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Thursday, 16 September 2021 10:55

Workflow automation: why it matters and why progressive organisations need it

By Chris Smith, Alliance & Partner Manager, ANZ, M-Files

Guest Opinion: While it is true that a lot of business processes are important, they also expose the organisation to a wide range of potential issues that they may not realise.

Every manual process performed by human employees leaves the business open to the possibility of productivity bottlenecks. While things are getting done, they may not be getting done as quickly as they should be. This also creates the potential for miscommunication if multiple people are involved in the same process and are not on the same page. Organisations can suffer a major setback because of it. The mishandling of information, low employee morale, and loss of productivity are all hidden costs of tedious manual processes. However, it is possible to make sure that important work gets done in a way that lets organisations avoid every one of these issues. This is done by using workflow automation. 

At its core, workflow automation involves both the digitisation and automation of business processes, all to reduce the amount of manual labour required by employees as much as possible. There are a wide range of different types of workflows that are prime candidates for automation. These include, but are certainly not limited, to: 

  • filing or making changes to documents with a consistent structure
  • reviewing and approving changes that have been made to documents
  • notifying people when a change to a document has been made by an employee
  • processing accounts payable or similar administrative functions
  • the management of records retention and document storage
  • executing process management reports.

With an intelligent document management solution, for example, organisations can make sure that documents are routed to the correct person when they are created or when certain status changes have been made. If there is a single document that needs to be approved by ten team leaders before it can make its way to a client, the employee who created that document should not have to spend time chasing down every single one of them to keep things moving. With workflow automation, each person can be instantly notified that there is a document that needs to be signed off and, once they do, it continues to move further down the line until each person has completed their assigned task in line with the workflow. 

Many workflow automation solutions let organisations monitor, report on, and even analyse current business processes to help them capitalise on opportunities for improvement on an ongoing basis. Many also provide reporting dashboards that let process managers view each step of a particular business workflow in fine detail. This puts them in a better position to eliminate the types of performance bottlenecks that cost time and money, thus improving those processes in meaningful ways. 

They can even offer the ability to show users a full history of all business process steps, confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that automation software is getting the job done in a way far more efficient than humans could on their own. 

In a larger sense, workflow automation also makes it easier for employees to communicate with one another, which is a great way to empower their ability to collaborate. Comprehensive workflow automation solutions use built-in communication tools that make sharing documents and other important project-related data easier than ever. When businesses make it easier for employees to work together, it increases the chances that they do, improving employee morale and the quality of work. 

Workflow automation is more than just another IT trend or passing fad. It is an opportunity to optimise processes across all departments in a way that eliminates human error, reduces performance bottlenecks, and improves the quality of work and client experience. It speeds up how fast an organisation can move because it frees up valuable employee time so that they can focus on the core tasks that really matter to the business. It also improves both internal and external transparency, which for many businesses may very well be the most important benefit. 

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