How to use workflow automation for efficiency, productivity and growth: 3 examples
How many times a day do you copy data from A to B? Or are you annoyed that information in a database is long out of date?
If you find yourself asking these questions, it might be worth considering workflow automation. This is because it independently takes over digitally executed actions and tasks.
Workflow automation can help your company work more efficiently, increase productivity and, last but not least, generate growth. Sounds pretty fancy, but see for yourself.
What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation is when a series of tasks and activities are linked together and can run independently. This workflow always follows the same pattern. For this, the process must first be identified and defined. It must therefore be clear in which order which tasks are to be completed and in what quality this should happen.
In addition, the process must be entirely digital.
This is the most basic prerequisite for workflow automation. Once this point has been checked off, automation can be considered. With suitable technologies and software, digitally processed data can be linked with each other. This is because very different applications are often used within a workflow, such as emails, a database, perhaps an ERP system or a CRM. Data is the currency of these software applications.
In order for this data transfer to succeed, standardisation plays an important role. Because workflow automation thrives on it. A defined trigger starts the workflow. This then triggers further actions, which always follow the same pattern, but can be provided with numerous "if, then" functions or filters. This is how highly complex and flexible workflow automations can be created.
Why is workflow automation important?
Consumers today expect faster results and digitalisation is the only way to deliver them. By automating common tasks, businesses can save time, effort and money. And by delivering high-quality work quickly as well as accurately, businesses gain an advantage over competitors who rely on manual processes. But to achieve all this, you need effective workflow automation software.
Automation is the logical next step in digitalisation. In a survey from 2021, 75% of the IT decision-makers surveyed stated that they would like to counter increasing complexity in IT operations with automation. At the same time, 70% said that expanding digitisation and increasing efficiency (40%) will be the most important demands of management on IT in the coming year. The two topics of digitalisation and automation are therefore difficult to separate. Workflow automation combines exactly that with the desired increase in efficiency.
Workflow automation often takes over not only repetitive tasks, but also very dull tasks. For example, copying and pasting data. Manually transferring information from the email to the CRM was yesterday. However, it is precisely these small clicks that often interrupt more important and complex tasks. Workflow automation avoids this and thus increases the efficiency of workflows.
Admittedly, workflow automation can seem complex at the beginning. After all, the workflow must be defined with all its contingencies. This can result in complex flowcharts, BPMNs or decision trees. But once this step is taken and workflow automation is implemented, the complexity in your team's daily workflows is significantly reduced.
We have experienced that workflows that previously took hours now only take a few seconds thanks to successful workflow automation. For example, the creation of a reporting. Do we need to say more about this point?
Probably the best thing about workflow automation is that it runs stably - completely independent of the amount of data processed. The automation doesn't care whether 10 or 100 process flows take place every day. For your business, this means that workflow automation grows with you. If you suddenly need more capacity, the automation delivers it.
How do you know if you can automate a workflow?
This point is helped by some questions you can ask yourself but also the people involved in the process:
How often does the process run?
How long does it last on average?
Is it done willingly or is it a necessary evil?
Does the process need creativity or new decisions every time?
Is the process linked to a single person? If so, why?
Can seemingly individual processes be standardised?
In our experience, it makes most sense to use workflow automation for processes that happen regularly and are unloved. Auxiliary activities, such as entering data in a CRM, are also ideal for automation. After all, your sales team is in urgent need of up-to-date information from the CRM, but does not necessarily have to enter it manually. Moreover, standardisation should not be underestimated. It is possible much more often than you might think.
What are frequently automated workflows?
Workflow automation often supports your team in their daily tasks. In other words, it facilitates work rather than replacing it entirely. For example, standardised communication. What does standardised mean in this case? If you send emails with identical content to different people, that is standardised. This can be the case, for example, in the onboarding of new clients. After signing a contract, you need certain documents and records. This request can be sent automatically by e-mail. This can be triggered by the status in your CRM "Deal won".
Requesting information and data is another frequently automated workflow. In the meantime, it has become extremely easy to request the necessary data via forms. But what happens with this data afterwards? As a rule, it can be inserted directly where it is needed, for example in a database. If desired, an e-mail can be sent about the successful upload. This data upload can also be used to trigger new actions. For example, a PDF can be generated that clearly presents the information.
One of the workflow automations that is most frequently requested from us deals with accounting. This way, receipts and invoices that you receive by email can be automatically filed in the right folder and also in your accounting software. You can book the payments directly and ensure that the receipts are archived in the right place.
Workflow automation as an all-purpose weapon? No
We have now raved a lot about workflow automation, admittedly. But of course this technology also reaches its limits. Especially when the effort exceeds the benefit. If a workflow takes 5 minutes once a year, the effort to automate it is probably hardly worth the time saved. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about your own potential. Even if a process is not or cannot be automated in the end, standardisation and digitisation in itself is usually an efficiency gain.
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.