Comparing today’s workflow automation solutions to early examples of how businesses first applied technology to speed up their day-to-day operations is kind of like comparing today to last week. The differences are many depending on what angle you take.
Business results are more profitable, specialized solutions for each vertical are plentiful, and industry noise about just how critical workflow automation is to business success has been cranked up by many decibels.
Perhaps a simpler approach to the differences in workflow automation solutions today versus industry predecessors is to examine the early intentions of workflow automation solutions and just how far technology has come to ensure those intentions match reality.
Then: Automating a Handful of Business Processes
The advance of digital technology meant that business processes no longer had to rely on solely manual intervention to be complete. Take the creation of a new brokerage account as an example. An early paper process might have included several forms, phone calls, face-face meetings, internal crosschecks and signatures before a client could trade. Early automated solutions enabled forms to be completed by an admin online and added to an electronic queue. This queue was monitored and moved along department after department until the new account was given a green light and the process was complete. It was a good intention, but did not allow any visibility into the process and was still more of a stop-and-go operation.
Now: Building Workflows That Cross Business Silos, Integrate Solutions, and Make the Most of Your Investments
Businesses today are immersed in more digital forms and hard data than they know what to do with. However, it is possible to digitize data and automate as many processes around them as businesses can think up. Today’s automated workflows make it possible to give business units a 5,000-foot view into the impact of their operations across multiple departments – to anticipate workloads, to optimize operational scenarios, to build internal trust and rapport, etc. And, solutions are now able to integrate disparate data systems, which can lead to increased data integrity, reduced operational overlap and new fuel to drive creative business solutions. Finally, executives are able to use automated solutions to tie existing infrastructure together and optimize spend, which can go a very long way in a budget meeting or investor call.
Then: Upping Productivity and Customer Response Time
Early automation processes focused on time as a main benefit. Responding to clients with the right information, faster makes them happier, right? Processing more X per hour surely meant that profits would rise. The intention of getting more done in the time you had did indeed have its perks, but faster processing created just as many problems as it was intended to solve. Protocols and customer scripts put customer support managers at ease. However, scripts sound, well “scripted” and humans want to engage in real time. Automation that was once intended to help became flat, and companies began to give off the appearance of being insincere.
Now: Creating Engaging Relationships Both Internally and Externally That Catapult Productivity and Profits.
Today’s automated solutions are so advanced that the flow of both operational process and human conversation has the capacity to be unscripted and organic. Employees are able to be more engaging, straightforward and productive within individual teams and inter-departmentally. It definitely helps that a clear digital line defines their exact responsibility to a process, but today’s automated solutions – on a psychological level – do so much more. The fact that employees have processes that intersect (can click on a screen instead of waiting for an answer, and can manage their own productivity instead of expecting a process hiccup) is very empowering and drives others around them to grow and succeed. Automated solutions are allowing employees to truly be more productive, to find creative ways to solve business problems, and to contribute to the financial success of their employers.
Though yesterday’s automated solutions indeed paved new roads, they were rough and didn’t always go as far as businesses want to travel. Today’s businesses have the tools to create automated superhighways, build bridges, cross boundaries and go as fast and far as they are willing and able.