Automated Workflow Management: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Workflow automation is becoming essential for businesses looking to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and keep pace with digital transformation. But with 68% of business leaders admitting they lack understanding of digital transformation overall, many companies are unsure how to get started with automating processes.

This comprehensive guide aims to fill the knowledge gap and provide expert advice on workflow automation strategies for 2024. We‘ll cover:

  • Clarifying what workflow automation is
  • Types of workflow automation and key differences
  • How to select the right approach for your needs
  • In-depth look at workload automation, business process automation, and robotic process automation
  • Real-world examples and use cases for each type
  • Data-backed recommendations on driving adoption and results

Let‘s get started.

What Exactly is Workflow Automation and Why It Matters

Simply put, a workflow is a series of interconnected tasks or processes that move work from start to finish. Workflow automation uses software to eliminate or reduce manual steps in workflows.

The main benefits of workflow automation include:

  • Improved efficiency – Complete workflows up to 90% faster by reducing manual work and errors.
  • Cost reductions – Reduce labor costs 15-50% with less manual processing.
  • Increased throughput – Scale processes to handle 2X higher volumes of work.
  • Better data quality – Minimize human errors that introduce data inaccuracies by 30% or more.
  • Enhanced compliance – Standardize processes and add controls to support audits.
  • Greater agility – Quickly adapt workflows to changing business needs.

Research shows most companies are now prioritizing workflow automation:

  • 36% of firms currently use automation for workflows, processes, and tasks.
  • Another 26% plan to increase their use of automation over the next 3 years.

As companies embrace digital transformation, workflow automation is becoming mandatory. The ability to operate faster and smarter is required to stay competitive.

Types of Workflow Automation

There are three main types of workflow automation:

Workload Automation (WLA) focuses on scheduling and managing backend IT workloads and batch processes.

Business Process Automation (BPA) deals with automating business processes such as processing orders or onboarding customers.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses software bots to emulate human actions and automate repetitive digital tasks.

Here is an at-a-glance comparison of the key strengths of each approach:

Workload AutomationBusiness Process AutomationRobotic Process Automation
Best ForIT workloads & batch processesFlexible business processesRepetitive digital tasks
Key BenefitsHandles complex dependenciesAdaptable workflowsFast, scalable automation
Common Use CasesServer maintenance, database ETLOrder processing, customer onboardingData entry, invoice processing

Understanding these distinctions is crucial when deciding which approach(es) to use for workflow automation initiatives. Next let‘s dive deeper into how each works and aligns to specific use cases.

Workload Automation: Managing IT Processes

Workload automation (WLA) platforms allow IT teams to define, schedule, orchestrate and monitor IT workflows and batch processes from a central console. WLA tools offer benefits including:

  • Reduce manual work by automating IT workloads
  • Increase reliability by eliminating human error
  • Improve visibility into workflows across systems
  • Handle inter-dependencies and triggers between tasks
  • Integrate with tools like ETL, ESB, schedulers, and monitoring

For example, leading airline IT teams use workload automation to schedule pricing updates across reservation systems worldwide. This ensures all systems are in sync and ticket prices are consistent globally.

Real-World Examples of Workload Automation

Here are two examples of workload automation delivering value for IT teams:

1. Automated database ETL processes

A financial services firm used WLA to define and automate key ETL (extract, transform, load) processes that transferred data between operational and data warehouse databases. This eliminated the need for technicians to manually execute the scripts every day. The automated ETL workflows now run seamlessly each night, improving data freshness and availability.

2. Streamlined server updates

A software company leveraged their WLA platform to automate server patch installations, software deployments, and other repetitive update processes. This ensured their development and test environments stayed in sync and were promptly updated in line with production servers. Automating these workflows saved IT staff up to 3 hours per week previously spent on manual deployments.

Expert Recommendations for WLA Implementation

Follow these best practices when implementing workload automation:

  • Incrementally automate processes – Don‘t try to automate everything at once. Prioritize high-value workflows first.
  • Monitor and tune – Actively monitor automated workflows and continually tune them for optimal performance.
  • Standardize first, automate second – Standardize workflows before automating to avoid automating broken processes.
  • Integrate and consolidate – Use WLA to bring together workflows from disparate systems and replace manual scripting.
  • Leverage event triggers – Configure triggers to launch tasks based on events, alerts, files, schedules, etc.
  • Ensure visibility into performance and results, ideally from a central dashboard.

