A Side-by-Side Comparison of a Manual and an Automated Workflow

To succeed at being efficient, effective, and not omitting any steps, workflows must be custom designed with the organization and the end product of the workflow in mind. Workflows may be streamlined or convoluted, whether they’re old-fashioned manual workflows or workflows created by workflow software.

But the difference between even the best manual workflow and its automated counterpart is vast. Comparing a manual workflow to an automated one brings into sharp relief the differences between the two. Here’s a comparison of a manual process vs an automated workflow process for a relatively simple task that many organizations have to do: producing a report.

A Manual Process for Producing a Report

Imagine that an important collection of data arrived six months ago, and you are in charge of producing a data analysis report to alert your company’s clients of what you have learned from the data. Writing the report, which can be challenging enough, is only the beginning.

It’s important that you don’t release a report containing any trade secrets or company-confidential information, so before editing, the report needs to be read by a company security expert and either approved or sent back for revision. If revisions are required, then the physical report must make multiple trips back and forth between your desk and the security officer’s.

Once the security officer has signed off, it’s time for a fresh set of eyes to read the report and offer editing, grammar, spelling, and style advice. Again, the document may make several rounds between your desk and your editor’s.

Now that the report is clear and concise, it’s time to have illustrations made, so a copy of the report must go to the graphics department, or a freelance graphic designer you have enlisted. After a certain amount of back-and-forth, you finally have the illustrations the report needs.

When the report is edited, approved, and illustrated, you’ll need to work with the print shop (or a printer with whom your company contracts) to have a specified number of reports printed and bound so they can be distributed. Chances are good that the print shop has its own workflows for getting print jobs done, so you’ll have to work with that.

An Automated Process for Producing the Same Report

An automated workflow can accomplish most of the steps of the manual workflow, only faster and with more accuracy. Physical copies of the document don’t have to be schlepped back and forth with approving authorities, which means there are no intermediate steps of printing a modified document back out and sending it on its rounds.

Yes, your editor will have to take time to edit the document, and your illustrator will still have to create the graphics, but all the to-ing and fro-ing goes away, because the document is maintained in electronic form, and is sent automatically to the next right person in the chain as soon as someone is done with it.

What’s more, automated workflows can be designed to collect data along the way and allow authorized process users to view the status of the workflow at any time. You can check to see if your editor is through making corrections, and confirm that the company security officer signed off on the report. In other words, your automatic workflow can lay down an audit trail as the workflow progresses.

Problems Avoided by Using an Automated Process

Think of the problems that an automated workflow accomplishes when compared to a manual workflow. Not only is it faster, you won’t have to worry about paper documents being damaged or lost. If there’s some question as to whether a step in the workflow was completed, workflow automation users can check the workflow and find out immediately. The print shop can be sent a print-ready file, saving them time, and the workflow can have printers indicate when they’re through, so copies can be picked up immediately. The phone calls, trips back and forth, and general inefficiencies of dealing with paper documents are cut to an absolute minimum with automated workflows.

Here is a table highlighting the differences between manual and automated workflows.

Workflow Property Manual Workflow Automated Workflow
Time Required Longer Shorter
Transparency Difficult to know workflow status Learn workflow status at any time
Risk of Physical Damage to Documents Yes No
Error Types Penmanship
Delivery to the wrong person
Lost or damaged document
Data input error

The Right Workflow Software Empowers You

PerfectApps is workflow management software that can automate report production as well as countless other workflows. It allows you to create online forms and avoid the problems of paper ones while empowering you to create custom, automated workflows that save time, save money, and ultimately achieve better, more accurate results. We invite you to look at some of our case studies and see how automated workflows transform organizations that used to rely on manual workflows. The results can be astounding!