What is Workflow Automation? Examples and Tools
Workflow automation can significantly boost organizational efficiency and improve the bottom line.
But what IS workflow automation, really?
There are a TON of buzzwords surrounding the term, so it can be pretty tough to really understand what workflow automation means, especially if you’re new to process management.
Well, we’re here to save the day!
In this guide, we’re going to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know in order to get started with workflow automation, including:
- What, exactly, is workflow automation
- Why workflow automation is amazing for your business (incl. all the potential benefits)
- 4+ real-life workflow automation examples (that you can use for your business)
- How to automate your workflows
What is Workflow Automation? 🔍
Workflow automation is the process of automating simple, repetitive tasks that were previously completed by people.
When people hear about workflow automation, the first thing that comes to their mind is robots working on a manufacturing line.
That is, however, not the same thing.
See, the latter is called robotic process automation.
Workflow automation refers more to typical office tasks – sending an email, inputting data in some software, communicating tasks, etc.
Workflow automation always happens through workflow management software (and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably).
In a few words, you use workflow management software to create digital versions of your processes and then automate specific tasks.
To make this practical and stray away from the realm of theory, let’s talk about a very common example of workflow automation.
For example, let’s say that you’re working with the following employee onboarding process:
1. New employee submits paperwork on the website
2. HR inputs employee data to HR software
3. Data is sent to HR lead for approval. The lead approves the documents.
4. Team lead prepares initial tasks and goals for the new hire
5. The office manager preps the employee workstation
Here’s how you’d automate the process:
First, you automate the task flow by using workflow software.
What that means is, once task #1 in the workflow is completed, the software automatically assigns task #2 to the respective employee.
As with the employee onboarding process example above, in step #2, once the HR inputs the employee data in the HR software, the HR lead automatically gets notified that they’re supposed to do task #3 (approve the documents).
Once the HR lead hits “done,” the team lead automatically gets assigned step #4, and this goes on until the workflow is completed.
So, is that all there is to workflow automation? No, you can also automate smaller tasks within the workflow.
Referring to the example above, the task that can be automated is step #3: “HR inputs employee data to HR software.”
You can use workflow automation software to completely eliminate this manual task – once the candidate submits their data, it’s automatically transferred to the HR software.
Here’s how the new workflow would look like…
1. New employee submits paperwork on the website. The data is automatically transferred to the HR software without any manual intervention
2. Data is sent to the HR lead for approval
Sounds simple enough, right?
And here’s the kicker:
Most organizations have dozens of workflows that they can automate, freeing up their employees’ time, and allowing them to focus on the work that matters.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits – why should you use workflow automation in your organization?
4 Essential Workflow Automation Benefits 📈
There are a ton of benefits to using workflow automation, including…
1. Communication automation
Without automated workflows, your employees are charged with assigning each other tasks. Occasionally, they’re bound to forget to do this, which will eventually lead to a missed deadline.
Workflow software automates task assignments, which makes it a lot less likely for your employees to make mistakes.
The software also pings employees when needed (close to deadline), or sends a notification to management if the workflow is underperforming.
2. Task accountability
With workflow software, everyone knows who’s in charge of what. The management team gets a top-down view of what all your employees are doing, and if someone’s close to missing a deadline.
You can even set up email notifications for whenever a workflow is performing slower than usual (and might lead to a missed deadline).
On the other hand, from your employee’s side, they have a single dashboard with all their tasks (automatically prioritized by deadlines).
3. Fewer mistakes
As a combination of the other 2 benefits (task accountability and communication automation), your employees are bound to make fewer mistakes at work.
Everyone knows what they’re responsible for, what their deadlines are, as well as what their co-workers are working on.
4. Improved bottom line & productivity
As a result of all the other benefits, you’re going to see higher productivity and improved bottom line company-wise.
Your employees will make fewer mistakes at work, and be able to focus on work that has a real impact.
3 Real-Life Workflow Automation Examples
So, did we convince you to try workflow automation for your business?
Now, let’s talk about how you can put it into practice with 3 of the most common workflow automation examples.
Client Onboarding Process
Most client onboarding processes follow exactly the same steps.
