We are in the era of automation, and everything from simple requests to complex knowledge sharing is being automated. Why not add workflow automation to the mix?
In a post-Covid landscape, workflow automation software is gaining popularity because it takes the pressure off of overworked managers and employees. In fact, Gartner predicts that thanks to AI and automation software, 69% of routine work currently done by managers will be fully automated by 2024. Workflow automation can make complicated business practices simpler to manage, both for the IT service desk and other business units.
Here are a few basics to understand about workflow automation software:
What is Workflow Automation Software?
Workflow automation is called by many names. You might have heard it called automated execution, process mapping, process automation, or simply work processes. Put simply, workflow automation is the force that allows the dominos of any task to fall into place.
The term workflow applies to a variety of processes, including incidents, service requests, change requests, purchase requests, problems, and events. Workflow automation is the process of automating a sequence of events through “if, then” statements; examples include file routing, information sharing, and human tasks between systems or people. In layman’s terms, when an internal signal, form fill, or action is completed, it triggers the next step. This might mean that it triggers information to be moved to a specific person or system, giving a streamlined, hands-off approach to repetitive tasks or processes.
There are three main types of workflows:
Standard workflows:Triggered when the solution requires the intervention of different support persons.
Immediate solution workflows: Replaces standard workflows when a solution can be provided immediately.
Closing workflows: Initiated when a parent incident is closed. This automatically results in the closing of all dependent incidents.
Why to Use Workflow Automation Tools
In the words of Bill Gates: “Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency… Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Workflow automation software reduces the instances of human error, with fewer data entry points leading to fewer opportunities for broken data. Additionally, visualization of complete workflows can help ensure that important steps are not missed. Workflow automation also ensures that there is accountability in each step of each process.
When workflows (processes) are automated, it is far easier to be productive. On the technical end, increased automation can decrease the amount of time each agent spends resolving issues by automating the more time consuming, repetitive processes.
Workflow automation tools also make it easier to identify areas that are inefficient or broken with visual reporting. These reports and metrics can refine both the customer and employee experience by identifying specific teams who are missing steps of the workflows. It will also help identify areas of redundancy within the workflow which can help with resource allocation and process changes.
On average, companies can save as much as $4 million annually by using automation software according to a 2017 report in Forbes. Improved data, productivity, accuracy, and accountability all lead to better budget optimization.
How to Choose an Automation Workflow Software
Once you have decided that automating workflows is right for your team, whether on an enterprise level or only for your IT department, it all starts with selecting the right software and tools for your needs.
If cost is important to you, the total cost of ownership of any workflow automation software will not only include the upfront cost to license the product, but also the cost to manage it. You may also want to inquire with your current ITSM software provider to learn about any automation options you already have but may not be using, which can be a big cost saver.
If you’re considering a new tool solely for workflow automation, you should think about scalability. A solution that may work well for the time being should be able to grow, and if not the total cost to change or reimplement a new solution down the line should be taken into consideration.
Workflow automation capabilities should work hand-in-hand with your enterprise service management or ITSM solution. For example, AI and chatbots can work with automation software to identify the next actions by using sentiment analysis and APIs.
Security is also an important consideration when choosing a workflow automation software, as there may be sensitive data being entered or triggered. When choosing a platform, SaaS vendors should use stringent data storage rules and procedures.
Generally, choosing a workflow automation software should go hand-in-hand with other digital transformation initiatives.
How to Start Using Workflow Automation Software
Once you have chosen your workflow automation software, it is helpful to begin by reviewing and documenting your existing workflows – especially flows that are currently manual. This can be as simple as writing them out on a white board and should help you gain a complete understanding of all of the steps in the process before starting and building out the automation. Remember: automation applied to inefficiency will magnify it, so make sure that the processes are efficient during this step. If a process no longer serves a purpose, get rid of it.
During this step, you should also consider setting realistic goals to accomplish so that you have a benchmark as you move through your set-up process. You’ll also need to decide which actions will be triggered by chatbots, which will be moved to self-service, and which processes may need changes at an enterprise level. Once these general considerations have been made, you can begin to create or build out your automated workflow.
How to Create a Visual Automated Workflow
You shouldn’t need to be a coder to create a workflow with automation software. In many cases, you’ll be able to map out workflows visually using drag-and-drop features on a codeless platform. During this step, you’ll program the “if, then” statements or sequences that will create the steps of the workflow.
Workflows can also be created to trigger automatic actions through an API to interact with third-party solutions. For example, if the user must use software that integrates with Salesforce, a sequence can be created to trigger up to the point of entering Salesforce.
Automation is One Piece of the Digital Transformation Puzzle
Workflow automation software can boost your efficiency, but it isn’t going to be a one-and-done solution when it comes to modernizing your service desk or enterprise. Workflow automation is just one piece of the greater puzzle, which includes automated knowledge sharing, AITSM, and an agile mindset. Together, these elements combine to foster digital transformation and create sustainable results in a scalable way.
Nancy Louisnord is the Chief Marketing Officer of EasyVista, responsible for the company’s global and regional marketing programs and product marketing strategy. With more than 14 years of global leadership experience in the ITSM software industry, she is a sought-after presenter at conferences and contributor to several leading industry publications. She is recognized as an HDI TOP25 Thought Leader in Technical Support and Service Management and is an HDI featured contributor. Follow Nancy on Twitter @NancyVElsacker.