Workflow Automation to Boost Productivity – Here’s How
Conversations about automation are held in every industry and it’s the hallmark of the current era of the industrial revolution – the digital revolution. Human labor steps down from tasks at work, which are better left to algorithms and machines, and instead, workers dedicate their talents and intelligence to the work that matters most.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation removes human labor from repetitive information-based tasks through the introduction of technological solutions. These digital services automate menial tasks and speed up processing times for specific actions. No matter how minuscule or specific a given task is such as transcribing, filling out forms, forwarding emails, data input, and uploading email attachments, there are tools that perform these tasks in seconds as soon as a trigger presents itself and boosts productivity.
Advantages and disadvantages of workflow automation
You only stand to gain from implementing workflow automation in your day-to-day. The pressure to perform at full capacity exists in every market, whether you’re a small, independent business, or a veteran of considerable size. You maximize efficiency and reduce the time associated with the completion of certain tasks and processes. Better yet, workflow automation entirely removes human error from the equation.
If implemented poorly, workflow automation does more harm than good and this stands from not fully understanding the work processes in your company when drafting automation protocols. The initial investment into needed software services and applications can be too steep for companies to readily jump onto the trend.
Why should you care about automation?
A workplace without dull, repetitive tasks is a workplace where workers engage readily with their work responsibilities. Not an insignificant amount of energy is expended in brainless tasks, which have to be done, but leave little time for your team to be creative and invest themselves fully into what you require of them. In return for initial investments, companies can bank on efficiency, low production costs, consistency, and safety.
The Challenges of Workflow Automation
Workflow automation requires forethought and strategic thinking to truly overhaul how your office operates daily. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution as each company handles theirs in its own way and the difference in tasks within the same sector varies a lot from company to company for certain job positions.
Understanding the core of workflows
Deceptively simple at first – after all, you’re doing the job, so you should know – understanding the core of workflows doesn’t come naturally. You might think you know how a single process breaks down into steps, but you actually have to sit down and think about every action taken in the sequence of completing a task. What are the steps for each employee? What are the steps for the team? The department? Such intimate knowledge reveals the opportunities to automate.
In breaking down the workflow and pinpointing individual steps, you should note the duration for a certain process to conclude. Where does the workflow stagnate and how much time is wasted on this step? The most important question, however, is why does this bottleneck exist in the first place? It is here more than anywhere else in the sequence of actions you should put the most attention into.
Successful automation hinges on two things – (1) the correct selection of tools, and (2) the correct identification of tasks to automate. Let’s focus on the tools for a second. If your employees have to stay well-informed about industry news and as a result lose hours weekly on reading websites, an RSS feed reader is the right tool to boost productivity through the reduction of the repetition of clicks and scrolling done. Integrate RSS readers with other services such as Pocket, Ever Note, and OneNote to save and organize important articles.
How to boost productivity with workflow automation?
Right, I’ve discussed the central concepts of workflow automation. Now what… How do you go about automating your workflow? If you’ve done the work in breaking down the workflows that happen in your departments, teams and on an individual level, you’re ready to proceed with the first step and that is to-
Choose your tasks and triggers
We have come to the meat of the matter. It’s here that you decide on what tasks can be delegated to software whether it’s sending out invoices, forwarding an email, uploading attachments from emails onto Dropbox, data input, and sending team notifications on Slack. These are all tasks that pop up every day for employees, do not require any skill and at the same time are error-sensitive – add the wrong number in an important field, and you’re looking at a complete disaster.
Scale your solutions
The gradual introduction of automation solutions is the way to go. Implement automation one task at a time within a department in your company, giving time to your employees to grow confident in using new software before you introduce new protocols. Do this for each workflow specific to the company’s operations until all departments are automated as best as possible and exchange data and information freely at no expense on time.
Use current performance to establish benchmark values of KPIs and compare the numbers at each month to establish what works, what doesn’t work as well and what has backfired as a process. At this stage, you see your efforts and initial investments pay off in some palpable way through the reduction in time to complete a task and increased employee targets achieved. Carefully study the results to identify new pockets of opportunity to automate.