Workflow automation is an easy way to save money, boost productivity and improve employees’ work experience by eliminating tedious, time-consuming tasks. We’ll explain what workflow automation is, how it works, and how your business can get the most out of workflow automation technology.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation software automates manual, time-consuming tasks, like data entry and progress tracking. It aims to improve everyday business tasks, minimize errors and expose areas where you can increase business efficiency.
Workflow automation technology is booming. According to Workato’s Work Automation Index 2021, 45 percent of corporate teams created automated systems to improve business efficiency. Business owners and managers should gain a thorough understanding of workflow automation to implement the technology and reap its benefits.
“Workflow automation software [allows] you to organize the work that needs to be done by you and your team while automating several aspects of those workflows, such as creating reminders, updating task assignees based on certain conditions, and sending emails to clients,” said Abir Syed, co-founder and CPA at UpCounting.
What are the benefits of workflow automation?
When used correctly, workflow automation software can benefit your business in many ways, including the following:
1. Workflow automation streamlines communication and reduces stress.
A study from The American Institute of Stress shows that 83 percent of U.S. workers experience work-related stress, much of which can come from poor communication in the workplace. Workflow automation can significantly improve communication among team members, ultimately reducing workplace stress and the employee turnover it creates.
Workflow automation improves communication by eliminating the need for team members to remind each other when something must be done; they’ll receive those reminders automatically.
2. Workflow automation increases accountability.
By automating your workflow, you can assign responsibility to a team member for every aspect of a project or process, thus reducing the chances of something slipping through the cracks. Managers can ensure all the work gets done and spot process inefficiencies or weak spots.
3. Workflow automation saves money.
Workplace automation can help you cut business costs by eliminating expensive errors and streamlining your processes to help employees complete tasks more efficiently. You may also save money on administrative labor because repetitive, time-consuming tasks will be done automatically.
4. Workflow automation can empower employees.
With workflow automation, every employee knows their precise roles and the tasks they’re responsible for. They can manage their work more effectively and be accountable for anything that goes wrong. In turn, managers don’t have to oversee every process step or check in on employees frequently.
5. Workflow automation boosts business efficiency.
Workflow automation software makes it easy to assign roles, space out tasks and grant approval responsibilities to the appropriate team members. This speeds up processes that previously required manager intervention.
6. Workflow automation boosts productivity.
Dorna Moini, CEO of document automation software provider Gavel (formerly Documate), said workflow automation allows employees to devote their time to higher-value assignments. “In client-facing industries like law, finance and insurance, this can lead to serving more clients in a shorter amount of time with higher profit margins,” Moini noted.
7. Workflow automation helps teams produce higher-quality work.
When employees have more time for the vital work they care about and were hired for — and as the business software handles the more mundane and human-error-prone tasks — you’re bound to see more quality output from your team.
Using open-source document management software is an excellent way to implement workflow automation. It can process data, organize documents and send electronic signature requests without human intervention.
How does workflow automation work?
Workflow automation software uses rule-based logic to automate many standard business processes, including those within the finance, marketing and human resources departments. Here are some examples of how workflow automation works:
- Workflow automation and email marketing: One of the most popular uses of workflow management software is in conjunction with email marketing. Marketing automation software can help you send follow-up emails, lead-nurturing messages, confirmation emails, contact management emails, and email drip campaigns.
- Workflow automation and human resources: Workflow automation software can input employee information into payroll systems, insurance policies, expense accounts, and other official systems you use for HR tasks. Automation eliminates much of the time required to conduct these tasks and reduces the chances of errors, which is particularly important for sensitive information. Workflow automation can also make it easier to share information among team members, ensure compliance, and streamline essential processes, like hiring and onboarding, to make them faster and more efficient.
- Workplace automation and accounting: Accounting is another widespread use for workflow automation. You can automate reimbursement requests, expense processing, travel requests, invoice reconciliation and more to save time and reduce employee frustration.
What are the key features of workflow automation software?
