Automation is a wonderful thing. As is waking up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Automation makes things easier and faster by removing the human element from a repetitive, mundane task or process; while the coffee pot is brewing coffee, what else could you being doing with that time?
Workflow automation is just as wonderful from an enterprise point-of-view, moving manual procedures to an electronic environment in which business processes can be refined more quickly and easily for highly sought-after benefits like increased productivity, visibility, compliance, profitability and customer satisfaction.
Before automation, workflow within organizations was very linear. Having products, customers and partners meant having documents and manual processes. Administrative staff completed new account forms and handed them on to processing, for example. Processing might segment customers or pull the most qualified leads and deliver them to sales. When new territories were added, someone was getting on a phone, and on and on. It continues today. All of this hand delivering and phoning takes time, not to mention time won or lost connecting multiple processes across an entire organization.
Even in advanced technology environments, processes are only automated so far before human intervention.
Workflow automation allows businesses to visualize all of their efforts from the highest vantage point, across the entire organization. This global visualization provides valuable insight to better inform decisions both large and small. But before this valuable insight can be recognized, workflow automation must be achieved at its most basic level.
Workflow automation begins with defining the steps involved in each process. Who is involved? What documents are related to the process? What steps must be taken for another part of the process to begin? What steps can be done in parallel with each other?
All data that is connected to the process must be electronically accessible
If it’s not in the system, it can’t be part of the process. Data capture applications convert items like physical mail, faxes, emails and images into electronic formats that can be accessed as part of a larger workflow.
Removing person-to-person, person-to-machine contact is key
If a sit down meeting or face-to-face document signing isn’t critical to the process, replacing these time consuming tasks with electronically-driven activity speeds the process all around. Workflow automation includes turning static documents into electronic forms that can be accessed, edited, and even signed, from any platform, anywhere, by anyone with permissions.
Software applications create if/then links between processes and people
Workflow automation also includes the ability to automate next steps in a process when certain criteria are met – i.e. when person x signs the form, an order will be initiated and a separate email to person y will be generated. Increased efficiency is also borne out of the ability to enable parallel processes, moving business along at a more rapid rate.
Workflow automation not only increases business efficiency by cutting out delays caused by distance, complexity and unanticipated variables, it also provides an aerial perspective across the entire organization for insight in how to adjust processes in real-time to optimize opportunity and ROI.