Everyone wants a smooth workflow. The word itself says it all. You want the work to flow seamlessly and produce results with minimal time wasted. Yet we all know that’s rarely how our workdays turn out.
Thankfully, there are tools you can use to get rid of distractions and automate repetitive tasks. Think of them as shortcuts that enable you to focus on your work rather than all the superfluous details.
A report from Forrester found that organizations with digital document processes have 10 times less at-risk customers than companies that rely on paper-based processes.
From the same study, 97% of respondents from organizations that still rely on manual processes are seeing a negative impact on employee productivity.
The finding speaks to the enormous potential for each business or institution to raise employee productivity by equipping them with the right workflow app and collaboration tools.
So here are some essential workflow apps that can produce the results you want for maximum employee productivity:
Companies everywhere are embracing automation technology and transforming their tedious, time-consuming, manual processes into streamlined, easy-to-use, automated workflows.
They’re doing this to reap the many benefits of automation technology. These benefits include reduced operational costs and increased productivity, as well as increased availability, reliability, and performance. In turn, this results in more satisfied customers.
Failing to automate your workflows comes at a cost. The average employee spends 20-40% of their time searching for documents and loses around 40% of their productivity to task switching. Meanwhile, CEOs reportedly spend some 25% of their time on tasks that can be easily automated.
Every company has different goals and therefore different automation needs and priorities. For instance, a manufacturing company that frequently purchases raw materials might benefit from automating purchase order and invoice approval workflows. A temp agency that constantly recruits and onboards new employees may wish to invest in HR workflow automation to make the hiring and onboarding processes more seamless.
In this post, we’ll dive into eight powerful examples of workflows at the workplace and discuss how to make the most of each workflow for optimal performance and workflow efficiency. With the right business workflow automation software, you can automate these processes – and much, much more.
Workflow vs Process: What Exactly Is the Difference?
Workflows and processes may seem similar, but there are subtle yet significant differences between the two.
Understanding what these differences are will help you identify areas of improvement and ultimately improve business operations as a whole.
What Is a Workflow?
A workflow is a series of activities that are carried out to accomplish a task according to a set of procedural rules.
A common workflow across many businesses is expense approvals. That’s where an employee fills out an expense form and submits it to a specific recipient (usually a manager) for approval.
This workflow has a set of defined rules and practices that govern a series of activities to complete the task. There are also clear start and endpoints. It starts when an employee fills out an expense form and ends when they’re reimbursed
Well-defined workflows streamline repetitive tasks and increase productivity. They provide a blueprint that employees can follow to accomplish a task, whether it’s creating a purchase order or processing product returns.
What Is a Process?
A process is a sequence of repeatable activities that are designed to achieve a specific organizational goal.
For example, a company might implement a standardized customer service process to help meet its goal of achieving 95%+ customer satisfaction ratings.
Processes occur at all levels of an organization and vary across industries. Companies in the agriculture industry follow different processes than those in financial services.
Business processes are important because they standardize how work gets done and lead to more consistent outcomes. Standardization ensures employees perform a task the same way each time.
72% of organizations agree or strongly agree that BPM practices like modeling and optimizing processes have improved overall efficiency.
You can divide processes into three categories:
Operational processes: Operational processes directly contribute to a company’s value chain — the activities involved in creating a product or service. Examples include manufacturing and distribution.
Supporting processes: Supporting processes don’t directly contribute to the value chain, but they’re still necessary for companies to operate. Examples include document management and equipment maintenance.
Management processes: Management processes monitor and control activities related to various business systems. Examples include strategic planning and capacity management.
In short, a workflow is a series of steps that make up a task, while a process is a set of activities that help organizations accomplish specific goals. Both are essential for getting things done.
Example of a Workflow and a Process
A process may encompass multiple workflows. Consider the procurement process. An organization might take the following steps to procure needed supplies:
Identify the best vendor
Create and approve purchase requisition documents
Generate and send a purchase order
Receive one or more invoices
Take delivery of the ordered items
Reconcile and pay the invoices
Maintain records for audit purposes
Within this process, there are several workflows — approving purchase requisitions, creating a purchase order, getting invoice approval, maintaining financial records, and more.
Optimizing this process is often a key organizational goal. Improving the procurement process means faster turnaround and even cost savings. Improvements can include purchasing from sustainable sources, strengthening vendor relationships and automating individual workflows.
That last point is worth a closer look.
A whopping 94% of employees say they perform repetitive tasks. Some of these include data entry, document creation, and copying data between applications.
That’s not all. Employees also spend their time on frivolous activities, such as hunting down documents and chasing signatures.
Workflows not only bring more structure to your processes, but they can also help you identify bottlenecks and uncover ways to fix them.
Purchase orders enable your company to procure necessary goods and services. But manually performing each step in this workflow is both tedious and time-consuming.
Workflow automation software like frevvo lets you map out each step of a workflow and automate repetitive tasks like document routing.
Here’s an example of an automated workflow for purchase orders:
The process builder is fully visual and doesn’t require any complex coding. You can easily add or remove steps to the workflow diagram and even add conditional rules.
For example, the workflow above includes a rule that only routes purchase orders to an executive for approval if it exceeds a certain value. This helps increase overall efficiency and prevent a backlog of work.
Mapping out a workflow is a valuable exercise, as it allows you to visualize each step from start to finish. This makes it easier to detect redundancies and reduce waste.
Workflow management, where individual workflows are automated, increases efficiency by eliminating delays due to unnecessary bureaucracy.
It also reduces procurement risks by ensuring strict adherence to business norms and discouraging maverick purchasing.
Workflow Automation: A Key Aspect of Process Management
Workflow automation is just one aspect of business process optimization, but it’s one of the first things most organizations should tackle.
Employees frequently struggle with the efficiency-killing issues that routinely affect manual workflows — lost documents, missing or error-ridden information, signatures that have to be chased down, missing or delayed approvals, plus more.
Each might seem like a small thing, but, taken together, they lead to frustrated employees who are neither as engaged nor as productive as they could be.
Using workflow automation software to shift from paper or email to fully automated workflows saves valuable time and improves productivity. It also means better customer service, higher business agility, and happier employees.
Sign up for a 30-day free trial of frevvo’s powerful workflow automation software to automate your workflows and make your processes more efficient.
Nowadays, 72% of organizations use at least some digital document management processes to streamline workflows and increase efficiency.
Unlike your manual documentation workflow, a well-organized automated workflow built with robust software is fast, accurate, and reliable. Not only that, but you can guarantee compliance and streamline remote working.
If you’re unsure how to optimize your business’ documentation workflow, you can follow this step-by-step guide and enjoy quicker, more streamlined document processing.