Workflow automation, a key element of the solution strategies known as “digital transformation,” enables companies to automate various business processes. This can have a big impact not just on efficiency and accuracy, but on motivation and morale, as well.
“Where automation is used to reduce routine and redundant tasks, people can focus on added-value activities, which leads to greater job satisfaction and reduced turnover,” says Mike Fieseler, vice president of business development at EOX Vantage.
Automation can also stabilize processes and provide consistent results, decreased turnaround times and higher quality data and decisions. That efficiency often results in greater client satisfaction, which builds loyalty and return use. It also enables companies to gain greater visibility into their business processes and operations so they can quickly get out in front of changes in the marketplace.
Smart Business spoke with Fieseler about workflow automation and the benefits it can offer companies.
How accessible is workflow automation today?
Automation isn’t necessarily about complex processes such as predictive decision making; it can be as simple as an Excel macro or a few lines of code. The evolution of automation tools is making it affordable to businesses of all sizes.
Most companies are good candidates for automation. To determine where and how automation could be applied, executives should examine the challenges they’re facing and identify areas where they would benefit from improved accuracy, faster turnaround or quickly addressing workload peaks and valleys. You might also want to redeploy people to more important tasks. Email routing and document indexing, for example, are basic automation processes that will save the company money right up front. There are also keystroke automation and optical character recognition techniques to read data off documents that companies could deploy easily and get noticeable results. These can run 24/7, which expands your capacity beyond being a one-shift shop.
Complex automation may include giving team members ‘hints’ on the next step to take in a sales or service process, or the next question to ask based on a client/prospect profile.
There are many easy-to-use, self-service solutions available today that don’t require much in the way of IT support. Many times, they’re called ’low-code/no-code’ solutions. Companies could also find a vendor to help them that knows automation but also has some experience in their industry.
What benefit can workflow automation offer companies that are disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic?
COVID-19 has spurred many companies to look at how automation can help them. The new challenges facing businesses have led to implementing new processes to address their new realities. For many companies, automation is an answer to the question, ‘What can we do to better service our clients?’ That has brought a lot of attention to automation in the past few months from companies that probably would have taken years to get to that stage. In some cases, the companies that are the fastest to automate tasks are those that are going to be positioned to gain a significant advantage when the market normalizes.
How should companies go about exploring automation as a solution for their operation?
Companies that lack the internal technical knowledge to deploy a workforce automation solution should find an outside provider, preferably one that has industry experience and expertise to tackle the task that’s been identified as a good candidate for automation. It’s best to find a provider that has cross-platform experience and can come at it from a consultative standpoint, not one that’s predisposed to a solution that comes from a single product.
Implementing automation involves a cultural change that can be significant. Companies need to have an operational change management in place, as some employees are going to struggle to make the link between automation and their job, as well as how both of those fit into achieving the company’s strategic goals. These are important considerations to make to ensure the transition is successful.
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