How to get started with workflow automation: a step-by-step guide
Blog: Monday Project Management Blog
Doing things manually is tough.
As your team grows and you take on more work, manual processes start to eat into your time and lower your efficiency. They also introduce risks that could cost your company.
Enter workflow automation.
Very simply, workflow automation can cut down on the time you spend doing manual work. This translates to a faster, more productive team.
This article will explore what workflow automation is, why it’s important for your business, and how you can quickly get started with one of the best workflow automation platforms on the market.
What is workflow automation?
To understand what workflow automation is, let’s first define what a workflow is.
A workflow is a series of steps you take to get something done.
Workflow automation, therefore, is — at its most basic — the tools and processes which automate the movement of your work through those steps.
Implementing workflow automation means outlining your existing processes, finding your pain points, and then introducing technology — like monday.com — that enables you to get rid of the boring, manual aspects of work — the aspects that you end up making errors on because you’re falling asleep at your desk.
In short, automating your manual workflow lets you transform paper-heavy, people-based processes into slick digital ones that propel your business forward.
7 key benefits of workflow automation
Workflow automation brings 7 key benefits to your business:
Automating the invoicing and payments process could solve most invoicing delays — and even slash invoice processing costs by more than 67%.
An automated workflow also increases your ability to scale, as you can handle more tasks with consistent output.
One way you can start automating your workflow is to initiate new processes from templates rather than from scratch.
For example, rather than creating a new set of documents each time you plan a client’s digital marketing strategy, you can simply use a digital marketing plan template from monday.com to get it done quickly.
Automating your workflow reduces the likelihood of manual errors and mistakes in your process.
Despite our best efforts, humans make mistakes. These mistakes can compound exponentially.
The 1-10-100 rule states that while it only costs $1 to verify data at the point of entry, it costs $10 to correct errors at the next stage of processing and $100 to fix them when they fail.
Automating processes right from the beginning makes sure you don’t pay dearly later.
This also keeps your team in compliance with any new regulations that might pop up, as updating your workflow forms and processes becomes a breeze.
Automating your workflow helps you and your team work better together.
Automatically being notified when a task or project item is complete — and assigned to you — means that:
- The person responsible for completing that task can move onto other things.
- You can jump into work immediately.
Because tasks are tracked and updated in real-time, your team can work faster to complete more projects.
For instance, let’s say a company needs to track leave requests.
A manual workflow of the approval process might look something like this:
- HR manager creates a leave request form in Word.
- HR manager prints the form.
- HR manager hands it to the staff member applying for leave.
- Staff member fills out the form and signs it.
- Staff member sends it to their manager for approval.
- Manager adds their signature to the form.
- Manager drops the form off with the HR manager.
- HR manager adds their signature, completing the process.
- HR manager files the form in their records.
This is a long, manual process with plenty of potential for delays and errors. What happens if your manager loses the form or the staff member forgets to send it?
Here’s an example of how this same process works with automation:
- Staff member digitally fills out a leave request template from the company’s cloud drive.
- Staff member digitally signs and submits the form, which automatically gets sent to their manager.
- Manager digitally signs the form. It automatically gets sent to the HR manager.
- HR manager adds their signature, completing the process, and the form is automatically saved in the cloud. The staff member is notified.
Automating the approval process makes things easier and faster for everybody. The time saved can then go toward other, more productive tasks.
The right workflow automation software lets you visualize your workflow easily. Visualizing your workflow processes lets you know where you are in the pipeline and what you need to complete next.
monday.com allows you to see who is waiting on your part of the process, and monitor the status of any work you’re waiting for.
And — if we’re honest — the colors look great too:
With the right workflow automation platform, team members can also use filters to view only their own tasks and deadlines.
A faster and more efficient work process leads to increased productivity for you and your team. Workflow automation reduces the number of steps you need to take to complete your goals.
But even better, a number of workflow automation platforms — like monday.com — come paired with mobile apps that let you work on the go.
