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What Is Workflow Automation?

Julie Thompson
Julie Thompson
business.com Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 29, 2022

It's time to decrease manual business tasks and invest in workflow automation. Instantly reduce human error and increase efficiency.

Most business owners can only dream of eliminating the pinch points of day-to-day business tasks. Fewer stacks of paperwork, better communication and fewer breakdowns can help your company run more smoothly and boost employee morale. Instead of having your employees enter data manually, consider investing in automation. Freeing employees from mundane tasks can speed up workflow and allow them to engage with customers, utilize their creativity and train for specialized roles.

According to a Kofax study, more than 20% of an employee’s time is spent on repetitive tasks. In a 40-hour workweek, manual tasks take up more than one eight-hour workday. Think about all the follow-up sales calls, drip emails and finance approvals you could achieve by setting up workflow automation. Here’s everything you need to know.

Did you know?Did you know? Some CRM metrics to track in your business are customer churn, renewal rate and customer retention costs.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation outlines a list of tasks for automating manual processes to improve efficiency and eliminate human error.

Automated workflows can be simple or complex, depending on your company’s industry and departments. While an HR request might involve just one employee and the HR team, a finance request may include an employee, supervisor, finance manager and the CFO.

With workflow automation, you can track each step of the chain in real time. Keeping everyone up to date can significantly improve reporting and automation testing accuracy and increase engagement among departments. Bottlenecks within the automation can be tweaked immediately to prevent downtime. Data from workflow processes can be automatically transferred via enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, customer relationship management (CRM) software or similar business applications.

Benefits of workflow automation

Workflow automation can help every department in your company streamline processes and reduce the monotony of manual data entry. Benefits are apparent almost immediately after implementing workflow automation in the following departments.

  • Facilities departments: Workflow automation can streamline facilities processes, including move requests, relocations, logistics and access issues.  
  • Finance departments: Workflow automation can help with managing documents efficiently, automating payroll management and integrating data with third-party apps. It can be used to generate faster approvals, set up auto-payments and streamline grants and expenses.
  • Human resources departments: Workflow automation can help you set up recruiting filters for faster approval, update compliance policies, create faster onboarding and offboarding, and reduce paperwork requirements. It can also streamline timeclocks and time and attendance functions. 
  • IT departments: With workflow automation in IT departments, you can delegate support tickets without risking duplication, confirm updates with stakeholders and track employee usage. It can also streamline shadow IT, improve security access and boost fraud protection.
  • Legal departments: Workflow automation can simplify client-intake forms and contract reviews. 
  • Marketing departments: Workflow automation can help automate repetitive tasks, assist with remote employee collaboration, streamline the lead process and help you run multiple campaigns simultaneously from one dashboard.
  • Operations departments: Workflow automation can help automate maintenance requests, new product ideas and complaint management. 
  • Purchasing departments: Workflow automation can streamline vendor management, inventory pricing, invoice approvals and capital approvals. 
  • Sales departments: Workflow automation streamlines sales lead processes and automates lead follow-up, so each lead gets the same treatment. You can also track customers, send drip and personalized emails with discounts or thank you messages, and take advantage of real-time reporting to improve your bottom line.

FYIFYI: Email automation can elevate customer support by offering a more personalized experience that shows customers you’re attuned to their needs.

How to create an automated workflow

You can design an automated workflow in five steps. While the process is relatively simple to execute, it’s essential to continuously test and tweak automated workflows for the best results.

  1. Determine a manual process you’d like to automate. Before automating a process, consider whether the process is a burden for the team and if the task would benefit from automation.
  1. Identify why the process needs to be automated. Whether you want to streamline the process, increase efficiency among departments, or improve return on investment, having an automation goal will help you focus on the task.
  1. Consult the team. To access workflow automation, your team needs training on using the process and learning from its data. Communicate goals and ask the team for suggestions during and after implementation.
  1. Create the workflow automation. Automated workflow software offers a drag-and-drop interface to organize tasks visually. Using a visual representation of tasks, you’ll quickly see how one job identifies with another and navigates from point A to B. Once designed, business owners and employees can review the static process and edit it before building the automated process. When approved, automated processes connect alerts, forms, tasks and recipients within the workflow automation software. Departments such as facilities, finance, human resources, IT, legal, marketing, operations, purchasing and sales can benefit from streamlined workflows.
  1. Test and tweak. After the workflow automation is complete, test it to ensure it streamlines the process, saves time and improves ROI. If it does, continue using it to maximize efficiency. If the automation is difficult to use or has bugs, or team members don’t like it, brainstorm how the automation can change for the better or determine if it’s necessary in the first place. 

