work order generated instantaneously. The secret lies in determining the type of automated workflow program that is right for your situation and implementing that program to the benefit of your company (and your employee’s sanity!). Identifying the complexity of your workflow—its many configurations and detail streams—and isolating their functions, will be key in deciding the proper system for your needs.


As Zell Liew notes in Automating Your Workflow, “The worst thing is, even if you manage to get something working, you’re still be unsure whether you did everything correctly. There’s always going to be this nagging feeling that parts of your workflow can be improved. But you just don’t know how to go from here.”


At this stage, bringing in an outside vendor with expertise in helping you assess your needs and growth requirements would be a smart bet…and could save time and money in the long run. Since every workflow and evaluation has its own unique character, an expert with experience will be able to navigate integration details, and select several options for you to consider before committing to purchasing an automated system.  You may also have to decide between keeping your new automated system as an on-site program (which benefits from easier approachability for service), or as a migration program connected to the cloud (which allows for greater expansion when needed, by simply modifying your service agreement). Either way, it is hard to overestimate years of hands-on exposure to an endless variety of workable options.


It is probable that you already have a series of forms and reports that you use in your present workflow. Updating and transforming these important documents into user-friendly, automated programs that workers will recognize, is essential to acclimating your employees to the new version of their assignments. Consider that a reworking of existing documents and tables, within the framework of your familiar workflows, will speed along the acceptance and familiarity aspects of the ramp-up to the automated workflow programs. Options such as selecting what employees would want to occur when the system is launched, or adding task substitutions and variables into your text fields with the veritable touch of a button, are things best left to the professionals to guide you. And here, there is no substitute for an outside vendor who has gone through this procedure countless times, and is flexible enough to lead your company in the best direction.


“If you put the right processes in place, every employee knows what is expected of them and what they are accountable for. If their jobs are not completed in a timely fashion, someone in management will receive a notification. Supervisors won’t have to micromanage employees and constantly monitor their progress, and employees won’t spend their time constantly responding to status requests.” Ryan Williams, NEXXTEP


In conclusion, an automated workflow will drastically diminish mistakes, and it will prevent an employee accidentally overlooking a step in the process. It will add confidence in the overall flow, in that no one will be able to skip over an integral part of the process, when they have an automatic “reminder’ built into the system itself. And time consuming activities that once had to be done manually—such as sending notification emails or managing due dates—will be greatly impacted in favor of your company.

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