Automation often provokes a negative response for people – they may have prior associations with it being tedious, threatening, or impersonal. It’s certainly true that not every process within an organization can – or should – be automated. However, when structured and executed correctly, automation has the potential to transform work experiences and output for both internal and external stakeholders. When automation continually evolves to serve and keep pace with a company’s needs, it can streamline processes and procedures, create data transparency, and increase an organization’s ability to accomplish work better, cheaper, and faster. Choosing an optimistic, glass-half-full approach toward workflow automation can open up new possibilities for a business, providing a chance to make great strides forward.
The key to workflow automation resides in having the right technology solution in place. In a recent article for Workflow magazine, I said: “To accommodate the changing needs of employees while successfully engaging with customers on a global stage, you need to initiate the process digitally at the closest point of origin possible.” So how does this digital initiative manifest in its ideal form?
Done right, automated solutions should govern a comprehensive end-to-end process so the organization is empowered to continually improve. In particular, workflow automation technology can move work through an organization from start to finish, eliminating bottlenecks, promoting efficient collaboration and approvals, establishing accountability, and ensuring efficiency and accuracy.
Workflow automation can be woven through an organization to solve problems, create new possibilities, and alleviate struggles. As your organization evaluates workflow automation solutions, you will want to ask tough questions to determine what your time/money investment will be, and for what return.
Here is a Top 10 list of priorities to consider when evaluating an automated workflow solution:
- Training – How much training does this solution require? How quickly will users get up-and-running to leverage its tools for return on investment (ROI)?
- Ease of Use – Can users quickly create new forms and workflows, and add new users and projects? Is it easy to manage, store, and retrieve multiple versions of documents?
- Collaboration and Accessibility – Does this solution enable interaction with clients, prospective employees, contractors, separate divisions, and so forth? Can employees work from anywhere, 24/7?
- Integration – Can I readily integrate the solution with my incumbent systems?
- Native Format – Can we easily (or automatically) create consolidated files/records with documents of any kind (PDF, e-forms, Word) without changing the documents’ formats?
- Security & Compliance What protections does the system offer for data loss detection and prevention? Can it interrogate documents to flag sensitive content? Can it produce tamper-proof audit logs? Also, not everyone needs or is authorized for access to all data, so the system should allow you to lock down or restrict content access depending on authorization or role.
- Predictive Analytics – Can the solution’s predictive analytics features help us analyze and find solutions to problems or capitalize on opportunities?
- User-Driven Modification – Can our employees independently modify automated workflows, create e-forms, add users, etc.?
- Licensing – Does the solution’s licensing model allow for unlimited or restricted usage of the system?
- Cloud – Is the solution backed by secure, state-of-the-art cloud technology and brick and mortar facilities?
Automation may seem daunting, but try being optimistic about finding new ways to innovate and automate at your business. Rethink traditional ways of completing work both within the enterprise and for your customers. Suppliers of the latest technology can partner with you to produce innovations that will suit your staff’s needs.
Leveraging workflow automation technology provides opportunities for a better-equipped workforce to offer more meaningful, specialized services to satisfy – even delight – your clients. If you already have workflow automation technology in place, see if you can extract more value from it. If you have yet to buy a solution, consider the Top 10 list above to find a quality provider. A little optimism can go a long way and your organization has much to gain, so take a walk on the bright side re: automation.