A workflow automation diagram.

Workflow Automation: 4 Things Business Owners Need to Know

Back in 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at Macworld. It was an expensive device without a keyboard or stylus. It didn’t even have 3G. He called it “revolutionary.” Critics felt otherwise.

“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone.” – Seth Porges, TechCrunch Columnist

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.” – Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO

Today, the iPhone is the most popular phone in the world, by a longshot. 85.7 million Americans use the device. And Apple itself is on course to reach a $1 trillion valuation in 2018.

How? They are experts in innovation and leveraging technology to their advantage. Apple evolves with technology trends, continuously integrating these new technologies into their devices and their business model.

You can harness the power of technology to innovate your business, too. In order to remain competitive and improve business outcomes, you need to. We’re going to tell you how to get started.

“Innovation is the heart of every exceptional business.” – Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Workflow automation simplified.

When you program the software your business uses to complete processes that would normally be done manually — data entry, support ticket creation, or posting to social media — you’re automating your workflow.

The core idea behind integrating automation is to boost operational efficiency and achieve continuous improvement. When routine tasks are automated, your team can focus their energy on more complex projects and business growth.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates

What to know before workflow automation integration.

The organizational and leadership implications of workflow automation are huge. And while it’s normal to want to dive right in, these are uncharted waters. You need to create a strategic plan, first.

A business strategist can help you navigate the integration process, simplifying its complexities and helping you create a successful implementation strategy. However, if you want to sail the seas of transformation alone, here are 4 things you need to consider.

  1. Document existing processes before implementation.

Loss of knowledge and skills is the “technical debt” of process automation. As you use technology to replace manual labor, you could lose some of the institutional knowledge these individuals possess.

Before undertaking automation, consult with your team on how they currently perform tasks and why they use the process they use today. Document the current process and the rationale behind them. Your employees may be incorporating strategic solutions you didn’t know were needed.

  1. Assess your priorities.

Take stock of all your current bottlenecks. The best way to approach this is to do a deep dive of your current business processes, end to end.

What steps are currently manual? Where are the easiest places to incorporate automation? What can you automate almost immediately with the least amount of resources and the lowest impact on your organization overall?

Decide which opportunities of automation will bring the most value at the lowest cost and start there.

  1. Start small. Scale later.

Heavily customized workflows are hard to troubleshoot and take more time to fix when failures occur. Additionally, large-scale automations can be costly. We recommend implementing existing solutions first.

“45% of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology.” — McKinsey

There are plenty of pre-designed automation tools on the market. Some are relatively straightforward. Some are more complex, like solutions that use RPA (robotic process automation) and cognitive computing technologies to improve workflows. To start, try a couple of these in one or two areas of your business. If you see ROI, integrate these innovations on a company-wide level.

  1. Appoint managers.

There are a lot of moving parts in any automated process. Ideally, every new system within your organization will be overseen by someone. This person will help spot errors and track its effectiveness.

If appointing a member of your team to manage the automation process is outside of your current scope, you can enlist the help of an expert consultant or hire a new employee.

Leverage workflow automation in your organization.

Remember, innovation is the key to success. Automating manual processes will help you increase profitability, agility, and brand value. These tips will help you decide the best place to start implementing automation within your organization.