Usually, it looks something like this:
1. The client fills in a form on your website
2. You transfer the data from the form to a Google Sheet or CRM (where you keep track of inbound leads)
3. Setup a kickoff call with the client
4. If you manage to close the client, send the relevant contracts and paperwork
5. Send welcome email
6. Create a folder for working with the specific client on Google Drive
7. Ask the client for access to their software and accounts. E.g. Google Analytics, CRM, relevant databases, and whatever else.
If client onboarding is something that your organization does on a regular basis, having the workflow automated can be extremely beneficial.
You’ll leave a much better first impression with your client base, and leave no room for errors within the onboarding process itself..
Other than that, you can also automate a big chunk of all the individual tasks that are part of the standard client onboarding process, including:
- Once the data is submitted via a form, you can use our solution to automatically transfer the data to a sheet or CRM
- You can set up an auto-reply to the form submission, sending the lead a link to your Calendly link to set up the meeting
- You can create a workflow that automatically executes all the technical stuff. E.g. Once the client is signed, you kickoff this workflow, and automatically, a Google Drive folder is created, and an instructions manual is sent to the client on how to give you access to their software and accounts.
Most HR processes can benefit from workflow automation, including (but not limited to):
Employee Onboarding. It’s essential to get your employee onboarding right. After all, the onboarding is the first interaction with your new hire, and if you want them to stick around, you’ll have to leave a good impression.
A structured, automated onboarding process can help make that happen.
Employee Offboarding. It’s important to offboard your employees properly so that you don’t expose your business to potential liabilities. Workflow automation lets you do this with significantly more accuracy.
Leave Management. The process of taking a leave can be pretty hectic without workflow software. There’s a bunch of forms going back and forth between an employee, the HR, and the management.
To make it 100x simpler, all you need to do is adopt a workflow software and digitize the approval workflow.
In this case, the employee hits “launch” on the leave approval workflow, inputs their data, and the software automatically assigns relevant tasks to relevant employees, ensuring that the workflow gets completed ASAP without any hiccups.
As with HR, there are a TON of finance processes that can benefit from workflow automation, including:
- Purchase Requests
- Issuing Invoices
- Vendor Approvals
- Investment Authorizations
- Travel Expense Requests
And basically any other finance process that requires approval from several departments.
Most large organizations that don’t use workflow software often struggle with this, as it slows down everyone’s work. For example: Need something purchased NOW? Your request might end up lost in a pile of emails, taking you weeks before it gets approved.
With workflow automation, though, all that is a thing of the past. You centralize all your approvals through the software, and all you need to do is launch the relevant process (and you’ll KNOW that it’s going to be finished on time).
How to Use our Solution for Workflow Automation🏝
You can’t automate your workflows without the right workflow management software, and that’s where our solution comes in.
This is an innovative workflow management software that doubles as a SaaS management solution (more on this later).
You can use it to automate just about every workflow, including:
- SOC 2 Audits
…And pretty much any other workflow you can come up with.
The process itself is super simple – all you have to do is sign up for a Demo, and create your workflow through the “Workflow Gallery.”
You hit “Start New” on the workflow you want to automate and input employee details.
Then, you create the individual tasks that the workflow consists of.
From then on out, all you have to do is re-run the workflow for each new employee you want onboarded (or customize it by role).
Pro tip – to make your onboarding processes smoother, we recommend creating several variations of the workflow split by department.
As we mentioned before, in addition to workflow management, our solution also lets you manage and optimize your SaaS spend.
With our solution, you get a dashboard with a run-down of all the SaaS tools your organization is using, allowing you to optimize your spending:
- Renew, terminate, or approve vendors through a single dashboard
- Get insights on all your monthly SaaS spending
- Know which SaaS tools you’re using (and which ones are just eating up your budget)
Workflow automation is a lot simpler than you thought, huh?
Now, let’s do a quick recap of everything we’ve covered:
- Workflow automation is the act of automating process flows or individual tasks.
- Workflow automation comes with a ton of potential benefits, including communication automation, task accountability, fewer mistakes at work, and an improved bottom line.
- You can automate just about any standard process, including client onboarding, a lot of HR processes (employee on/offboarding, approvals), as well as most finance approval processes.
- To automate your processes, you need to use the right software. You can use our solution for workflow automation, SaaS management, and more.
Vendr acquired Blissfully in February 2022.