It goes without saying that smart businesses always look for ways to optimize efficiency at minimum spend.
However, anyone who has spent a day juggling the responsibilities of management and decision making knows that this is much easier said than done.
When tangled in the web of everyday “yes’s”, “no’s” and “maybe’s,” progress reports, emails, meetings, strategies and evaluations, the lines between operations blur and the solutions for process improvement seem to escape you.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that workflow and other process inefficiencies cost organizations anywhere between 20% and 30% of their yearly revenue.
But sometimes the solution is a simple software tool that can not only improve and streamline the process, but also reduce execution time, alleviate your staff’s (menial) workload and minimize room for error – to list a few benefits.
In this post, you’ll find a list of 10 signs that your organization is in need of such tool(s), i.e. workflow automation.
But first, a word about workflow software:
What Is Workflow Software?
Workflow software are the software tools designed to automate routine, mostly manual, processes.
Workflow software — also referred to as workflow automation software, workflow management software and workflow tool — usually comes in the form of an app or web platform that replaces paper-based documentation, or simply streamlines the manual or digital processes.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Manual workflow automation: Think on-site data entry. Your staff goes on a field visit and instead of carrying piles of paper forms, scribbling in the answer boxes while taking photos, measurements and making calculations, they simply take out their smartphones and handle all their tasks in a single app. No more long office hours transcribing the manually filled data, either, and no more trying to make sense of it all in manually developed reports – those, too, are automatically handled by your data collection (workflow) software.
- Improving inefficient digital processes: Not all digital processes are efficient. Email is a digital tool, but how many task status updates and relevant news have you missed because your inbox was bursting at the seams? This is where team and project management tools become your best friends: The entire team, their tasks and responsibilities, progress updates and notes – all gathered in one place with a sweet bonus of performance analytics and insights.
The two examples are just a taste of what workflow software can do for your business.
Now let’s look at some of the most common types of workflow software:
What Types Of Workflow Software Are There?
This is by no means a definitive list of the types of workflow software, but it’s enough to give you an idea of just how powerful tech is and how beneficial it can be to your bottom line.
The most common types of workflow software are:
- Data entry / Mobile forms: Data collection software is mostly used for real-time and/or on-site data gathering, storage and interpretation, i.e. analytics. It significantly reduces data collection time, minimizes room for error and facilitates data processing.
- Team management: A type of workflow software that gives you oversight over your entire team’s performance in one place, clarifying each member’s responsibilities and progress. It also helps you manage their workload, gain deeper, data-based insight into each member’s performance and devise smart strategies for improvement.
- Project management: This type of workflow tool focuses on project optimization. It is particularly useful in the outsourcing scenarios; It acts as a window into the service provider’s performance, improving transparency and communication between your teams, as well as facilitating project planning.
- HR management: There are several types of HR management tools. The most common ones automate processes like employee record keeping, onboarding and offboarding, leave approvals and benefits administration, payroll and other HR-related functions. There are also the workflow tools that streamline recruitment, candidate screening and communication which are particularly useful for handling large volume applications.
- Accounting Practice Management: Here, too, you’ll find multiple subtypes of workflow software, covering different tasks and scopes. Most commonly, accounting workflow software automates proposal generation, invoicing, payment management and provides dashboards that let you monitor sales, revenue, cash flow and more.
- App/Software integrations: This type of workflow software automates workflows among other software solutions. Sounds confusing, right? Here’s an example: Say you get monthly supplier statements sent to your email in a form of .pdf attachments. Instead of having to watch out for these emails, manually download the documents to a designated cloud storage folder and alert the team on a group chat, you can have your workflow tool perform all these functions for you by integrating the said individual apps, and creating and automating the tasks among them.
- Marketing automation: Any tool that automates marketing campaign management is workflow software. Think of email marketing, social media management and ad management platforms – to name a few.
- Sales / Lead nurturing: This type of workflow software mainly automates communication between your organization and (prospective) clients. It can automate contact initiation, meeting scheduling, updates, follow-ups, CRM status reports and many other sales-related tasks.
10 Signs That It Is Time To Automate Your Workflows
Not sure whether it makes sense to use workflow software?
Here are some of the symptoms that hint to your organization’s need for automation:
1. Your Manual Processes Are Already Standardized. You Just Want Them To Be More Efficient.
Your processes are clearly defined and performing well, but they are menial; They take up too much of your employees’ time and focus which could otherwise be spent on their main line of work.
