Your Complete Guide to Implementing Workflow Process Automation
4 Examples of Essential Business Workflows to Get You Started
Every business process you conduct has a workflow. Workflows vary in complexity depending on the project being executed, but they exist for everything your business does – and if you’re not focused on the workflow process, it’s likely you’re creating roadblocks within operations that are leading to inefficiencies, loss of productivity, and errors or inaccuracies.
Workflow process automation removes those roadblocks by automating the completion of the individual tasks that make up a workflow. For example, if three different departments need to log specific data relative to a customer transaction, workflow process automation eliminates the need for manual data entry, which anyone who has manually entered data can appreciate.
Workflow process automation provides different benefits depending on your business, and your automation solution will vary based on your business goals and priorities. However, the following examples of common workflow automation solutions in action will help get you started.
1. Purchase Orders
For professional services organizations in particular, purchase orders are an essential part of doing business. A purchase order solidifies the business transaction and ensures both you (or your vendor) and the customer are aligned on cost.
Manually completing purchase orders presents several challenges:
- The terms of the purchase order may not be visible to everyone working on the account, leading to additional services or accommodations that go unpaid-for.
- Sharing purchase orders via email carries security risks and is no longer the most efficient way to handle this process.
- Printing or scanning purchase orders to have them signed or verified takes extra time and creates inefficiencies and process bottlenecks.
Without a workflow automation process, your company could be losing revenue or missing out on revenue opportunities. Furthermore, automating your purchase order workflow creates a more seamless process, freeing up your team to focus on other business priorities.
An automated purchase order workflow example is as follows:
- The purchase order is created in the system and filled out with the necessary information based on a customized template.
- The purchase order is automatically routed to the appropriate manager or department head for review and approval.
- The system alerts of purchase orders that exceed a certain amount and thus need to receive additional approvals.
- The purchase order is routed to a vendor if applicable.
- The vendor provides the products or services named in the purchase order and sends an invoice back.
- The invoice is authorized by the appropriate individual(s) and payment is automatically sent.
- Records are stored for accounting and audit purposes.
2. Expense Claims
Expense reporting is a task that is tedious to execute manually – it requires employees to sift through paper records or Excel spreadsheets to verify expense claims and issue reimbursements or, in some cases, disputes.
Using an automated workflow for expense reporting, the process can look like this:
- An expense claim is submitted in the system
- The appropriate manager or director reviews and approves it
- The finance department is alerted to the approval, issues a payment, and the data is stored in the accounting system
An automated process for expense claims makes it easy for the appropriate people to issue approvals or revisions without spending extra time reviewing piles of paperwork – and employees can check on the status of their expense reimbursement at any time.
3. Incident Reports
Certain industries may have a greater need for automated incident reporting workflows, but this example demonstrates the importance of workflow automation for a process that may involve several parties and needs to be handled quickly, effectively, and professionally.
The sensitive and timely nature of incident reports requires careful review by different individuals to determine the best course of action. When handled manually, the employee who filed the report may be kept waiting for information or action, and their issue may go unresolved for an unreasonable amount of time.
An automated workflow for incident reporting may look like this:
- The employee files the report into the system.
- The report is reviewed by the appropriate individuals and automatically routed to a manager or department head.
- Another group is then able to confer on the best corrective action and solution.
- The solution is implemented and the incident remains active until fully resolved.
- Employees and teams perform compliance and risk assessment to prevent the same incident from occurring again.
When incident reporting is handled through an automated workflow process, the report is received immediately, ensuring it will be quickly addressed and resolved for the employee.
4. Sales Orders
Creating, processing, and completing sales orders is an essential workflow for bringing in business revenue; however, many companies handle this process manually, leaving open room for error, which can lead to costly oversights!
Using spreadsheets, paper forms, or emails all create challenges for accuracy, timeliness, and capitalizing on sales opportunities.
An automated workflow for sales orders gives you visibility into your customer accounts, so you can take advantage of upselling or cross-selling opportunities, and keep the sales process on time and on track from the initial order to approval.
Your automated sales order process may look like the following:
- Someone on your sales team creates the sales order in the system, filling out essential information based on a customized template.
