Ready to automate workflows? Here’s where to start.

Learn how to prioritize which business processes are the best candidates for automation.

Time to read: 7 minutes

Organizations are embracing automation. For many, it’s become a lifeline to alleviate employees’ escalating workloads and serve customers in the way they expect. It’s also become a competitive advantage, helping forward-thinking companies gain an edge in improving both customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.

The need is there. And now, so is the technology.

Workflow automation is no longer solely the realm of professional developers and IT. Low code is making it possible for more business users to automate repetitive, manual tasks so employees can spend more time on work that’s enjoyable and high-impact. Business teams are ready — four out of five employees who have used automation are now looking for new tasks to automate.

While business leaders are starting to take on a bigger role in automating workflows, it can be daunting to know where to start. How do you decide which workflows to automate? Here’s the thing: You don’t have to tackle everything right out of the gate or take on an entire end-to-end process all at once. You can automate a few manual steps that are causing the most headaches for your team. This article shows you how to get started in the right direction.

What every business leader needs to know to get started with workflow automation:

Establish project goals

When you’re deciding what process to automate, step one is to get clear on the goal, specifically: what you want automation to achieve and how that aligns to organizational priorities.

Is customer satisfaction (CSAT) a top priority? Improved employee retention? Growing a specific customer segment? Once you understand these big picture goals, they can guide your automation goals and help you stay focused on improvements that will have the greatest impact.

For example, if the company’s north star is increasing CSAT, consider where you can build automation to shorten time to case closure or reduce the number of handoffs needed to resolve an issue. If the focus is employee experience, look for areas where you can use automation to reduce time-consuming tasks like looking for information in another system.

Aligning your team’s success metrics with those of the business is the foundation of everything that follows. Down the road, you’ll be able to return to these metrics to measure the success of your effort.

Map the current business process

As a business leader, you bring a unique perspective. You know what your department needs and have a deep understanding of how customers and employees interact with different business processes. This puts you in the best position to determine which business processes — or steps within a process — are the best candidates for automation. Mapping the existing process will help you see all the critical connections between decision points, people, data, and systems in the workflow.

Follow the checklist below to document existing processes and analyze their performance.

"You really have to make sure you understand who does what and why. And what happens before, what happens next. I was able to ask these questions and that gave me a better understanding into what they [business partners] do and what the pain points are, not just at a technical level, but big picture."
Mihaela Muresan
Salesforce Technical Lead, EIGENSONNE

Diagram the workflow.

Start by diagramming the workflow — the path a process follows. Include all the decision points across people, departments, and systems. For example, a workflow for a customer service case related to a broken refrigerator may look like this:
Diagramming your workflow will help you (and your partners in IT) better understand the process. Knowing where to use automation to make improvements is the foundation for everything that follows.

Determine how long the process takes.

Once you’ve diagrammed the workflow, figure out how long it takes to complete the process from beginning to end. Then assess how much time each step of the process takes. This will help you identify if there are specific steps prone to errors, delays, or bottlenecks and help you focus your attention on the steps that take up the most time.

List everyone involved in the process.

Next, make a list of all the people who interact with the workflow from start to finish. This can include employees across multiple departments and may span the front, middle, and back office. For example, stakeholders from operations, legal, and finance may need to approve a discount for sales reps. Also, consider people who don’t necessarily need to take action but may want (or need) to be notified, such as sales managers who need to keep tabs on revenue forecasts.

Identify the systems and data requirements involved.

Once you know who is involved in the process, you can identify the systems and information these employees interact with to complete their role in the process. Identify what data is needed to start, orchestrate, and complete a workflow, and how various data sources drive the process from one step to the next. Remember to include any upstream and downstream workflows that may impact the process, such as order fulfillment, claims processing, and contracts review. This is a critical step, as information is often siloed within systems and departments.

Quantify inefficiencies.

The last step in mapping your process is to figure out how much your inefficient processes are costing you. Consider hard costs, like losing money on delayed product launches, expedited shipping, or spoiled inventory. But equally important, identify issues you may not be able to quantify but which are still damaging — like employees feeling burned out or customers getting shuffled between multiple agents and channels. Then, where you can, analyze how these issues are impacting your organizational goals, such as customer satisfaction, employee retention, customer lifetime value, or total contract value.

Pinpoint where to eliminate friction and redundancy.

At this stage you’ll have a clear understanding of your business process and be ready to identify what’s not working and where to make improvements using automation.

Ask yourself: Where are the performance issues? Where are people creating workarounds or gaming the system? Where is excessive manual effort required? This will help you determine exactly where in the process there is friction and redundancy — and likely, where your teams and/or customers are facing roadblocks.

Processes that frustrate your teams and customers are prime candidates for automation and a great place to start. This may include processes that:

  • Involve multiple teams and multiple steps
  • Are repeated often across the organization
  • Involve repetitive steps
  • Are prone to human error
  • Take up time with simple clicks

Remember: Don’t try to tackle everything all at once. Prioritize areas where automation can have the biggest impact on the employee experience and the customer experience — even if that’s a few steps within a bigger process. You can scale over time.

"We will never find a way to automate everything because there will always be more we can refine."
Patrick Stokes
EVP and GM, Platform, Salesforce

Choose the right automation tools.

Many organizations are looking for low-code automation tools that are easy for business users to work with and that reduce the demand on IT and DevOps. They also want automation that’s scalable and easy to integrate with existing legacy systems. Look at the workflow automation capabilities below to guide a seamless experience for your employees and customers across your business.
  • Low-code tools that let you automate and scale complex processes quickly without extensive or expensive IT resources
  • Decision assistance that gives people AI-powered insights, predictions, and recommendations at every step of the process
  • Integration that connects data from anywhere — across multiple, potentially siloed systems
  • Extensibility that lets you tailor automation to your specific business with prebuilt workflows, processes, bots, and components

of executives are using Low Code to streamline internal workflows.

Start automating your workflows.

Workflow automation sets everyone up for success — your employees, your customers, and the business. Set your goals, pick a few high-priority tasks to automate, and find the best low-code tools to help you succeed. Follow these steps and explore what’s possible.

Learn more about workflow automation.




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