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5 Indicators of an Automatable Process

Businesses perform thousands of different processes every day. Some processes are more technical and require a high level of expertise, while others may seem mundane or repetitive.

While important, tasks such as forwarding documents, writing follow-up emails, and looking up a balance history can slow business processes down. Besides the fact such tasks are tedious and repetitive, many people have grown so accustomed to doing them they don’t give them their primary attention – and that’s when mistakes happen.

How can you tell the difference between what should be automated and what shouldn’t? And where do you start?

Here are five questions to ask:

1.  Are Managers Sending Emails to Remind Employees to Finish Tasks?  

If it requires follow-up emails, it usually means that there is an inefficiency somewhere in the process.

If an employee still hasn’t submitted their work 12 hours before a deadline, managers can use workflow automation to schedule email reminders to respond or check in with their progress. They can even create a workflow to escalate a task to management or re-assign overdue work to someone else, if necessary.

In addition to using automated emails, using a central location like OneDrive for Business to store information, and creating a workflow can help businesses streamline communication. Managers can view the status of a project without having to ask employees for updates.

This creates accountability and reduces the need to keep asking for information. Instead, the information is available to whoever needs access. Employees and managers save time writing emails, and managers can be more aware the progress of their team.

2.  Are Employees Passing Work Along to Other Employees?   

If multiple people are working together on a process, work is likely being passed back and forth. Not only is this inefficient, but the chance of errors occurring also increases. Files get lost, people work on old versions – you name it.

For example, if the sales department wants to make any updates to a sales contract, they have to run it by the legal department to ensure legality and the finance department to get approval for any changes to pricing.

This new proposed sales contract will need to change hands a number of times before it’s ready to go.

This is one of those times where using two tools makes a big difference. The company needs a content management system like SharePoint to store documents in one place and version and manage those documents in an organized fashion. They will also want to combine it with a workflow automation software to assign tasks to team members and make sure that those tasks, edits and approvals are getting done.

When team members finish a task, they can mark it complete, and the system will automatically notify the next party that the document is ready for them to work on. This keeps the process moving.

All of those tasks being assigned by the workflow automation system are certain to have the right link to the right version of the content and thereby reduce the likelihood of mistakes or creating duplicate copies.

3.  Are Employees Sending Emails Asking Managers to Approve or Review Tasks?  

Employees often spend a long time writing up approval request emails for their managers. At the same time, managers receive countless approval emails from all their team members.

This is not only frustrating and time-consuming – it also pushes up the chance of mistakes happening.

Since requests can easily get lost and thereby delay a process, putting them all in one place allows managers to review and approve them quickly and from anywhere. This can be done through a mobile app form or web page where managers can view requests and approve them.

The goal here is to change employee workstyle to create as few interruptions and allow work to flow as easily as possible.

4.  Are Employees Repeating Tasks?

Repetitive tasks are perfect candidates for automation.

The more times an employee performs a task, the more potential net time the company can save. It doesn’t just have to be one employee repeating the task many times, it can also be many employees performing the same task. Automating processes like these keeps employees from ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Most people are familiar with the benefits of this kind of automation – consider what Outlook offers you when scheduling meetings. You can request a meeting and others can accept or reschedule and Outlook will automatically update everyone’s calendars. For an event with 20 people attending, if everyone needed to enter the event details in their calendars (time, place, event name, etc.), that would be 20 people doing a process that should only be done once.

That’s just one example, specific to calendaring. But the idea applies to plenty of other business processes.

Automating simple tasks like these saves only a few seconds at a time, but when employees perform them repeatedly or many employees perform these tasks, the total impact becomes much greater, adding up to whole days of productivity saved throughout the organization.

5.  Are Daily Tasks Hindering Productivity?

If employees are re-entering or copying and pasting data, they’re not utilizing their skills for more valuable, strategic work.

For instance, if salespeople have to enter data about recent calls into multiple different systems, they’re not maximizing their time. Every minute spent at the computer entering data is a minute they’re not selling.

Applications like Nintex Document Generation can seamlessly generate and deliver contracts, agreements, proposals, quotes and other business documents using data from Salesforce. This reduces the risk of human error and gives the sales team more time to focus on their primary job – selling.

Other business functions – from Support to  Marketing – can also benefit from the automation of repetitive tasks.

Identifying the automatable processes at your organization can save you hundreds of hours of repetitive work, meaning employees are more productive and feel less frustrated.


For more ideas on how to make your business more efficient, see how Nintex has helped hundreds of companies streamline their business processes.

Mike Fitzmaurice

Vice President of Workflow Technology Mike “Fitz” Fitzmaurice is Nintex's subject matter expert and chief spokesperson for workflow, business transformation, and technology evangelism. Before Nintex, he spent 11 years at Microsoft, and was involved with every version of SharePoint from pre-2001 through the 2010 release. His expertise includes process automation, integration, collaboration, and a lot of other “ation”s. Follow @mikefitz on Twitter.

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