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5 Questions to Assess Your Need for Workflow Automation

Abby Nieten
November 30, 2017
Min Read

Does your business rely on a series of repetitive or complex processes? Are you looking to improve these processes to enhance productivity, save money, and free up time?If you answered “yes” to either of the above questions, you might be ready for workflow automation. Automated workflows are digitized business processes that eliminate paper-based, manual tasks for increased accuracy and efficiency.While workflow automation can be a great step for your business, it’s important to ensure you’re automating the right processes. Any recurring business process workflow is a candidate for automation, but that’s not the only factor to consider.To determine if one of your specific processes could benefit from automation, ask yourself these 5 questions:

#1: How many steps are in your process?

Workflow automation requires a certain level of standardization. If you know how many steps are in your process, you’re on the right track. On the other hand, if your process structure is a bit muddy, you’ll likely have a hard time creating an automated workflow with specific decision points.Additionally, knowing how many steps are in your workflow can help you determine if your process is worth automating. Simple processes that require just a couple basic steps may not lend themselves to workflow automation.

#2: Does your process involve three or more people?

If your process involves action or input from multiple people, there’s a good chance you could benefit from automation. Why? The more people involved in a process, the more complex it becomes—and the greater the chance for it to get hung up or fail. Workflow automation creates clear accountability because it requires you to establish ownership for each step in your process. This means process participants have a better understanding of what is required of them, which cuts down on miscommunication and the need for endless follow-ups.

business process workflow chart

#3: Is your process time-sensitive?

If efficiency is of high importance for your process, automated workflows may be key. For example, if you have expense reimbursement requests that must be reviewed ahead of weekly payroll or time off requests that must be processed ahead of the leave period, automation can ensure these requests don’t get lost in a crowded inbox. One of the biggest benefits of workflow automation is its ability to streamline processes and keep them moving forward with little human effort. If your process is time-sensitive, this is crucial. Automated notifications and intuitive review and approval tools can cut significant time off a workflow.

#4: Are there frequent bottlenecks in your process?

It’s not uncommon for a process workflow to experience frequent delays due to miscommunication or sheer lack of communication. If you’re working through a manual process, task visibility is likely poor, making it hard to keep track of where you are in the process.With workflow automation, you have a digital record of your process status. You can easily see the active step, who is responsible for completing it, and how much time it is taking. This not only streamlines the process and keeps everyone accountable, it also provides insights for future process improvement.

#5: Is your process prone to errors?

A business process workflow that requires a lot of manual data entry can be riddled with errors. For example, if a team member is tasked with transferring multiple phone numbers from a paper form to a digital spreadsheet, there’s a high chance human error will come into play—especially if the team member must also decipher handwriting.Using automated workflows can significantly reduce process errors. All data is submitted electronically, so there is no handwriting to decipher and no chance of a transcription mistake. Additionally, when your process starts with an online form, you can ensure that all necessary information is captured, which eliminates errors associated with lost or missing data.Using the criteria outlined above, you should now have a pretty good idea whether your process needs workflow automation. Want even more insights on your existing workflows? Click below to take our business process management quiz, which will analyze your processes and offer productivity tips.


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Abby Nieten
As Senior Manager, Content Strategy, Abby leads an amazing team of marketing content creators toward a shared content vision. She's been growing with Formstack since 2015 and spent several years as a professional editor before that.
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