Business Process Automation: Streamlining Workflows

Business process automation (BPA) tools allow you to model, automate, and optimize business processes through drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built templates. Benefits include:

  • Improve efficiency by reducing manual processes by 45% or more
  • Accelerate processes by cutting cycle times 30-50%
  • Lower costs by automating repetitive tasks and reducing staff time spent per transaction
  • Enhance visibility into end-to-end processes
  • Adapt quickly to changing business needs

Leading companies use BPA to coordinate workflows across departments and systems. For example, order management workflows that involve sales departments, billing systems, warehouse staff, and delivery drivers.

BPA Use Cases: How Companies Automate Business Workflows

Here are two real-world examples of business process automation in action:

1. Streamlined order processing

A manufacturer used BPA to fully automate their order-to-cash process. This included automatically generating order status emails, payment reminders, invoices, credit actions, and cash application documents rather than preparing them manually. Cycle times improved from weeks to days while labor costs dropped by 27%.

2. Automated customer onboarding

A software company implemented a BPA solution to automate previously manual steps in their customer onboarding process. The automated workflow includes data validation, contract generation, account creation, and welcome emails. Onboarding cycle times decreased from 10 days to just 1 day on average.

BPA Best Practices

Apply these best practices when implementing business process automation:

  • Simplify first – Simplify overcomplicated processes before automation.
  • Map end-to-end – Fully diagram as-is workflows to identify constraints.
  • Prioritize high-impact processes – Automate workflows that will have the biggest business impact first.
  • Involve users – Collaborate with employees involved in the processes to drive adoption.
  • Continually improve – Use automation insights to monitor processes and implement further optimizations.
  • Ensure adequate controls – Account for compliance requirements in automated workflows.

Robotic Process Automation: Automating Digital Tasks

Robotic process automation uses software bots to automate repetitive, rules-based digital tasks normally done manually. Benefits include:

  • Reduce labor costs by up to 80% by eliminating staff time spent on repetitive tasks
  • Improve quality by removing human errors that commonly occur
  • Achieve 24/7 productivity with bots that work around the clock
  • Scale quickly and on demand by adding more bots
  • Free workers to focus on higher judgement tasks

Leading companies use RPA to eliminate tedious, repetitive work. For example, customer service teams use RPA bots to automatically retrieve customer data and history when an inbound call comes in.

RPA Use Cases: Backoffice and Front Office Examples

Here are just two of the hundreds of RPA application examples:

1. Automated invoice processing

Bots are programmed to receive invoices via email, extract details into accounting software, and file the invoices – cutting the invoice processing time per supplier from 15 minutes to under 60 seconds.

2. Updated sales orders

Bots are trained to pull completed sales orders from emails and automatically update the order status in the CRM system. This ensures the sales team always has real-time accurate order tracking.

RPA Implementation Tips

Apply these best practices when introducing RPA:

  • Find the right processes – Look for high-volume, repetitive digital tasks. Avoid automating complex workflows initially.
  • Start small – Run pilots on contained processes before enterprise-wide deployment.
  • Monitor and refine – Continuously improve automation rates through bot versioning.
  • Focus on change management – Get employee buy-in through training and communication.
  • Leverage low-code – Bot creators can record process steps rather than code everything.
  • Centralized control – Manage, schedule, and monitor bots from one RPA command center.

Key Recommendations for Automated Workflows

As companies strive for digital transformation, workflow automation continues to gain traction. To maximize impact:

  • Evaluate your needs – Assess which workflows are causing the most inefficiency and bottlenecks.
  • Determine the right approach – Consider workload automation, business process automation, and RPA individually or in combination.
  • Start with a pilot – Prove value with a contained pilot before broader initiatives.
  • Focus on change management – Get buy-in from staff through training on new automated workflows.
  • Measure results – Quantify improvements in cost, speed, quality, and scalability.
  • Continuously improve – Use automation insights to identify optimization opportunities.

This guide provided an in-depth look at how modern automation tools can streamline business workflows through real-world examples and proven recommendations. The key is approaching workflow automation strategically based on clear goals and targeted pain points.

To discuss how automated workflows can transform your operations, contact me anytime to continue the conversation: Connect Now

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