7 Clever Ways to Leverage Workflow Automation

Workflow Automation

From the lesson learned in manufacturing during the introduction of the conveyor belt, workflow automation has emerged as the top way to help businesses of various types become more successful in their overall output. Workflow automation, or the automation of microprocesses that support and maintain an overall business process, is achieved by ensuring that the right requirements and the right approach are handled with specific rulesets predefined by the automator. By setting these rules to fit your business’s needs and the needs of your company’s workflow, here are seven ways to leverage the automation to your benefit!

1. Identifying Slack

In any business process transitioning to automation, there’s bound to be a bit of slack, or the space wherein certain microservices or departments sit inactive while awaiting a specific task or requirement. Due to the way processes are mapped automatically within a workflow automation tool, it becomes increasingly easier to spot and identify this slack, and to identify a task or tasks that can be placed there to optimize workflow. With unused resources or departments comes the unnecessary interruptions of a stop-start-stop rhythm. However, by utilizing and filling slack time with crucial tasks that benefit the workflow, this type of interruption and downtime can be reduced, or avoided altogether, making it easier to optimize the work output of each department.

2. Microservice Optimizations

While some microprocesses exist within one platform or one identifiable workflow, this is generally not the case. The introduction of microservices within a business workflow has created, at times, the need for various tool sets that are disparate from department to department. This can mean that certain outputs, such as a service, a file, or a simple command, require translation when moving along the workflow. However, with microservices automation in place, these transitions can be made smoother and more intuitive, with the automation detecting, transforming, and transferring end-to-end processes in a way that reduces wait time and creates an even, steady workflow between said departments or microservices.

3. Catching Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks, or the places where a process slows unexpectedly or undesirably, are the bane of a good workflow. With activity becoming choked in a specific area of the business process, delays are caused and mistakes are often made — resulting in lower quality outputs. A seasoned business process manager is able to spot bottlenecks in a workflow from a mile away. However, within modern workflows, the interaction of various (and sometimes countless) microservices means that not every bottleneck is visible without a little help. That’s where workflow automation services can come in, not only mapping out the processes in place, but also identifying the real-time issues within it. Bottleneck types and effects are more easily diagnosed when it’s clear what outputs are being held up, what activities are happening in that area of the process, and what steps are affected as an end result of this troubled transaction.

4. Task Completion and Assignment

In the same vein of finding and filling slack time, there’s another powerful feature of workflow automation: automated completion and assignment of tasks. As an automated process, your workflow will consist of tasks that can be identified and tagged with specific rule sets. That means that when a task is identified as “complete”, it can be automatically transferred to the next step in the process. In the same way, as a new department or microservice becomes available for more tasks, automatic task assignment can make this other end of the transition seamless. Even identifying certain traits of a task can help a workflow determine whether the task is “complete”, if such automation is necessary to keep departments productive in all nodes of the process in question. Needless to say, task determination is such a crucial part of what makes workflow automation an intelligent step forward in numerous businesses and workflows.

5. Measuring Workflow Improvements

Any true workflow is always changing, despite the principles that aid in developing, structuring, and mapping out processes in every facet of life. Because it’s always changing, and because real-life processes (and workflows) possess an element of chaos in their inputs, outputs, and the interactions in between, it’s an actual science to measure a workflow’s performance. With an automated workflow, though, much of this performance can be tracked much more easily, and the overall baselines of a process can be established so that a process manager can start to measure improvements — or identify any places in the process with a need for improvement. 

6. Removing Repetition

In a workflow that’s defined by numerous microservices, there’s no guarantee that certain tasks go unrepeated. While some repetitions, like quality assurance checks, are appropriate in a workflow setting, others are not and can be considered a waste of time. In the process of tracking and identifying (even verifying) the completion of tasks, a well-automated workflow is capable of preventing such repetition of tasks, either by communicating the completion of said tasks down the line, or by providing each new microservice with a set of prescribed action items.

7. Data Management

The integration of any data input with the rest of a workflow where necessary can be a true boon to the output of a service or product. With more efficient and responsible management of data from clients, interdependent microservices, or even from on high in the corporate setting, automated workflows create a setting of trust in the information that’s been provided, and a sense of understanding no matter where in the process someone is executing their tasks.

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