Today’s organizations are tasked with identifying new ways to create a more productive and streamlined workforce. Workflow automation has emerged as a legitimate solution, eliminating human errors that often create a ripple effect across teams and customers. However, some companies are too eager to adopt automation solutions and miss the opportunity to properly identify why and what they want to accomplish by implementing this technology.
Once businesses identify where their inefficiencies lie and focus on optimizing those workflows, automation can save countless hours and alleviate employee frustrations.
Here are four ways in which workflow automation saves organizations time, maximizes productivity and improves their bottom line.
1. Importing Documents as a Critical Step Zero
One of the most important parts of automation workflow is to make document capture as easy as possible. The earlier you import a document, the better. By incorporating the document at the start of a workflow, there can be a more natural process throughout the document’s lifecycle and more collaboration than if it were locked up elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if a document is involved in a workflow, it should be controlled by the workflow system — meaning it would not be stored in a personal drive where it could be deleted or lost. Whether it be forwarding an email, taking a photo with a smartphone, scanning a hard copy or importing a document created by an application, the first step in successful document workflow is to capture the document at the start.
2. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Speed and Accuracy
Recently, a large part of automation has involved AI integration, with metadata extraction being one of the most practical applications. Workflows incorporating AI components can spark productivity by making near-human inferences about what you’re trying to accomplish with a given task.
One example is centered around critical data from invoices or paperwork returned as standard paper forms, which can be automatically tagged using AI algorithms. The form, now with intuitive metadata, can be recognized and sent to the correct workflow path with minimal to no human intervention. This speeds up the entire workflow and eliminates human error during the data extraction process.
3. Receiving Email Reminders to Stay Up-to-Date
Unresponsiveness to emails can severely impact workflows, especially when projects and approvals depend on answers. Even worse, essential documents can be buried in a full inbox, slowing down everyone involved in the chain. However, this form of human error can be solved with process automation.
Email systems can set up automated reminders to approvers that they have pending tasks—and they won’t go away until the task is cleared. Calendars also have these integration capabilities to inform systems of contingencies to ensure projects continue moving.
4. Retaining and Managing Records for End-to-End Document Lifecycle
The life of documents doesn’t end at the last step of a workflow. After a workflow is complete, documents such as invoices, HR records, signed forms and more must be retained for several years per specific department and industry compliance regulations.
Retention should be transparent for end-users and should be automated to save time on the back-end of a document’s lifecycle — based on the document’s metadata, the system can determine where to store each record and how many years to keep it a prompt cleanup. Automated security retention requirements can save time and money by ensuring that information needed for audits is retained per regulations and necessary communication isn’t discarded.
Workflow automation is a balancing act of sorts — organizations are left struggling to find the right balance between the intuitive, agile and user-friendly experience that their workforce demands, and the control required for compliance, consistency and operational success. Yet, it’s one business area set to continue to improve as we discover new ways to implement technology into our existing processes and systems. As AI and other programs become more intuitive and employees feel more comfortable using them, productivity and efficiency will increase and ultimately save businesses time and money.
Maximizing workflows is key to running a successful business, especially in a hybrid workforce, and will continue to grow more vital as we move towards an even more digital-first world.