Emilia Dunaj
Emilia Dunaj
Head of Technology Insights
November 2023, 9 min. read

If you want efficient workflows, automation is the area you need to invest in. But how do you do it right? What is the first step to approaching automation? Understanding the process is crucial here, and it breaks down into seven practical steps, each critical to achieving success.

Automating workflows is a systematic process that requires careful planning, selection, and implementation. As we’ve explained in our thorough guide to workflow automation, rule-based workflow automation tools stand out as the technology that can transform how your business operates. It turns repetitive, manual tasks into streamlined, automated processes, freeing up your team to focus on strategic, growth-driven activities. 

In this read, we unfold the essential automation step-by-step strategy, empowering your business with the tools and knowledge to thrive in an automated future. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to automate workflows in seven steps.

1. Assess current workflow for automation potential

Start with a thorough assessment of your current workflow. This critical first step involves identifying tasks within your daily operations that are repetitive and time-consuming. Consider the parts of your day where manual effort dominates. Tasks like data entry, scheduling appointments, and generating regular reports are often repetitive and time-consuming, making them ideal for automation.

Understanding how information flows through your business is equally important. Look for any bottlenecks, like delayed approvals or document processing, which can slow down operations. Automating these areas can significantly boost efficiency.

This is also the perfect time to really look at and improve your processes, fixing any big problems right away. If you create automated processes that aren’t working well, it won’t solve the problem. To ensure you reap the full benefits of this transition, get your workflow processes to work well first before you start automating them.

Involving your team in this assessment phase is crucial. Their day-to-day experiences provide invaluable insights into the workflow’s strengths and weaknesses. Engage them through surveys or discussions to gather their perspectives. Often, the most effective insights about where improvements are needed come directly from those who are hands-on with the current processes.

2. Determine processes suitable for automation

Following the seven stages of automation, the next step involves identifying opportunities for automation within your processes. Pinpoint which processes are best candidates for automation and the specific areas in your operations that will mostly benefit from workflow automation.

Start by prioritizing high-impact processes. Identify the areas where improvements will have a significant effect on productivity or customer satisfaction. For example, automating your sales process, like lead tracking and follow-ups, can significantly enhance efficiency and boost customer engagement. 

Similarly, automating your supply chain, particularly in areas like inventory management, can significantly streamline operations, leading to reduced costs and enhanced overall efficiency.

In this step, working closely with the process owner is necessary. Your employees have in-depth knowledge of the process and can offer insights on what works well and what doesn’t. 

Technical feasibility is another crucial factor. Ensure that the processes you wish to automate can be effectively managed by the available technology. This might mean choosing processes that are already well-structured and rule-based, making them easier to automate.

Expert digital consulting can play a key role in assessing technological compatibility and providing insights on the best workflow automation strategies.

3. Define business goals

Setting clear goals is critical when determining what you want to achieve through automation and how it aligns with your overall business objectives. Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework ensures that your objectives are clearly defined, realistically attainable, and set within a specific timeframe. 

SMART goals framework

For example, aim to reduce process times by 30% within six months or enhance data entry accuracy by 40% in the next quarter. Establishing such specific and time-sensitive goals is vital for crafting a focused and effective automation strategy. These business objectives provide a structured way to measure the success of your automation efforts.

Gather input from various departments to make your goals comprehensive and relevant across the organization. Ensure your goals align with your company’s long-term vision. Automation should not just streamline processes but also contribute to overall business growth and efficiency.

In addition to setting goals, you need to establish metrics to measure the success of your automation efforts:

  • Processing time: Track the time taken to complete jobs before and after automation
  • Error rate: Measure the accuracy of tasks, noting any reduction in errors post-automation
  • Employee productivity: Assess changes in employee productivity and time allocation
  • Customer satisfaction: Monitor customer feedback and satisfaction levels, especially for customer-facing processes
  • Cost savings: Calculate the cost saved in terms of hours or resources after implementing automation

These metrics offer tangible evidence of the benefits and effectiveness of your automation initiatives. Regularly monitoring these will help you understand the impact of automation and guide future improvements.

4. Select the best workflow automation software for your needs

Now that you know which processes you need to automate, you can browse for the appropriate workflow automation software. Selecting the right one is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It requires a thoughtful balance between immediate needs and future goals, budget considerations, and the importance of customization. 

There are myriad options available. While off-the-shelf products may seem convenient, opting for custom-developed workflow software might provide the exact alignment of your business needs with its unique requirements and goals. 

Understanding the specific needs of the business is crucial. Commercial applications provide ready-made functionalities that might suffice for general operations. But, if your organization has specialized features or unique processes, tailored software will have functions to fit all requirements.

Off-the-shelf software often comes with a set pricing model and may include unnecessary features. On the contrary, custom-developed business workflow solutions typically involve a higher initial investment but can provide long-term value by precisely aligning with business needs.

Consider the scalability and flexibility of the available programs. While commercial products may have limitations in adapting to growing or changing business needs, custom-made workflow software allows for future modifications and scaling. Choosing cooperation with a company offering software development services means your automated workflow solutions restraints won’t hold down your business. 

5. Prepare for workflow automation

Preparation is key if you want to automate your workflow smoothly. This phase involves setting the groundwork for a successful implementation. 

