Small and repetitive tasks not only take up time but, over long periods, can cost companies considerable sums of money. However, with customizable templates, certain tasks can be automated to ensure that managers and teams are able to focus on project deliveries.
With customizable templates, companies can automate workflows, streamline processes and efficiently scale with demand.
What is an automated workflow system?
A workflow is a planned, consistent, and repeatable pattern of activities or steps. A common project workflow is one that details how completed deliverables are approved and accepted. Here's an example of that process:
- The creator submits a deliverable for review with a subject matter expert (SME).
- The SME reviews and approves the deliverable.
- It is then sent to the project manager for acceptance.
- The project manager approves the deliverable as well.
- The final deliverable is sent to the customer for approval.
- Customer acceptance completes the workflow.
So what is workflow automation? An automated workflow system removes the need to manually move work through the standard process. It automates the flow so that, once a step is completed, the next step is instantly triggered.
In the above example, an automated workflow system would immediately notify the SME that a deliverable requires review. They would then be assigned the task as soon as the creator signaled that the deliverable was completed.
Some automated workflow systems can also take over other tasks done by people, such as sending emails, scheduling meetings, and storing documents.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Automated Workflows
While automated workflows can bring significant benefits, it's crucial to avoid some common pitfalls to ensure their effective implementation.
One common mistake is automating the wrong processes. Not every task requires automation, and some aspects of your business may benefit more from a human touch. Before automating a process, analyze its impact on efficiency and productivity. Processes that are repetitive, don't require critical thinking, and consume a lot of time are usually good candidates for automation.
Another pitfall is neglecting the user experience. Automated workflows should simplify tasks, not complicate them. Make sure the system is user-friendly, intuitive, and provides value to the users. Provide adequate training and support to your team members to help them understand and use the system effectively.
Ignoring the need for regular updates is another common mistake. Business needs and processes evolve over time, and your automated workflows should adapt to these changes. Regularly review your workflows, update them as needed, and ensure they align with your current business goals.
Lastly, inadequate communication can hinder the successful implementation of automated workflows. Make sure to communicate the benefits of automation to your team, involve them in the implementation process, and address their concerns. A well-informed team is more likely to embrace and effectively utilize automated workflows.
What are the benefits of automated workflows?
Workflow automation is about improving speed, accuracy, and efficiency within a business process. When you automate workflows, you reduce the level of manual work that your employees have to do, freeing them up for more value-added tasks.
Automated workflow systems also reduce the potential for mistakes. Any time something must be done manually, there is potential for human error. By automating processes, you reduce costly errors, which can mean huge savings for your business.
Systems can also reduce time gaps in the process. For instance, delays may arise if an employee has to physically tell the next person in a workflow chain when it’s time to begin a task. Similarly, if the employees are not co-located or one of them forgets to complete a task, there may be further breakdowns in the process.
Plus, automated systems improve accountability. When a centralized system tracks who is assigned what task, people can't say, “I was never told you were waiting for me to do something.” Instead, everyone has access to a single source of truth.
When management can view project workflows within the system, they’re also able to quickly see who is assigned to what task and determine if and where there may be issues. A system can identify who has had what task for how long. It can also report who has been late completing their part of the workflow.
Finally, automation software enables you to see how work has flowed in the past on similar projects. By understanding how other projects have flowed, you can streamline work intake, project set-up, and future project execution.
How to implement automated workflows in your business
Before asking, “how do you automate workflows?”, you first need to identify the workflows in your business that would benefit from automation. Despite research that states roughly 50% of work activities could be automated, not every process on a project or within a business is ideal for automation.
Any manual process that takes a lot of time but produces very little value should be reviewed to see if it can be automated. If a process is standardized and repeatable, it may also be a good candidate. However, avoid automating anything that is business-critical or adds value to the customer.
Once you’ve identified processes that can be automated, you need to select the right system for the job. There are many apps that automate work tasks to choose from. Look for software that enables you to create customized automated workflows that will match your needs.
It’s essential to select automated workflow software that meets the following criteria:
- Aligns with your budget requirements
- Can handle the number of people and projects you need
- Offers customizable workflows and templates
- Provides an audit trail of progress and workflows
- Is user-friendly
For successful adoption of automated workflow software, start small. Automate one or two processes first, then allow for time to work out any kinks before scaling up. Once employees see that automated workflows help them, they'll be more likely to embrace the new technology.
Keep in mind that automation isn’t perfect and sometimes human involvement is still required. Everyone must know what to do or who to go to when there's an issue with the workflow process.
Future Trends in Automated Workflows
As we look to the future, automated workflows are set to become even more powerful and versatile, driven by advancements in technology and changing business needs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionizing automated workflows. They can analyze past data, identify patterns, and predict future outcomes. This means your workflows can become more intelligent, adapting and improving over time based on the insights gathered.
Another exciting trend is the integration of automated workflows with the Internet of Things (IoT). This integration will allow for real-time tracking and optimization of workflows, improving efficiency and productivity.
We can also expect to see more personalized and customizable automated workflows. As businesses strive to provide unique experiences, the ability to customize workflows based on specific needs and preferences will become increasingly important.
Additionally, the rise of mobile technology is making automated workflows more accessible. Employees can manage and monitor workflows from anywhere, making remote work easier and more efficient.
These trends represent exciting opportunities for businesses. By staying ahead of these trends, you can leverage the latest technologies to make your automated workflows more effective, efficient, and aligned with your business goals.
How Wrike’s automation templates help
With customized workflows and automation, you can make your projects more efficient and reduce the manual steps. For example, you can set up automatic assignees when task statuses are changed. So, if someone chooses "In Review," the task will automatically be assigned to the person you want to review project deliverables.
If your team receives a lot of similar project requests, Wrike’s automation templates allow you to automatically turn inbound requests into templatized projects. Many projects follow similar steps, so you can save time by creating templates and workflows of projects that are done repeatedly.
Simply identify which project types your team tackles the most and create workflow templates for them within your software. Then, whenever your team starts a new project, they can clone the template. Key aspects of the project, such as assignees, dependencies, task durations, and reports are then copied over.
By embracing templates, and choosing to automate workflow processes, your team can save time and focus more of their efforts on unique and complex projects. Templates also make it easier for you to track and improve performance over time, resulting in repeatable wins.
Ready to see how Wrike’s automation templates can streamline your projects? Try Wrike for free today.
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