Steps to Automating a Workflow

Workflow

Maybe you’ve considered automating workflows, but you’re not sure where to begin. How do you automate workflows?

Each workflow will be automated in its own way, but there is a basic template of steps you can apply to most workflows. With the right workflow designer software, you can automate workflows from just about any department. Here are 7 steps to follow when you want to automate workflows:

1. Evaluate Existing Workflows

The first step is to recognize workflows you already have. These processes may or may not be recorded, and they may or may not be bound by rules. Sometimes workflows develop on their own from “what you have to do” to get things done. They’re still workflows, however. Try to recognize as many of these processes as you can. If you think identifying workflows across your organization would be overwhelming, start with one department’s workflows.

2. Prioritize Workflows for Automation

Suppose you identify four or five workflows that are regularly used in your organization. Which one is the most critical to fulfilling your business goals? If, say, you run a tech company, then perhaps IT service desk workflows are the most vital for your company’s success. Take that handful of important workflows and prioritize them in order of importance to your mission. As an alternative, you could identify the simplest workflow to automate, so you can learn about automation on a simpler level before tackling harder workflows.

3. Break Workflows Down Into Discrete Steps

Each workflow should be broken down into discrete steps, including manual steps (“Hand request form to Joan.”) and notification steps (“Tell Larry his signature is needed.”). With every part of a workflow assigned its own unique step, look for obvious places to automate. Replacing paper forms with electronic forms and submitting them electronically is an automation step that can make a tremendous difference. Notifications, too, can be automated, with people whose action is required being notified via email automatically.

4. Collect User Feedback

The people who use the workflows should provide their feedback on how the workflows are broken into steps and which steps are the most obvious candidates for automation. If you automate a workflow, yet it takes just as long or is just as prone to mistakes, there’s little point. Ultimately, it is the people who use workflows every day who should point out problems with steps and indicate what parts of a workflow are in most dire need of improvement. Workflow automation software should benefit everyone involved in the process.

Workflow

Ask workflow users for their feedback on the automation process.

5. Automate Using Workflow Automation Software

The right workflow designer software will be flexible and powerful enough to automate forms and workflows whether they pertain to HR, IT, building maintenance, customer service, or some other department. One of the most important steps to automation is the development of electronic counterparts to paper forms, and automatic electronic routing of those forms once they are completed. The electronic forms themselves may look and feel exactly like their paper counterparts, but they’ll still be more accurate, faster, and won’t be lost or damaged.

6. Test, Evaluate, and Fine-Tune Workflows

Unforeseen issues are to be expected. You don’t always recognize a bottleneck or a problem with an automated workflow until you try it out. Test an automated workflow under its full range of operating conditions. Can the people in Graphics use the process as well as the people in Payroll can? Are there people along the way who require notification but are missing out? The only way to identify and correct issues with automated workflows is to test them with a range of users, under a range of different circumstances.

7. Record Lessons Learned

Congratulations: you have automated a workflow, making it faster, more accurate, and less paper-intensive. But you probably didn’t arrive at your successful endpoint without some problems along the way. Now is the best time to record the lessons learned in the automation process. Maybe a form didn’t look right on a mobile device, or perhaps it required too much manual input from mobile users who don’t have the convenience of a full-sized keyboard. By writing down the lessons learned, you help out future workflow automation efforts.

PerfectForms is the workflow application that allows non-programmers to create beautiful, efficient forms and workflows through an intuitive interface. Applicable to workflows in every department, PerfectForms has guided businesses, government agencies, and other organizations through the automation process and saved them millions of dollars. Read through some of our case studies and see for yourself how PerfectForms is the workflow designer that answers all your needs.

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