Automated workflows are hardly a new concept. What is new is the power and flexibility non-technical workers now have to design and implement workflows that make sense in context. It wasn’t that long ago that automating a workflow meant hiring programmers, briefing them thoroughly on needs, budget, and schedule, and hoping for the best once the automated workflow was launched.
While it was a huge improvement over the clunky, manual workflow, the first automated workflows had their limitations and were often devoid of friendly user interfaces. Not only is more understood about what should and should not be expected of automated workflows, workflow software has evolved into something truly useful for most businesses. Who should design automated workflows in today’s businesses?
Decision-Makers Must Understand Workflows
Ideally, the person or people who carry out workflows would be able to wave a magic wand and have an automated workflow spring to life, fully formed. In reality, however, it often starts with the decision-makers: the people who have the power to approve the resources necessary to automate business processes.
When decision-makers understand workflows thoroughly, they’re likelier to choose the automation solution that makes the most sense. When they don’t, they’re likelier to choose workflow software based on qualities that mean little when the rubber of a new workflow meets the road of actual implementation. Therefore, the first step to successful workflow automation is thorough understanding by the people who authorize the solutions.
Observing Workflows in Action
There is simply no substitute for observing a workflow in action. What is she doing to that file, and why does she have to print it out? How is he going to get all five signatures in that form by the close of business? Watch and learn. It may be quite the eye-opening experience!
If you are in charge of choosing workflow software, your best first step is to see the existing workflow as it happens and ask questions about steps you don’t understand. You are likely to find that some steps are holdovers from “the way we’ve always done it,” and others are unnecessarily manual or paper-based because it’s hard to overcome the inertia of old processes even when everyone knows improvement is possible.
Talking to Workflow Users
As part of, and in addition to observing workflows, take the time to speak to workflow users. Ideally, you should speak with them individually and in a group, so you can see how one person’s inconvenience makes another person’s part of the workflow easier and vice versa. People are usually willing to tell you exactly where they experience bottlenecks and pain points, and what they wish would happen at those points instead. Good business process management depends on knowing the purpose of each and every step in a process and looking at all the possible ways for that step to be accomplished.
Designing Workflows with Input and Feedback of Workflow Users
Creating automated workflows and then inflicting them on unsuspecting workflow users is counterproductive. There is simply no reason not to design workflows based on the input and feedback of the people who actually use those workflows every day. No longer do we have to pay programmers to write the code to automate their vision of workflows, because form creator software exists for non-technical users.
Today’s forms workflow software also empowers workflow users to thoroughly test newly automated workflows before they’re officially implemented, to pick up on unforeseen problems and fix issues before everyone is using the new workflow. Thorough testing of proposed automated workflows can save significant time by understanding what problems can arise, and how to either prevent them or deal with them.
Business process automation should be the concern of every business, because every business has business processes, whether they know it or not. The right workflow software enables decision-makers and workflow designers to customize workflows fully, rather than try to make do with a pre-designed workflow that may not be a great fit.
PerfectApps is online form and workflow management software that does not require programming. Workflow users can design and implement workflows using a convenient drag-and-drop user interface, and it’s easy to modify forms and workflows when unforeseen problems arise. Automated workflows confer a major competitive advantage on businesses who make strategic use of them, and PerfectApps empowers companies of any size to automate workflows with ease. We invite you to watch the PerfectApps demo video and witness automated workflows and the many positive effects they have on business.