Getting Started with Workflow Automation: A Complete Guide

workflow automation

Here’s everything you need to know about automating your workflows.

Everyone knows the importance of automating repetitive tasks. Doing so will save you time and effort so that you can focus on more important things. In this article, we'll show you how to master workflow automation. You can start automating your own workflows and never have to perform a task manually again.

What is workflow automation?

 Workflow automation is a collection of tools, services, and software that enables a business to automate its processes. This can include data entry, document creation and approval, email notifications, and more.

For example, suppose a new employee needs to fill out several forms upon arrival at your company. In that case, you could automate this process so that each form is sent directly to the right person in your HR department when the new hire completes it.

The benefits of leveraging workflow automation

Make your team productive

One of the biggest benefits of workflow automation is productivity. The more time you can save on repetitive tasks, the more time your team can spend on the important things.

For example, an automated approval process can be much faster if you have a manual approval process that takes days and involves multiple people. As a result, approval times will be reduced, and you’ll be able to get back to work immediately after submitting an application or proposal.

Eliminate manual data handling

When it comes down to it, the most efficient way to handle data is automation. Automation eliminates human interaction and allows businesses to focus on more important tasks. It also helps reduce costs by lowering the time spent on routine processes, i.e., entering data into a system or manually reviewing results from an automated report.

Create a data-driven environment

Data is key in automation and workflow, as it allows you to see all the activities that have been completed by your team members and what tasks are still pending. This enables you to make the necessary changes based on your data so your business can run smoothly.

Create accountability in your team

Accountability is about holding people accountable for their actions. When you automate your team's workflows, each person knows exactly what they have to do at any given time. They also know that something bad will happen if they don't do it.

For example, when you implement workflow automation, each person knows what and when they should be working on it (e.g., the sales team has to follow up with leads every Monday).

Improve employee experience

Workflow automation is beneficial as it lets employees do their jobs hassle-free. It also helps improve employee satisfaction since it allows them to spend less time completing repetitive tasks like entering data into spreadsheets or sending emails.

For example, let’s say you have an employee who sends out invoices once per month. This employee needs to open up a new invoice template, fill in the details and send it out by clicking “Send” on the computer screen. If you have implemented workflow automation software, this employee could simply send it on a smartphone app instead of navigating their computer screen.

It also helps you improve productivity for new hires and current employees. 

Boost sales processes

Think about it: If a salesperson has to spend hours each week on repetitive tasks like creating proposals or sending out emails, how much time does that leave for actually selling? At the end of the day, as an entrepreneur, you want your employees focused on maximizing revenue for your company – not wasting time with tedious tasks.

Workflow automation can help you accomplish that goal by freeing up your employees' time so they can focus on driving revenue instead of doing busy work.

Keep you on track with visible dashboards

With workflow automation, you can easily see what's happening in your business at any given time. Workflows are organized into stages so you can easily navigate from one task to another – no matter how complex your project may be. This allows you to manage your business and perform tasks efficiently.

Look at this workflow automation in Notion, for instance: 

Visible dashboard to keep you on track

Offer better customer experiences (CX)

Workflow automation improves CX because it reduces human error, which is one of the primary reasons for customer dissatisfaction. This leads to a better overall customer experience since customers aren’t inconvenienced by long wait times or having to repeat themselves multiple times due to human error.

Which area can workflow automation help your business?

We have already seen the benefits of implementing workflow automation. But how do you use it in different areas of your business? Here are some examples of how workflow automation can help your business:

Marketing

Marketing teams are always looking for new ways to automate their workflows. Workflow automation can help them streamline processes and spend more time doing what they do best: creating content and engaging with customers.

Marketing automation tools keep your marketing team organized, on track, and in touch with customers. With the right tools in place, marketers can spend less time on tedious tasks and have more time to focus on creating compelling content that drives sales.

Here are just examples you can use automation in marketing: 

  • Automate email marketing campaigns to send out on a set schedule.
  • Automate social media posts to be posted at certain times and frequencies.
  • Automate your landing page using a tool such as HubSpot or Marketo.

For instance, CentricsIT was at first engaging in strategies like batch and blast emails which were not fruitful.

CentricsIT streamlined its sales process by moving from sending blast emails to a drip campaign that sorted leads and then ran more intelligent automated campaigns for them. It also integrated email with website lead tracking.

Below is the CRM of the brand after they implemented a marketing automation tool: 

Automation in marketing

(Source)

They were able to increase lead generation by 59% using marketing automation.

Human resources

Regarding human resources, workflow automation can be used to make the hiring process more efficient. The right tools can help you find candidates quickly, so you don't have to spend time looking through resumes that won't work for your company.

You can also use workflow automation for onboarding new employees. This will ensure that all new hires receive the same training, even if they're not working in the same department. This helps clear gaps in knowledge between employees, making it easier for them to do their jobs well.

You can also leverage workflow automation to evaluate employee performance. This ensures that everyone gets evaluated at the same time each year, so there aren't any lags in reporting or other delays in getting feedback on employee performance.

For instance, KPMG, Belgium, initially, wasn’t implementing a pre-boarding process for their fresh hires. They thus had to wait for a long time between contract signing and their first day at work. 

As a solution, they implemented integrated and secure onboarding software. The result? KPMG employees rated their onboarding experience a 4.45/5 and their initial week a 4.12 after two years.

