What is Workflow Automation? Definition and Examples

Explore real-life examples and learn how workflow automation can streamline both simple and complex processes for maximum efficiency.
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Workflow automation is using technology and software to streamline and automate tasks within an organization. It involves using predefined business rules and logic to trigger, execute and manage tasks and the reuse of connections and repetitive subprocess. This reduces the need for manual intervention and as a result, reduces manual errors. 

The automation of processes can take many forms, but relies on a process orchestration technology that provides the components to include business rules, connections to external systems and the reuse of repetitive subprocesses. The more manual tasks can be automated, the more streamlined processes can be and the stronger the metrics around efficiency can be captured.

Where is workflow automation used?

Workflow automation can be applied to all types of business operations. Here are some examples of how it is often implemented in different industries.

Human Resources

There are many processes that benefit from workflow automation in Human Resources. Two common ones are outlined below. 

Employee onboarding

The requirements around onboarding new employees involves some of the following:

  • Issuing equipment
  • Granting access to company systems
  • Providing username and passwords to these systems
  • Training plans

An orchestration process can be created that will allow the new employee to fill out the required forms and provide the expected information to expedite the onboarding process. Automation can be applied to the creation of user accounts in company systems with connectors and specialized forms can be used to interact with individuals throughout the process. This approach simplifies the onboarding process and provides tracking information for status updates on the progress of the new employee.

Employee separation

When an individual leaves the company, there is significant processing that takes place that includes: 

  • Human Resources
  • Department Managers 
  • The Employee
  • Payroll Systems access
  • Benefits and more

This process is an excellent candidate for orchestration. Coordinating exit interviews, notification for benefit continuations, final paychecks, access to tax forms, etc. It is important that all information is properly disseminated for the separation process. With a well automated process, there is tracking and information available to assure that all required tasks are completed successfully.

Finance, Banking and Accounting

Many financial institutions have already automated various processes within their organization; however, the two processes noted below often provide substantial benefits.

Invoice processing

Accounts payable and accounts receivable are perfect candidates for orchestration. Invoices must be matched to checks and accounting systems updated with payments made by customers or vendors. Having a well orchestrated process with connectors to various systems minimizes human error and streamlines this process.

New account opening/customer onboarding

Almost every organization has a process around customer onboarding or new account opening. This might be a new credit card, new checking or savings account, a new trade account, a new vendor account or something similar. These processes often require accessing systems external to the organization to check credit scores to validate an applicant before moving forward with the application. There might be additional internal checks that are done and then the notification and items that must be delivered—often electronically—to the applicant when the application is accepted. 

Automating processes as well as maintaining a history of which version of a process is running over a specific time period helps to minimize risks and address regulatory requirements. Automation can also be used to address possible fraud. 

Customer Relationship Management

Most processes in Customer Relationship Management involve many human touch points, but processes around keeping customers engaged and nurtured can often be automated.

Customer engagement and retention

Keeping a customer is often more important than obtaining one and that means that you must keep them nurtured and engaged. This can be achieved with workflow automation by sending follow-up emails, webinar events, newsletters, education opportunities and more. 

Supply Chain Management

Understanding your supply and demand is key to supply chain management and with workflow automation, organizations can gain insight into their operations to properly prepare for orders with inventory management and order processing.

Order processing

Order processing provides an excellent opportunity for workflow automation. Orders can often be placed without human intervention through websites or intelligent forms. These workflows can check for in-stock inventory and automatically determine if something is on backorder so the customer can be alerted. Understanding the orders and items on the orders along with the season, company and other data is key to better understanding how to prepare for future orders.

Inventory management

As mentioned, insight into future orders, current orders and trends in the past helps organizations prepare their inventory so they will not be overstocked or understocked. With workflow automation and analytics, companies can review this data to help determine what and when items should be stocked. In addition, pulling inventory for existing orders needs to be properly updated in the inventory management system. This can also be managed with the proper workflow automation tools and implementation.

Insurance

Workflow automation in insurance is a staple of the insurance business and almost required now to stay competitive in the market.

Claims processing

The insurance claim process is often very complex and requires integration with a variety of other systems. Claims processing does require human interaction, but simple claims handling can be accomplished through automation—especially those with automated adjudication. For more complex claims, process orchestration may be required.

Application processing/underwriting

Much like customer onboarding in financial services, new applications for insurance require gathering information from the client, their previous insurance policies, and more. Applications can be verified and information can be pulled from other systems with workflow automation to minimize human error and improve overall efficiency.

IT Operations

Even IT departments can benefit from workflow automation, especially around incident reporting and system monitoring. 

Incident reporting

When there is an issue with a specific system within IT, incidents are raised. These are usually given a priority based on the severity of the issue and then routed appropriately. This routing can be automated as well as the “system check” or other interaction with the system depending on the type of incident being noted. 

System monitoring

Similar to incidents, if a system goes down or has an issue, the proper alerts can be sent gathering information about occurrence so that the automation can fix the incident—possibly with a restart of the system—and a status can be obtained to show that the system is up and working properly again.

Other candidates for workflow automation

There are many more examples of where workflow automation can play an important role in your digital transformation journey. Many companies have individual solutions for some of these processes, but these solutions do not often allow for the exchange of data with other systems and the orchestration of end-to-end processes. Platforms like Camunda allow you to automate individual processes as well as orchestrate the interaction between systems effectively.

The value of workflow automation

There are a wide range of benefits to organizations after implementing workflow automation. Some of those are summarized below:

  • Consistency
    Enabling workflow automation within your organization confirms that tasks are performed within a set of predefined rules and standards ensuring consistency across the company.
  • Increased/Improved compliance
    With workflow automation, organizations can enforce compliance with regulatory requirements and internal policies.
  • Increased efficiency
    Manual tasks can not only increase human errors, but can extend processing times. With workflow automation, manual tasks are minimized and as a result, human error is also reduced and processing is faster with lower operational costs.
  • Customer/Employee satisfaction
    With streamlined processes, things get done more quickly and more efficiently. This allows employees to focus on more value-added tasks instead of repetitive and routine work. Customers are happy with streamlined operations provided by workflow automation.
  • Scalability
    Workflow automation provides a framework that is flexible and can adapt to change quickly. The right solution provides enterprise scalability as well.
  • Enhanced visibility
    Automation provides insight into processing with reporting and analytics capabilities. Organizations can now gain insight into their processes and identify areas for improvement.

Camunda provides enterprise-class orchestration that coordinates all the various moving parts of a business process and often ties multiple processes together. With orchestration with Camunda, organizations can automate processes tying together different business processes including both the automated and ones that are more manual to give you end-to-end process flow.

Workflow automation for your organization

Take a look at your own organization and find a procedure that lends itself to workflow automation. Broken or highly visible processes are great candidates—ones that can improve business operations and help you stay competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Camunda is uniquely designed to help organizations orchestrate, automate and transform your business operations. You can start your workflow automation journey with a pilot program and expand that to more projects over time. Camunda is built to scale to the enterprise, providing a centralized automation platform for your entire organization. 

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