It’s common for any new change introduced by management to be met with resistance, as employees often view it as unnecessary or disruptive. Also, 38% of employees don’t want superiors to impose the tech they use for work. To address this, communicate the benefits of the new system and involve employees in the process. Gaining buy-in from your team is essential for successful adoption. Explain how automation will make their work easier and more efficient, and be open to their concerns and suggestions.

Training your team is also essential. Employees must understand how to use the new tools and processes. Plan comprehensive training sessions and supplement these with accessible resources like manuals or online tutorials. 

Consider providing access to these materials through B2B portals. These portals are easy to use and keep all the training content in one place. This makes it easier for employees to find and use the materials whenever they need them. Ensuring easy availability of training resources through convenient platforms can significantly enhance learning and adoption. Well-trained and equipped with the right resources, employees are more likely to confidently embrace new systems.

Pilot testing is a vital step. Start with a small-scale implementation of the automation solution. This will allow you to identify and address any issues before a full-scale roll-out. Use the feedback from this pilot phase to make necessary adjustments.

6. Implement your solution

After thorough preparation, the next phase is to put your chosen automation solution into action. This step is where your planning and preparation come to life.

Begin by rolling out the automation in phases. A phased approach aids in managing the change more effectively and allows for smoother integration. Start with less complex processes and gradually move to more complex ones. This strategy helps in identifying potential issues early on and allows for adjustments without impacting the entire system.

Communication throughout the implementation process is vital. Keep all stakeholders informed about the changes, timelines, and expected outcomes. Clear communication helps in managing expectations and mitigating resistance to change.

Providing support during the transition is crucial. Set up a helpdesk or support system on your digital portal to assist employees as they adapt to the new tools and processes. Offering support through a digital portal can further ease the transition and enhance user experience. 

Companies specializing in custom software development offer experience and expertise in handling all the challenging tasks of integration and putting new systems to work. They make sure everything goes smoothly and works well. This specialized skill set is really helpful for adapting solutions to fit exactly what your business needs.

7. Monitor and optimize your automated workflows

The final step in implementing a workflow automation system is the ongoing process of monitoring and continuously optimizing your process automation. This phase is crucial for ensuring long-term success and achieving maximum efficiency.

To effectively track the performance of your automated workflows, use workflow analysis tools integrated into your automation software. Some of these tools provide comprehensive data and analytics, allowing you to precisely assess how well your automation is performing. For example, if you observe a decrease in processing time but an increase in error rates, this data can highlight areas where the automation logic may require fine-tuning.

It’s also important to get feedback from business users. Your employees and customers can tell you how the new automated processes are working for them. Always ask for their opinions and be open to suggestions. What they tell you can be really helpful for making practical adjustments that improve how things work and how easy the system is to use.

Regular updates are key to optimization. Based on the data collected and feedback received, continuously refine and improve your automated workflows. As technology and business environments are dynamic, your automated systems should evolve to stay relevant and efficient.

Final thoughts

Workflow automation solutions make your business processes simpler and more productive. Numerous areas within your organization, from automating your back-office task flow to optimizing product lifecycle management, can reap significant benefits from the introduction of automation software. These solutions offer the flexibility to customize your processes according to your unique needs, ensuring seamless workflows across various business functions.

Follow this automation step-by-step strategy to set up efficient, automated workflows. Think of each step of the workflow automation checklist as a stride toward operational excellence. It starts with figuring out what parts of your work can be automated and ends with keeping an eye on these automated tasks to make them better over time. Think of each step as a big move towards making your operations run smoother and more efficiently.

Be aware that workflow automation is an ongoing process. As your business grows and changes, your automation needs to change, too. If you keep checking on and improving your automation, your business stays modern and efficient.

Ready to jump into this world of modern technology but unsure where to start? Get in touch with our automation experts today. We’re here to guide you through every step of your journey towards streamlined, automated business processes.

Ready to Revolutionize Your Workflows?

Get in touch

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What is the first step to approaching automation?
    The first step to approaching automation is identifying automation opportunities within your business. Assess your current processes to find areas where manual, repetitive tasks dominate. This is the initial stage of automation, where you can establish automation rules to streamline workflows in your organization.
  2. How to improve workflow?
    Improving workflow often involves assessing and restructuring current processes to increase efficiency. Implementing automation step by step can significantly enhance workflow. Consider consulting a workflow automation vendor for tailored solutions that fit your business needs.
  3. How can we achieve workflow automation?
    Achieving workflow automation involves going through various stages of automation, from identifying repetitive jobs to implementing automation solutions. It’s important to understand how to automate workflows systematically, which might include utilizing software tools or collaborating with automation vendors.
  4. Which strategies can be used to improve workflow?
    Strategies to improve workflow include:
    – Get organized
    – Clearly communicate tasks and processes
    – Automate repetitive tasks
    – Optimize resource allocation
    – Continuously monitor and refine processes
    – Utilizing a workflow checklist can help in ensuring all critical steps are efficiently managed and automated where possible.
  5. What is a workflow checklist?
    A workflow checklist is a comprehensive list of tasks and procedures that need to be completed within a business process. It helps in organizing jobs, ensuring consistency, and identifying potential areas for automation to improve overall workflow efficiency.
  6. How do you automate manual processes?
    To automate manual processes, start by identifying tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming. Develop automation rules and utilize suitable tools or software. It’s a step-by-step strategy where each phase, from planning to implementation, is vital for effective automation.