7. Ease of onboarding
Losing a key member of your team can leave a hole in your workflow. Your team may not always have access to the departing member’s internal notes, tasks, and work assets.
Workflow automation platforms provide a central store of knowledge and shared documents that everyone has access to.
This makes transitions much easier should someone leave or join the team.
Can workflow automation work for remote teams?
Workflow automation can be a huge asset for teams working remotely.
In the past year, you are no doubt aware that remote working has experienced a surge across the globe. Up to 60% of companies went partially or fully remote in 2020.
Naturally, this new way of working brings its own set of challenges. Without the proximity of your colleagues from whom to seek answers, it can be frustrating to hunt for the right documents, track important events, and update tasks on time.
If you’re a manager, you also know what it feels like to spend more time managing workflows than on actual work. On top of that, you still need to make sure everyone on your team is updated on critical tasks.
People will be automatically notified when it’s their turn to take over a task. When they’re done, it’ll automatically move on to the next person.
There’s no need to wonder who you’re supposed to send something to or what you should be working on next. Plus, templates, documents, notes, and status updates can all be centralized so that everyone is always on the same page.
Getting started with workflow automation
With a better understanding of workflow automation and its benefits, you might be wondering how to apply this knowledge to your own situation.
In this section, we will walk you through 6 steps that will help you get started with workflow automation.
1. Find the right workflow automation platform
A workflow automation platform helps you manage your existing workflow from a single place — and almost everyone can benefit from using one.
Here’s a snapshot from monday.com:
The right workflow automation software is the oil that lubricates your business. With the right platform in your hands, you can simplify your work, streamline your productivity, and boost your team’s output.
The planning and collaboration tools you use should do more than just notify you. They should help you reach your goals in one shared space.
We can’t help but mention here that monday.com offers industry-leading workflow automation — though you may have gathered that already…
2. Identify processes with the potential for improvement
Once you’ve found the right workflow automation platform, the next step is to identify current processes you can improve.
These would typically be any slow, manual processes that have been delaying progress for you and your team.
3. Map out current processes
After identifying the processes you want to improve, the next step is to map them out to identify which ones to automate. This can include processes like data entry or invoice tracking, both of which have discrete steps.
As we mentioned in our article on workflow management tips, it helps to ask the following questions:
- What needs to be done?
- Who needs to do it?
- When does it need to be done?
- How should you do it?
When you can answer these 4 questions in detail, you’re off to a good start.
You’ll also want to consider the difficulty of the processes you want to automate.
Some processes — like an employee onboarding flow — may be a bit more complex than others (like data entry or invoice submissions).
If you’re automating your workflow for the first time, try starting with less complicated processes and scaling up over time.
For instance, use our team task management template to assign one or more team members to each task so that everyone knows who’s responsible for what.
4. Figure out your goals for each process
For each process you’ve identified, the next step is to define the goal you want to reach by automating it.
Would you like to complete it faster (speed), with fewer mistakes (accuracy), or with less effort (efficiency)?
Once you’ve decided your goals for each process, set solid KPIs by which to measure the results.
Take advantage of resources like our intuitive work plan template to outline your team’s tasks and KPIs:
5. Analyze the gaps
Gap analysis simply means studying how your selected process currently works, how you’d like it to work going forward, and how you can close that gap.
This process helps you pinpoint opportunities for improvement, such as the customer service team being too slow with customer requests or your sales team missing their targets.
It also helps to approach gap analysis from different angles.
Try analyzing gaps in your team’s overall performance, your profit margins, or the current market to figure out where you can make meaningful improvements.
6. Implement, evaluate, and adjust
Now that you’ve selected the right workflow automation platform, identified the gaps in your processes, and figured out how you’d like to improve them, it’s time to implement your new automated workflow.
Keep in mind that workflows can exist in different formats, like:
- Kanban boards
- Gantt charts
- And more
The best workflow software empowers you to visualize processes in whatever format suits you.
