The step from analogue processes on paper to digital workflows is the core of the term digitisation. Processes and tasks that were previously carried out with pen and paper and possibly filed in thick binders are now carried out digitally, thanks to the help of software. In the course of this, the term workflow has also found its way in, which means nothing other than process flow. But let's be honest: we can probably all hardly hear the term digitalisation any more. It has been with us for decades and is really no longer an insider tip. That's why we want to look ahead:
What is the next step after digital workflows? How do companies move forward when they have long since digitised the majority of their processes?
Digital workflows also have weak points
The promises are usually clear: more efficiency, cost savings, yes, maybe even a more positive environmental balance. All thanks to digital workflows. If you have ever experienced the digital transformation in a company, you probably know how much more there is to it. Because scanning old files is usually not enough. There is much more to it: Choosing the right IT infrastructure (cloud or server?), making a good software choice and, last but not least, convincing the team that this "new" digital world is great.
But that should not be the topic. Let's jump ahead in time and assume that your company is mostly digitalised. You use email, of course. Probably also cloud storage such as Sharepoint or Google Drive. Since Corona, communication has also come into focus: Teams, Slack or maybe Google Hangouts are used more than ever. There's also a database, maybe a CRM software, the accounting department also uses that one other software. Not to mention the HR department, which is struggling with Datev as usual.
You may have noticed that there can be a huge network of different software, which is added to bit by bit, but which only becomes more complex as a result. For almost every need there is a new application that promises solutions. Do you really know exactly how many tools are used in your company? And that is precisely the problem: the promised efficiency of digital workflows is undermined when the exact same data is entered in five different places. Or if no one knows exactly where this one piece of information can be found now.
What is the next step after digital workflows?
Let's make it short: automation. Automation is the next step after digital workflows that can solve the challenge mentioned above. To be precise, process automation. Because that is the term that means nothing other than letting digital workflows run completely autonomously. And this is done by linking all the stand-alone software mentioned above. The best way to illustrate this is with an example.
Example of a digital workflow: quotation preparation
This example is from a recent project of ours. It shows that even a seemingly highly individual workflow can be automated: Namely, the preparation of offers.
The client company is an agency for investor relations. In order to create an individual offer for the client, a lot of information is necessary, which the advisors collect during the interview. Thanks to the automated workflow, the process now looks like this:
Using a form on the password-protected Wordpress website, the consultants can select which service modules should be included in the offer. A highly individualised document is gradually created from over 90 fields. Some modules are mandatory, others optional. This is taken into account in the form query.
In the next step, this information is "sent". The corresponding text modules are stored in a database and assigned to the selection fields from the form. So we know: if module C is selected, the offer must contain the following sentence. Based on this data, a Word document is then automatically generated according to a template. This is how the offer appears in the company's letterhead. If desired, the document is sent to the consultants for checking or directly to the clients.
A process that was previously digitalised but very time-consuming now runs in seconds.
It must be done frequently or according to a schedule
It is boring or does not require complex thinking
It can be standardised
It keeps you from tasks you would rather do and in which you see more meaning
The above example shows that even point 3, standardisation, is not as big a hurdle as perhaps initially thought. Many processes can be standardised, it has just not been considered yet.
The advantages of automated workflows
We remember: more efficiency, cost savings, a more positive environmental balance: these are the promises that digital workflows have often made. And sure, we could just repeat these three points for automated workflows. They can lead to more efficiency, cost savings and yes, perhaps a more positive environmental balance. But that doesn't really get to the heart of it.
Automation takes over processes that are already being carried out in companies today. It therefore complements people in their tasks at certain points. And here is the key word: complement.
Automation can help to map recurring, often time-consuming processes and thus shorten them considerably. But what to do with the time saved? What do the consultants from the client company mentioned above do now that the time-consuming preparation of offers is no longer necessary? They deal with the actual core of sales: customer care. Addressing new customers, looking after existing ones more intensively, project work, strategic development.
Because one thing automation will not supplement in the near future: Empathy and social skills. And it is precisely these that will make companies successful in the coming decades. Especially service providers, B2B companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.
We are happy to support you in uncovering potentials, illuminating possibilities and implementing automation.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.