Workflow automation software is, without a doubt, very powerful.
Retailers, healthcare facilities, and even government agencies have utilized workflow automation software to improve all kinds of operations. No matter the size or industry, every company starts with the basics when beginning to automate their workflows.
Here are five tips to make the most of your new workflow automation software.
1. Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
Before you start considering what you want your workflow to do, make sure to keep your expectations reasonable. Workflow software can automate repetitive tasks, but you need people to actually start the work.
You still need to understand math if you want to use a calculator, right?
You have to know the process, what keys to press and what kind of answer you are looking for. Once you enter the numbers and hit Return, the calculator will do all the work, but it can’t operate by itself. An initiator is needed to jumpstart the process for both a calculator and workflow automation.
So plan your expectations around the core component: People.
2. Think About the User
Your users are the people who will actually be utilizing the workflow. As basic as it sounds, a workflow is always going somewhere, and that’s what you want to focus on. Who is the workflow going to? What information do they need? How can you make their part easy without dumbing down their options?
Who is the workflow going to? What information do they need? How can you make their part easy without restricting their options?
These questions are designed to keep the users in mind. Workflow automation can improve almost any repeatable task, but if the workflow is confusing, unorganized or nonessential, your users won’t get the greatest value from it. Consider how to make the workflow as user-friendly as possible.
3. Plan Ahead
When planning your first workflow, our advice is to create it for one uncomplicated process.
Workflow automation can and will scale to whatever size and impact you need, but when you first start, focus on making a basic workflow for a common task. You’ll familiarize yourself with your new software by automating a simple task, and you’ll see the value almost instantaneously.
Let’s look at the steps in a process that gets automated all the time: requesting time off. Here’s what the individual steps look like:
- The employee notifies their manger that they want to take time off.
- The manager checks the schedule. If the dates seem good, the request moves to HR. Otherwise, the employee is notified why they can’t get the time off.
- HR pulls up the employee’s record to make sure they have enough paid time off (PTO). They notify the manager to approve or reject the time off.
- The manager gets the info from HR and lets the employee know if their time off has been approved.
When writing out these steps, the goal is to consider what happens as your work moves along the entire process. Lay out where the work goes and what responses the users need, making sure to provide for possible contingencies.
4. Don’t Customize Too Much (At First)
Once you have a sense of direction, it’s time to build out the workflow.
When you first a start a workflow, don’t over-customize it. There are two main reasons to avoid doing this.
First, heavily customized workflows are harder to troubleshoot. The more a workflow tries to do, the more places it can fail. It’s always fixable, but taking time to fix it early on can be a pain. Keep the workflow clear and small. Scale later.
Second, you ideally want to begin with more generic workflow so that you can build off it in the future. If you add a host of specialized directions, the workflow can’t be easily adapted to other jobs. Think of your early workflows like the foundation of a building. They don’t look special, but they need to be simple, effective and strong to be built or altered down the line.
Think of your early workflows like the foundation of a building. They don’t look special, but they need to be simple, effective and strong in order to be remodeled or altered down the line.
5. Keep Communication Strong
The final tip for getting the most out of your new workflow software is to keep communicating.
Workflow automation is here to enhance communication, not replace it. Usually, workflows involve several departments and jobs. The changes you make will affect other parts of the workflow, so let others know before you make any changes.
Another good habit is to label your items and actions clearly. These are the individual components that tell the workflow how to operate and where to get data from.
Properly labeling the items and actions within the workflow makes it easier to work with and understand. The last thing you want is to get confused by your own workflow, and if anyone else needs to work on it, labeled items and actions are a must-have.
Finding where to start with workflow automation software can be tough, but with these tips, you can rest easy knowing you’re moving in the right direction.
Get a free 30-day trial at Nintex.com and put these tips into action!