For instance, monday.com offers a multitude of options to view your work:
You may need to train your team as you build out new processes and assign tasks, permissions, and rules.
This ensures that everyone knows what they need to do and allows them to get clarification along the way.
It’s also crucial at this stage to ask for feedback on which aspects of the new workflow may need amendments. Communication is key.
To minimize disruption during implementation, consider testing out the newly automated workflow in phases to iron out any kinks and evaluate its progress.
Picking the right workflow automation tool can be challenging, so let’s look at a few things to consider first.
8 reasons monday.com is the ideal workflow automation platform
There are a few key features that your workflow automation platform should have to help you and your team work better.
While many solutions on the market offer just a few of these key features, it’s rare to find one platform — like monday.com — that has them all.
So, in no particular order, here are 8 important monday.com features that will help you achieve great results through workflow automation.
If a product is going to make your workflow easier, the platform itself needs to be easy to use. It helps to do some research on the learning curve of each tool you’re considering.
monday.com offers live and on-demand webinars to help you get up to speed quickly. Plus, you can learn how to use the platform in 5 different languages — English, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese — making it accessible to just about everyone.
Here’s what one of our webinars looks like (in Spanish):
The right workflow automation platform should offer different ways of communicating, both within a team and with a client. It should also provide the ability to share files, store data, leave comments, and more.
monday.com lets you and your team collaborate across different documents, no matter where you are.
Finished that big presentation for Friday’s meeting? Share it with your colleagues in just a few clicks — and collect feedback instantly.
monday.com works hard to help you polish your projects and finish them on time.
3. Mobile application
Work happens on the go, so your workflow automation platform needs to be accessible from anywhere, on any device.
With monday.com, your files are accessible from your computer as easily as from your phone. We have apps for both iOS and Android devices.
Work on that upcoming deadline at the office — then seamlessly switch to your phone at the coffee shop. Our platform makes working on the go easier.
Here’s what our mobile app looks like:
Your business likely uses several other software tools to get work done.
That means your workflow automation platform should integrate with these tools to let you do stuff like accessing files from an online drive (just like you can do through monday.com).
With over 40 integrations and more on the way, our platform lets you access files from any platform, at any time.
Your business has a unique set of processes. It only follows that your workflow automation platform should allow you to customize each task’s form, format, and view.
monday.com lets you view your data as lists, timelines, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and more.
Check out our handy guide on making better to-do lists to achieve your goals on time.
6. Analytics and reporting
You can’t improve what you don’t track, so your workflow automation platform should report on different aspects of your workflow to help you make improvements where necessary.
And you guessed it — monday.com does that too. With our platform, you can gather and compile data at the click of a button, in real time.
Here’s what that looks like on the dashboard:
7. Flexible pricing
Your workflow automation platform should scale in price as your team grows or downsizes. To this end, seat-based pricing makes the most sense for both startups and large enterprises.
monday.com scales with you as you grow, offering tons of features to cater for your needs. Check out our flexible pricing plans and pick a plan that works for your team.
8. Live support
You’ve got unique business needs, and you need a platform that is aligned to your success and ready to help you solve your problems at any time.
monday.com delivers beautifully in that regard. Our team offers personalized support within the hour, every day of the week. That’s right — we’re available 24/7.
That’s our commitment to your business.
monday.com gives you the tools to get started quickly — whether working solo or in a team. Try it out today and take your productivity to the next level.
Workflow automation has many benefits for your business.
These include faster, better, and more collaborative work processes. It’s important to find the right platform that unlocks these benefits.
monday.com is a complete Work OS that allows you to manage all your work in one place.
With monday.com’s unified platform, you can easily create workflows, forms, notification flows, and see where your project stands in real-time. Say goodbye to emails, attachments, or back-and-forth calls with teammates.
To see how monday.com can propel your business forward, start your free 14-day trial today.
The post How to get started with workflow automation: a step-by-step guide appeared first on monday.com Blog.