When you’re choosing workflow automation software, look for these essential features:
- An easy-to-use builder: You want all your workflow automation processes to begin with an intuitive builder or design tool that lets you create, edit and share your workflows. Look for a builder that makes the software easy for anyone to use and allows quick edits and previews.
- Access control: One of the best ways to ensure data remains accurate within your workflow automation software is to use a service with an access control option. This allows you to assign steps to specific users and control who can view and edit each portion of the workflow.
- Participant alerts: To maximize workflow efficiency, look for software that lets you send alerts to team members when it’s their turn to complete a task.
- Integrations: Look for software that lets you fully automate your workflow with relevant integrations. You want a tool that will seamlessly integrate with other platforms you might use, such as the best CRM software, an email marketing service, or Google Analytics.
- Progress trackers: One of the benefits of workflow automation software is that it can track your progress and pinpoint where you can improve efficiency. A tracking feature shows you how your projects are progressing.
- Data security: With data breaches a constant threat, choosing software with robust security measures is essential. Look for providers with browser security, encryption and password-protected files.
- KPI reports: Reports on your key performance indicators (KPIs) let you see any productivity bottlenecks immediately and give you the information you need to quickly fix the problems.
Popular workflow automation software
Here are some popular workflow automation software options and why small businesses use them:
- UiPath: UiPath specializes in hyperautomation that saves businesses time and effort, improves the employee experience, and helps ensure compliance across several industries. “[I like] UiPath as it has a sizable user base, and its basic version is free,” said Michael Sena, analytics consultant at Senacea. “Moreover, it could be used without programming, but at the same time allows you to augment its use with code. UiPath StudioX is also great for small and microbusinesses that want to test simple RPA (robotic process automation) solutions using predefined building blocks.” Visit UiPath online to learn more.
- ClickUp: ClickUp is designed to be an all-in-one productivity app that combines task management, word processing, chat, goal management and more. Syed said ClickUp is the best workflow automation software he has come across, due to its integrations, customization options and generous free tier. “Of course, depending on your organization, it may not meet your needs, as it’s a software meant for the masses,” Syed noted. Visit ClickUp online to learn more.
- Integrify: Integrify is a low-code workflow automation platform that offers an easy-to-use builder, flexible customization, multiple pricing options and dedicated customer support. “Not all workflow automation software can address the complex needs of businesses,” said Allan Borch, founder of Dotcom Dollar. “[Integrify] has all the necessary features that can fit the needs of those businesses in various fields.” Visit Integrify online to learn more.
- Salesforce Pardot: Salesforce Pardot is a flexible workflow automation platform with all the support and innovation you’d expect from a large company like Salesforce. Wade Stembridge, marketing manager at akaCRM, loves to use Salesforce to set up workflow rules to automate his marketing activities. “Here I also build lead-capture forms and nurture campaigns, which automatically updates our CRM,” Stembridge said. “Our automated scoring system helps our sales team stay informed on what leads are actively engaged, helping them convert prospects faster.” Visit Salesforce Pardot online to learn more.
- Zapier: Zapier is an automation tool that automatically shares information among web apps, making it easy to connect all the programs you use daily and boost productivity. Ian Kelly, former CEO of NuLeaf Naturals, likes Zapier’s simplicity. “In fact, it almost reminds me of playing The Sims because you are able to intuitively build workflows for common but tedious tasks,” Kelly noted. “For example, if you always want a duplicate of every message, you can set up that workflow instead of manually duplicating and occasionally forgetting to do this.” Visit Zapier online to learn more.
Why workflow automation matters
The key to running a successful business is creating efficient systems for employees to follow. This means thinking critically about what must get done and how it should be accomplished.
With workflow automation technology, small business owners can offload mundane, repetitive processes while getting an inside look into how their business operates by reviewing key metrics and processes related to team communication and project tracking. By leveraging a workflow automation platform, you’re taking the first step toward a more efficient business.
Matt D’Angelo contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.