Accounting and finances

Workflow automation help with different aspects of accounting and finance — including invoicing, payroll, and more — so that you can easily manage your finances from anywhere in the world.

For instance, if you automate Payroll, you can easily calculate the net pay for each employee, disburse paychecks with a click, and input data into the accounting system.

Workflow automation for accounting and finances

(Source)

Sales

It's not just about getting things done more quickly; it's also about ensuring that your sales team has all the information they need at their fingertips. And workflow automation comes in handy here. 

So what does workflow automation mean for sales? Here are a few examples:

  • Salespeople can spend less time on administrative tasks
  • They'll be able to focus on higher-value activities
  • They'll have access to all necessary information when they need it

For instance, by implementing automated payments and invoicing, you can build an automated selling system and accept credit cards, send invoices, and track who’s paid. 

You can get payments and send invoices 24/7 automatically, even when your sales reps are unavailable. 

Workflow automation for sales

(Source)

Workflow automation done right – MediaBerry’s tips

Many companies have implemented automated workflows and systems, but few of them have taken the time to test their systems properly. Automated processes are only as good as the data they rely on, so make sure your processes will work before going live.

For example, if you have a large amount of data, it can be difficult to process it manually, but even more difficult if you automate it and then forget about it. This will lead to data integrity and consistency problems, which will cause many problems in the long run.

Another instance could be the failure of Knight Capital’s automated algorithmic trading along with its administrative IT processes. It resulted in random changes and unplanned errors, costing $172,222 per second for straight 45 minutes.

How can you sidestep this? Here are some tips: 

Set your goals in mind

At Mediaberry, the key to success with workflow automation is setting goals while creating the workflow. This way, you can avoid changing your workflow every time you want to change the task or goal. 

This would also help you determine what resources you need and what kind of workflow automation tools will help you achieve your goals.

Identify areas that can be automated

You need to identify which activities can be automated and how they fit into your existing systems. Let’s say you're sending out invoices by email. You might want to automate this process by using an email template and a spreadsheet or database for tracking billing information.

Map out the workflows

Workflow automation can be an expensive and time-consuming investment, so make sure you know what you're getting into before jumping into anything. Start by mapping out every single process step – from start to finish – and then try to figure out how each step can be streamlined or optimized through automation.

Have a look at this example of a typical sales workflow:

Map out the sales process  workflow

(Source)

Gather data about the unautomated process

Before deciding whether or not to automate a process, gather information about how it works now. 

How long does it take? How many people are involved? How many steps does it involve? What percentage of errors do you find? This will help you determine if there is truly a problem that needs solving or if you're just trying to make something more efficient out of habit.

Opt for an automation tool

Workflow automation tools are designed to help you automate your business processes by determining what actions need to be taken and then executing them automatically. They're typically used for repetitive, time-consuming processes that need to be executed on a regular basis.

However, it's important to choose the right tool for your needs before implementing any automation solution into your organization's workflows.

A good rule of thumb is to get help from low-code platforms. If you're not a developer, don't try to build your own automation tools from scratch — it's hard work. There are plenty of tools out there with features like conditional logic, email templates, and even artificial intelligence (AI).

For instance, at our link-building agency – Mediaberry, we have automated the task of assigning article briefs to our remote writers to a large extent. We do this using both Slack and Airtable in tandem. Every time our content marketer assigns an article to the writer, they get an update in their Slack’s Airtable tracker right away. 

Slack’s Airtable tracker of Mediaberry

Writers and content marketers can also work simultaneously and track their progress, monthly cost, and more using Airtable. On the other hand, Slack helps us keep abreast of what other team members are doing, which is especially helpful for a remote team like ours. 

In another example, ABB, a company with over 105 thousand talented employees in more than 100 countries, used low code automation. It helped them to build a single, centralized Emailing Tool app and helped them in various other areas such as faster delivery.

Here are some more automation tools you can use to automate your workflow:  

  •  Zapier – Zapier allows you to link different apps together and automate tasks based on events in each app. There are 1,000+ different apps to choose from with no limit on how many you can connect to at once.
  • Zoho CRM – Zoho CRM helps businesses manage their sales, marketing, and customer service processes by automating tasks such as lead management, lead assignment, and email campaigns. 
  • Trello – It's a project management and one of the best mind mapping tools that let you create boards to organize your work into lists. It has a flexible system for managing multiple projects simultaneously, letting you add attachments, assign tasks, and delegate work.

Inform and train your team

Workflow automation should be introduced gradually into an organization, so everyone is on board with the new system beforehand. Make sure all employees know what's changing and when it will happen so they can plan ahead accordingly.

Test automation before going live

It's important to test all automated processes and functions thoroughly before they go live. This will help you identify any bugs or issues and make it easier for other users to follow along with the process.

Monitor and improve constantly

Automation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Once you have implemented a workflow automation solution, start monitoring its effectiveness and impact on your business and customers. Then look for ways to improve it. 

For example, if you are using an automated email template, check the open rates, click-through rates, and other metrics before deciding whether it's worth continuing to use this template or not.

Don’t wait to automate your business

If you don’t have a system in place, it can be hard to stay on top of all your messages without getting overwhelmed. This is why we recommend that you automate your business as soon as possible. It will make your life easier and help grow your business faster.

Automate your workflow the right way!

From saving time to celebrating consistency, automating your workflow comes with a wide variety of benefits. It's just up to you to decide what works best for you. In the end, it's all about the tradeoffs and knowing what you want from an automation solution.

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