The best software to help you automate your workflow

Workflow automation tools make manual, repetitive tasks easier to manage. Most software options provide a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface, so you won’t have to take a crash course in technical coding to create automation. 

Automated workflows can benefit multiple departments and industries. From managing a small business to running an enterprise, you can improve common pinch points by implementing automation. 

A few of our favorite workflow automation software options are Integrify, Kissflow, Nintex and ProcessMaker.

Integrify

Integrify specializes in workflow automation for large enterprises. It offers robust tools to create, manage and track workflows. Whether you want to design automated workflows using a drag-and-drop interface or utilize the professional help of Integrify’s knowledgeable staff, you can get your workflows up and running in days, not weeks.

Custom workflow connections are possible through Integrify’s open API (REST based) and AWS Lambda integration. You can quickly connect your Salesforce CRM account to push information to a Salesforce database automatically.

Companies that use Integrify include BP, Sony Entertainment, GM and GlaxoSmithKline. Contact Integrify for current pricing based on your specific business needs. A free demo is available by request.

Kissflow

With Kissflow, you can create custom workflows and integrate with more than 750 tools, including two of our favorite CRM tools, Zoho and Salesforce. (Read our review of Zoho and our Salesforce review for more information.) You can create your apps with no coding knowledge using a drag-and-drop interface. Top brands that use Kissflow include Pepsi, Domino’s, HubSpot and Motorola.

Kissflow offers Starter, Pro, and Enterprise plans, with pricing starting at $450 per month. There is a considerable discount for paying annually. A free trial is available with no credit card required.

Nintex

Nintex is a low-code software that doesn’t take an IT department to use. The platform excels at process mapping, mobile and RPA (robotic process automation).

Nintex integrates with Zapier to offer multiple CRM connection options, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, Clio, Tribus and more than 3,000 business apps. 

Famous clients include Bridgestone, Herman Miller, Microsoft and Zoom. Nintex offers three types of software: Workflow, RPA, and Sign in standard and enterprise options. A free 30-day trial is available; no credit card is required.

ProcessMaker

ProcessMaker is open source and offers API access for larger businesses’ advanced customization. Instantly connect to your Salesforce account to build automated workflows for your CRM. The platform also integrates with Office 365, Google Workspace, LinkedIn and Slack.

ProcessMaker has four tiers: App, Standard, Enterprise and Custom. A free trial is available through an online request form.

TipTip: If you’re looking for a CRM tool to integrate with your workflow automation software, check out our reviews of the best CRM software to learn about features and pricing.

What is workflow automation in CRM?           

CRM automation breaks down into three main categories: account management, sales and support. The possibilities are endless, and you can create workflow automation using drop-down menus affecting specific data, events and time frames.

Account management

After you’ve put in the hard work to turn a lead into a customer, you must ensure the customer’s repeat purchases or continued subscription service. Depending on the number of clients you have, it can be tricky to contact each one at the right time manually.

Using a time-based trigger, create automated workflows that notify sales reps of expiration dates, alert managers when to contact VIP clients and send automated emails directly to the client for self-renewal options.

Sales

When your sales team is busy with meetings and working simultaneously across the globe, it can be challenging to update the team about every new lead. 

CRM administrators can automatically alert managers every time a large-value client is entered into the system and send follow-up alerts to a salesperson about clients or client information changes. These alerts can prevent communication errors and keep high-dollar clients from falling through the cracks.

Support

Support tickets often span multiple departments. Maintaining a client’s happiness is vital. Automating system changes and keeping the client updated consistently are essential for solving a support issue quickly and professionally.

CRM automated workflows can instantly notify the client of the pending issue. Notifications can be sent to all relevant department members by email or text to resolve problems as quickly as possible.

If you’re interested in maintaining a consistent customer service experience, automating processes can save you time and keep your customers from getting frustrated with your products or services.

Image Credit: monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Julie Thompson
Julie Thompson
business.com Contributing Writer
Julie Thompson is a professional content writer who has worked with a diverse group of professional clients, including online agencies, tech startups and global entrepreneurs. Julie has also written articles covering current business trends, compliance, and finance.