This, in fact, is the ideal scenario for workflow automation; You want your ‘old’ processes to make sense and ‘prove’ their value to your organization before you turn to a workflow software solution to make them more efficient.
Your process should be clearly defined and tested before you decide to automate it.
2. You Are Drowning In Slips, Forms And Other Paper-Based Documents
Not only are they not eco-friendly, but paper-based processes breed chaos.
One of our clients, JLL, had an 80-page form that their site inspection agents were supposed to fill out manually on each field visit. These forms were then sent to the office for transcription and filing.
You can imagine how difficult and expensive it was to handle such volumes of paper; How often they were misplaced, data smudged and otherwise damaged in the process.
Switching to mobile forms has given JLL’s agents a sense of structure and it has lead to significant improvements in their efficiency.
“The efficiencies gained have translated to significant and ongoing cost savings, as well as more responsive business operations and more satisfied clients.”
– Rob Mote, National Multi-Site Operations Manager, JLL
3. Your Staff Spends Hours On Menial Tasks Like Data Entry Or Transcription
One research showed that, on average, sales professionals spend as much time performing sales-related tasks as they do administrative work like data entry, inbox management and similar.
As we mentioned earlier, a quarter of your revenue can be lost on inefficient processes.
Can you imagine how much can be gained if your staff were able to focus on what actually generates revenue?
4. You See Frequent Minor or Major Errors Made In Routine Processes
People make mistakes. Software rarely does.
Errors, no matter how small, can be costly. They can cost time that you dedicate to finding and fixing them, and they can cost you money by repelling the existing or prospective clients.
Workflow software can reduce room for error on many levels:
- It can notify your staff when they miss or enter badly formatted data
- It can improve legibility (no more deciphering handwriting)
- It can facilitate troubleshooting
- It can automate external communication, so your clients never miss another relevant update
- And more
5. Inefficient Processes Are Taking A Toll On Internal Communication
Remember the email example we used earlier? That’s another telltale sign that you need workflow automation software asap.
Communication is key to successful performance. Any experienced manager knows this.
Miscommunication and misinformation can not only hurt your team’s performance, but it can also hurt your mutual relationship as well as your relationship with clients.
Workflow software can deliver real-time updates to your staff, giving them access to the latest and most relevant information, as well as improving decision making and documentation so there is no room for doubt.
6. It Is Difficult To Pinpoint The Exact Roles & Responsibilities Within The Team
Another consequence of poorly management communication is that it leaves a lot of room for he-said-she-said.
If your team often loses track of their tasks or underperforms due to the lack of clarity of their responsibilities, you stand to gain a lot from implementing a workflow software.
7. It Is Difficult To Track Task Status
Do you find yourself wasting time trying to track every team member down for their status updates?
Or digging through your inbox to figure who has sent their updates and who hasn’t, where each member is and trying to piece the whole story together to figure out where you stand collectively?
Workflow software can bring all this information together in a single dashboard.
8. You Base Task And Project Planning On Assumptions
Your competitors are gathering data left and right to make informed decisions. Are you?
Workflow software can provide invaluable insight into your internal and external operations – a key to staying ahead in your highly competitive market.
9. You Have Hired Or Are Thinking Of Hiring People Just To Take Some Of The Menial Tasks Off Your Staff’s Plates
You always feel shorthanded and look for interns to take on menial work so your staff can actually focus on their jobs?
Chances are that the menial work you are delegating can be handled by an inexpensive software solution.
10. You Cannot Afford To Lose Data
Yes, there have been headlines about data loss and leaks, but in reality, cloud-stored data is much easier to back up and protect than any paper documentation.
Some workflow tools can even give you access to the past versions of your documents, as well as recover the files that have been deleted.
If your business collects highly sensitive data, it is time to say goodbye to paper-based documentation.
Workflow Tools: Is It Time To Upgrade?
Most organizations have a lot to gain by delegating their menial, routine tasks to workflow software.
A prerequisite for such delegation, however, is a solid strategy.
Once you run a thorough overview of your current processes and detail your requirements, finding the right workflow automation tool(s) should be relatively easy.
We hope this post was useful in identifying the solutions to some of your organization’s pain points.
If you are curious to know how doForms can help automate your data collection processes, we invite you to give it a try: