Automated workflows are among the clearest examples of how digital transformation is happening at organizations around the world. Research shows that 73% of businesses have already started implementing automated workflows, and many others plan to do so in the coming years.
But what is a workflow, and how can technology improve the way they are managed? Let’s go back to basics and explore workflow examples to see how this technology can help you.
Workflow software definition
A workflow can be defined as: “the sequence of steps involved in moving from the beginning to the end of a working process”.
In many organizations, these processes are still carried out manually, and staff spend their days ensuring that each step is progressing by moving paper, sending emails, or talking directly to coworkers. Workflow automation software is designed to digitalize these steps, to ensure they are completed efficiently and in the correct order.
Comparing a manual vs automated process reveals some of the reasons that companies are using this technology:
- Manual process: Clara would like to book some vacation next month. Since she is working remotely today, she has to call her manager for approval, before calling her colleagues in human resources to put the request through. The first couple of times she calls HR no one answers, but she eventually gets through to a colleague who is busy but says they will take care of her request and put it on the system soon. Unfortunately, that employee is so busy they don’t get round to processing Clara’s request until three days later – which means she has to delay booking flights for the trip.
- Automated process: Clara opens up her intranet and goes to the HR page. Once there, she simply fills in a form selecting the dates she would like to go away. This request is sent to her manager who approves it, as well as the human resource department by email. The workflow technology continues to send reminders to the HR team until someone approves it by the click of a button. The whole process is completed in a matter of moments.
3 common workflow examples
Practically any process at your organization can be automated with today’s sophisticated automation software. The following workflow automation examples show just some of the more basic processes that can be digitized:
- Invoice processing
When subcontractors send you invoices, these must be checked to ensure the work has been completed, accounts employees must verify the invoice contains the correct information (such as purchase order number) and the invoice must then be logged on your system for payment – usually by typing the information into a spreadsheet.
If you were to use an automated process, subcontractors can simply upload their invoices to a system (rather than emailing or even posting them). Using robotic process automation (RPA), the software could scan the invoice to verify it contains required details (such as PO number), automatically check with the internal buyer to confirm the work is done, before forwarding it to your accounts payable team. The invoice details would be entered into your accounting spreadsheet with RPA, and the payment could even be made automatically too.
- Equipment inventory management
Many organizations have extensive equipment inventories that employees need to sign out and return. This process usually involves a lot of paperwork and administration, where staff must sign physical documents and get approvals manually.
By using a digital system, taking equipment out becomes much more efficient. If an employee wanted to, for example, reserve one of your company’s drills, they can open up an inventory list on your intranet, select the drill they want, request it for specific dates and even provide an e-signature. When they turn up at the depot, the drill would be waiting for them, and they could get on with their job. Such a digitalized inventory management system means that you always know who has which piece of equipment, where it is, and when it will be returned.
Recommended: How RPA helps with inventory management
- Onboarding process
Staff onboarding is another example of where differences between the manual vs automated process really show.
The traditional onboarding process involves new employees being sent large amounts of documentation, setting up email accounts, as well as having meetings with their new colleagues. When done manually, this is an intensive and time-consuming task, and there are also lots of areas where key details could be missed or forgotten.
An automated onboarding process makes things a lot smoother. The new employee can digitally fill in many documents that are generated automatically, get their technology accounts set up, and even have meetings scheduled with coworkers processed by the system. This gives new staff a smooth and efficient introduction to your company.
Nintex: the leading automated workflow solution
Nintex is the leading automated workflow platform, used by thousands of businesses worldwide in multiple industries – including the public and private sector, education and non-profits. Our easy-to-use technology lets you set up simple workflows fast, and, as you get more confident with automation, allows you to create far more sophisticated workflows including the use of robotic process automation.