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What is the Future of Workflow Automation?
Cloud, Digital Transformation, Process Automation

What is the Future of Workflow Automation?

Zoe Clelland
September 13, 2017

Technological innovation is rapidly shaping the way we live and work. Workflow automation is one such innovation, now at the heart of how many operate.

Although the concept of workflow has been around for a long time, it started to tap into its automation capabilities in the 1980s.

Workflow automation can add business value in many ways. It decreases the need for paper-based processes, improves work quality and compliance and decreases the time in which a process is completed.

Moreover, workflow automation software has already reached the cloud, making it easier for people to collaborate within different cloud-based applications, wherever they are.

Going forward, what does the future of workflow automation look like?

Workflow Will Function Through the Entire Hierarchy of Business Processes

Before we understand how workflow automation will evolve and benefit businesses in the future, we should look at how fundamental business processes are structured.

Nintex Senior VP of Technology Strategy Ryan Duguid explains this structure in the shape of a pyramid.

1.  The Top of the Pyramid: Strategic Processes

The top of the business process pyramid carries the highly complex industry-specific strategic processes – the few high-level processes that stem from the essential purpose of a business.

For example, if you work within a business that carries out credit or loan approvals, then the actual process of approving a loan is your businesses’ strategic process. It usually involves moving around large amounts of money and has an enterprise-wide impact.

2.  The Middle of the Pyramid: Operational Processes

These are the processes carried out within the various departments of a business. If there are only a few strategic processes in a business, then there are a lot more operational processes.

Cnsider the loan or bank approval business again – the operational departments in this business include the HR department, IT department, customer service department, and more.

3.  The Bottom of the Pyramid: Manual Processes

These are the large number of smaller processes carried within the operation departments of a business.

For example, the loan approval business might have an employee solely in charge of entering data into a database and updating client information after every approval. This is a manual process.

Currently, workflow automation software lives mostly in the middle of the pyramid, making operational processes faster and easier to complete. The software pushes up on the strategic processes from the middle, so businesses can focus on their primary strategic problems without needing to worry about how work is flowing operationally.

But what about the thousands of little manual tasks that need addressing in the bottom of the pyramid?

This is where we see the future of workflow automation software heading in the years to come.

Although workflow effectively automates operational processes, it needs to become more technically accessible on an employee level and easier to use within an individual’s level of work. Currently, a lot of interesting automation and collaboration tools like Trello and Asana exist to increase an individual’s productivity. In the future, workflow automation software will enter this realm as well.

Workflow Will Become More Intelligent

Besides expanding in breadth of function, there is also a fascinating opportunity to give the data back to employees interacting with the workflow.

In the future, workflow will be able to assist users almost invisibly, without any extra effort or training required.

How? By becoming more transparent.

When automation is entirely human-focused instead of coding-focused, it will adapt to needs without requiring updates to the process from the end-user. It will reduce reliance on manual intervention to adapt workflows by learning from the human patterns of usage to adapt automatically.

For example, by automatically linking to a workflow analytics platform such as Nintex Hawkeye and determining “gaps” in your process or methods, you will get suggestions for the most impactful changes you could make to these processes.

As technology advances, you could conceivably configure a workflow so that its level of intelligence automatically suggests follow-up processes or tasks based on industrial, geographic or regional compliance regulations.

Workflow Will Make You Happier

Many people still erroneously fear automation for taking away certain manual tasks that once provided jobs to human beings. However, it is important to remember that the most successful automation tools are those that enhance what people are capable of, rather than replacing those humans.

Just as a calculator makes it easier and faster for a person to perform complex calculations, an intelligent person still need to input the numbers.

At Nintex, we believe that humans drive process automation, and our goal is to provide the tools and intelligence to make everyone’s job easier, more efficient and allow you to take back the time you need to do more of what you love.

Now, who doesn’t want that?

 

Learn more about use cases where Nintex helped automate manual and paper-based business processes here.

 

Zoe Clelland joined Nintex in 2014 as Director of Product Management where she leads product management efforts for Nintex Workflow Cloud. She brings more than 15 years of defining every aspect of amazing digital user experiences to her role. Zoe holds a Ph.D. in Human Factors, Experimental Psychology from Texas Tech University.