Workflow automation creates the cornerstone of office efficiency. In 2020, it is expected to continue being a trending topic as organizations look to make their processes leaner and of higher impact.
Many people are familiar with things like document management solutions and how automation applies to document processes. However, workflow automation software is a smart move for many business processes, not just document management.
Think about all the ways office processes can be optimized, such as removing redundant steps in the workflow or automating approval processes. Whether you are working towards a 2020 resolution or an ongoing goal, read on to learn about the best practices for workflow automation, and how best to leverage it to help a business thrive.
Where to Use Workflow Automation to Drive Achievement in an Office
Workflow automation, also known as business process automation, uses software to automate business processes. It is one way that companies cut down on the amount of menial labor done by employees so they can focus on higher-value initiatives that require human expertise. When deployed thoughtfully, with a strategic goal in mind, workflow automation can be a powerful tool to streamline office processes.
However, not every business process works well with automation. To determine what to automate, use the Rule of Three.
Decide What to Automate with the Rule of 3: Repetitive, Recurring, Rules-Based
Processes that are repetitive, recurring, and rules-based benefit the most from automation. These processes often constitute the bedrock of business functions and are sensitive to human error. Yet, they take up time and labor better spent elsewhere.
Some examples of business processes that fall under one or all three rules include:
- Data entry and extraction: Pulling out addresses from invoices, identifying keywords in a resume, or converting written forms to electronic data all benefit from automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with optical character recognition (OCR), can take over these time-consuming tasks giving employees more time to focus on important assignments that need human expertise.
- Approval processes: Many business processes require signoffs from certain people. Algorithms can automatically determine if specific tasks have been completed with a document or project and send approval notifications to the right people.
- Accounts receivables: From automatic invoicing to purchase order matching, automation can eliminate many of the rote processes associated with payments and accounts.
Best Practices for Workflow Automation in 2020
Dozens of automation tools are readily available to organizations. This can make workflow automation seem overwhelming or encourage an overengineered strategy that automates too many processes. Be smart with automation in 2020 by choosing a managed service provider as well as deploying these best practices:
1. Start Small but With the Big Picture in Mind
It is not necessary to automate everything – in fact, it might not even be a good idea. Instead, roll out automation in stages so that critical processes do not get disrupted, bottlenecked, or stopped. Consider how automation in one area can affect processes in another area and adapt accordingly.
2. Understand Workflow Automation Terminology
Like most technological solutions, the jumble of buzzwords and jargon can get confusing. Workflow automation generally refers to the processes that are automated in the workflow, but terms like business process automation and robotic process automation may also appear.
- Business process automation (BPA): Refers to an overarching workflow solutions strategy that increases productivity by automating the steps a business needs to conduct its core functions.
- Robotic process automation (RPA): Refers to the use of solutions that automate highly repetitive tasks and standardized processes.
Understanding these differences will save time and frustration.
3. Conduct a Process Assessment
Conduct a thorough assessment of the organization’s processes before making any adjustments or deploying automation. A document management or business process expert can help by pointing out blind spots or opportunities for improvement that the company may not have considered.
Examples of these blind spots include things such as a lack of secure options for sharing documents (relying instead on email attachments), or poor configurations for synchronized cloud storage.
4. Define Specific Automation Goals
Workflow automation provides the highest value when deployed with a specific goal in mind. Start by trying to automate just one or two processes known for causing bottlenecks in a workflow.
For example, if approval signoffs regularly go unattended, consider automating these notifications so they do not get missed.
5. Create a Workflow Plan or Map
This can be written or visual, but every workflow needs a map. Sometimes even the simplest workflows can become complicated when thinking about the multiple steps and approvals involved. This map will help identify if the workflow is working and illuminate instances when it “breaks.”
6. Have a Backup Plan
Technology is not infallible, and technical glitches may cause errors or problems from time to time. Therefore, when deploying workflow automation solutions, make sure to have a backup plan that allows for human intervention without stopping processes.
For example, a power outage could shut down the whole system which is why it is necessary to have a backup plan that involves people handling the automated tasks when an office cannot rely on automation.
Automate Document Management to Save Time and Costs
Many document management solutions utilize automation to significantly improve efficiency and productivity within an office. This powerful software not only automates steps like document capture, archival, and retrieval but can integrate with other valuable enterprise software to enhance automation across an organization.
For example, some document management software can integrate with the software found on multifunction printers to create backups or transmit documents that are scanned or printed.
Likewise, document management solutions help an office move away from slow, bulky paper documents. By transforming paper records into electronic documents, they become easier to manage, work with, and access to make rapid business decisions.
RJ Young Helps Companies Achieve Operational Efficiency with Workflow Automation
Workflow automation represents a powerful strategy that many companies deploy to keep their operations streamlined and efficient. Through the thoughtful application of automation in critical areas, employees spend less time managing mundane, routine tasks and more time handling situations that require a human touch.
In 2020, workflow automation is a trending topic – one that every business must consider staying current.
RJ Young helps companies achieve operational efficiency through the strategic deployment of automation. Contact RJ Young today to get started.