How Businesses Can Implement a Successful Workflow Plan

What is workflow automation?

A workflow plan, or workflow automation, is a series of actions within a business process that involves the use of a centralized, automated structure. These series of actions are required to attain a specific goal.

Workflow automation is a simple method of streamlining manual processes that often include unstructured tasks, involving people and other processes. It allows teams to focus on the actual work and spend less time on processes that support the individual tasks.

Workflow Automation - man holding smartphone at laptop

 

What are the benefits of an automated workflow plan?

Reduced errors

According to a 2015 study by CompTIA, human error accounts for 52 percent of security breaches. With workflow automation, human error is reduced significantly. Since a centralized, automated structure is used, even simple errors are detected by the software.

Reduced costs

According to David M. Smith, Ph. D., data losses cost US businesses approximately $18.2 billion every year. With workflow automation, most of the work is done by software. Therefore, errors are greatly reduced. As a result, there are minimal losses for businesses.

Increased productivity

Workflow automation eliminates manual and repetitive processes. It enables employees to focus on core duties and responsibilities which results in an increase in productivity levels.

Related:  5 Ways to Enhance Employee Productivity

Improved communication

With workflow automation, communication is also automatic. When all employees are involved in this process, internal communication is improved. When there is clear and open communication between employees and management, creating a process map is easier. Visualizing where the process starts and ends, as well as which role each individual should play in the process, also becomes clearer.

Creates accountability

When workflow is automated, one employee is responsible for every part of the process. Everyone knows which role he or she has in the process, and how long each task will take. Therefore, a system of accountability is created.

Empowers employees to master time management

Since every team member knows what is expected of him/her, employees naturally become more conscientious, and doing an excellent job within a specific time frame is an instinctive priority. Each team member knows that management will know immediately if any task is not completed on time.

Creates a more efficient workplace

Ultimately, workflow automation makes a workplace more efficient, while simultaneously reducing the chance of a micromanaging work environment.  Fortunately, there is less need for management to intervene in every task, since the entire staff is actively involved in creating a successful organization.

How can you set up an effective workflow plan for your business?

Plan on how team members should communicate

There are always different options for communication; whether through meetings (virtual or in person), email, chat, phone calls, etc. Team members should decide which medium will work best for the group, and implement a specific system. This will help reduce the chance of a breakdown in communication, when problems start to occur.

For example, for something urgent, consider texting the team using a cloud-based collaborative tool. For something that is not urgent, send an email. For complicated or more sensitive issues, talk on the phone or use video chat.

Have a place where everyone can share and store information

When everyone is busy with his or her task and one team member is in need of assistance, he or she should be able to garner information at a specific, predefined location, rather than needing to ask questions. It may be a project plan, document, or a wiki where everyone can update information and refer back to it. This allows all team members access to valuable information without having to distract others.

Define roles

Everyone should be clear on who is responsible for what task. For instance, some organizations hold roles that lack proper demarcation, causing a sense of vagueness among employees.  In other words, employees should have unmistakably defined roles within the company, and within each project.

Define deliverables

Be specific with what the deliverables are and when they are due. Be specific on what should result from each task. Duplication of tasks is avoided and time is not wasted.

Set expectations

Each employee should know what is expected of them. For example, sales employees should know if they are expected to hit a certain quota within a specific time period. In marketing, employees are anticipated to conjure new ways to market the product or service. In other words, employees do not need to ask multiple questions when expectations have been made clear and comprehensible from the beginning.

Workflow Automation - flowchart graphic

 

Design your workflow

Once a workflow process has been established within an organization, there may be a period of “trial and error” before deciding upon the final and tools and systems that will work best for the company as a whole.  After a while, these implementations will fall into place and become standard practice for everyone involved.

It’s important for company decision-makers to remember that each team is unique, as is their particular and corresponding workflow. This concept must be taken into consideration when creating an automated workflow for a project or group of ongoing tasks.

Even when you have a system in place, be sure to regularly check in with the team to ensure that everything is going smoothly. If any obstacles are identified, make the necessary adjustments before moving forward.

When a successful automated workflow plan is in place, tasks often become less challenging and team members are frequently more comfortable with their responsibilities including their ability to contribute to the overall success of the company.  This knowledge not only engages, but can empower employees within their specific roles, increasing productivity. When productivity levels increase, output quantity and quality also increase, in turn, leading to a more profitable business.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

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