- The sales order is automatically routed to the appropriate manager or department head for review and approval.
- The system alerts of sales orders that exceed a certain discount amount and thus need to receive additional approvals.
- The sales order is sent to the customer for signoff.
- The billing department is alerted to the sales order and issues an invoice to the customer.
- Once the invoice is paid, the fulfillment team is notified automatically to complete the order.
- The system stores the information for record-keeping.
The biggest benefit to automated workflows, aside from creating meaningful efficiencies in your business, is the impact it has on the customer experience. Providing faster, more accurate, and more informed service keeps your customers happy and encourages loyalty.
So how can you effectively implement workflow automation to take advantage of these functions and many others? Like any technology integration, there are best practices to ensure a successful onboarding and that your business is using the solution to its maximum potential.
Choosing Your Workflow Process Automation Software
Maybe you already use a workflow process automation solution and want to switch, or you know you need one but aren’t sure of the best-choice software.
FinancialForce offers workflow automation as part of our Professional Services Automation solution, which runs on the Salesforce cloud platform. Based on our solution, here are the top qualities of a workflow automation solution you should look for when selecting your software:
Operating business tools and software on the cloud has significant benefits over on-premise solutions, such as ease of maintenance, improved performance, tighter security, robust scalability, and anytime accessibility. We provide a detailed breakdown of the differences between cloud-based and on-prem relative to enterprise resource planning software, which apply to workflow automation as well.
The ability to integrate your workflow automation solution with other tools helps increase visibility across your enterprise by that much more. You can tie alerting or scheduling functionalities that your teams are already comfortable using directly into your workflow solution.
Reporting & Analytics
While reporting and analytics are essential for process management, some workflow automation solutions don’t come standardized with these capabilities. Being able to monitor tasks and analyze issues ensures you can continue fine-tuning your workflows and improve them at scale.
Always demo software before purchasing it. Websites and write-ups can paint a rosy picture of any solution, but until you understand how it will work in your specific environment, and whether it is intuitive for everyone involved to use, you’re taking a gamble. Look for a friendly UX and UI, no-code or low-code applications, and drag-and-drop functionality.
Your workflow automation solution should be accessible from remote locations using mobile or tablet technology. This functionality is especially important for professional services organizations that have employees out in the field, such as law offices or engineering firms. Visibility into workflow processes shouldn’t stop or be interrupted simply because someone gets up from their desk.
While you’re demoing workflow process automation solutions, be sure to pay attention to how customizable the software is – can it handle the complexities of your business? Make sure to ask about specific conditions you would be looking to customize.
Now that you have the parameters for the type of workflow process automation solution you should select, let’s talk about the best practices for implementation.
- Identify current manual processes that are tedious or repetitive and would benefit from being automated. Keep in mind that just because a process is being done manually, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a candidate for automation. It may not be mature enough for automation, or it simply might not be necessary to automate.
- Identify the outcomes you’re looking for by automating the workflow process. Want to increase revenue? Improve the customer experience? Launch products faster? Knowing what you want to accomplish will ensure you’re getting the most from your workflow process solution.
- Onboard your employees with proper training and understanding of the purpose behind automating certain processes. When your employees are open minded and willing to adopt a new solution, it’s far more likely to be effective.
- Design your workflow in the tool by building out the process to see how it will flow. Once you’ve created a form, defined the workflow process, assigned appropriate rules and permissions for each task, and linked the right employees to those tasks, you’ll be ready to go.
- Measure and track your workflow using the reporting and analytics functionality built into the solution. This step is important for ensuring you’re meeting your stated goals and objectives, and that you’re using the solution correctly.
When you’re able to clearly see positive changes in your business operations – especially those in line with your stated goals and objectives – you’ll know the workflow automation solution is working. At that point, we believe congratulations are in order.
If your business has tasks that take time away from productive work and result in greater error or a less ideal customer experience, workflow automation is a great option to streamline your operations and get processes on track and on time.
Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn more about our Professional Services Automation solution, which runs on the Salesforce cloud platform, and see how it can streamline your operations and put your customers at the center of everything you do.