What is Workflow and Business Process Automation ? Explained in plain English

Posted on Posted in Automation, Big Enterprises, Small and Medium Enterprises

Workflow and Business Process Automation are trending topics when talking about competitiveness and efficiency. According to Wikipedia’s definition: Business Process Automation is the technology-enabled automation of business processes. They are key assets to achieve digital transformation. Indeed, they are useful to increase service quality, improve service delivery and reduce costs.

Example: a manual sales process would be receiving leads and registering them in an Excel spreadsheet. Salesperson sends the quotation over email, and the next version, and the final version. And if you are lucky, he does a follow up or two. You don’t know how many quotations are in the street, neither which is the “final final version”. You don’t have Key Performance Indicators to measure sales team performance. 

On the other hand, Business Process Automation implies graphically modeling it (using standard notation BPMN) and implementing it in a software. The graphic model helps you understand, discuss and improve the process. Let’s see the sales example:


Workflow and Business Process Automation - Sales process example.

Sales team now have every lead in a unique place. Quotation’ versions are there too. And KPI are automatically generated to measure sales team performance. All these tasks are part of the Business Process Management discipline, or simply BPM.

Integration is another key element when talking about Workflow and Business Process Automation. You can integrate your existing systems, using a Web Services standard. For example, to display the list of your customers in the workflow (see Populate combo box from Web Service ). But you also may want to send data to your systems. For example when closing the sale, you can send the data for invoicing. This is another Web Service.

Another useful integration is with your other favorite web apps. In this case, you may use a “conector”, named Zapier. It allows to connect your workflows with Zapier, and from Zapier with hundredths web applications (example: SalesForce).


Difficulties of Workflow and Business Process Automation in large enterprises

The benefits of Business Process Automation are obvious and many… but what about the difficulties in achieving them? In large companies, the main difficulties in automating a process are:

  1. Slow decision making, requiring the involvement of different departments (IT, Finance, etc.).
  2. Difficulty to obtain a budget if it wasn’t previously approved.
  3. Refusal to incorporate more technological assets and their subsequent management.

Naturally, there are many more elements that can make it difficult to automate a process. These three problems are the most common. The good news is that all 3 can be mitigated, or completely eliminated by using cloud technology. A cloud-based BPM Suite like Flokzu, with a reduced monthly cost and no initial investment to purchase software licenses, allows a faster decision. IT approval should not be too complex either, as no software will be installed in the organization and state-of-the-art technology will be used.


Difficulties of Workflow and Business Process Automation in small and medium businesses (SMB’s & SME’s)

We believe that in order for any company to grow, it must improve its processes. That is why we believe that the principles of Business Process Automation play a fundamental role in SMEs.  They need to compete, better serve their customers and ensure their future survival. The main difficulties in Business Process Automation in small and medium enterprises are:

  1. Cost of software licenses. Money is always scarce in a SMB.
  2. Cost of consulting services, many times higher than licenses, and extended over time.
  3. Lack of manager’s time to define and work on the implementation of the new software.

The first two reasons are quite obvious and common among these types of companies. Leasing licences at a reduced price solves the first problem. A cloud-based BPM Suite like Flokzu offers an affordable price because it has thousands of subscribers.

The second is solved with a tool that is sufficiently agile and simple to not require consultancy. In the same way, not requiring software development is a fundamental aspect to reduce the time and associated costs.

The third point is often overlooked, although it is as important than the others (or more). Managers often have little time. They do not have 10 hours per week for 3 months to identify, model, automate, implement, re-design and develop each new process. Using a standard notation to model as BPMNs that they understand immediately is key. So is the ability to “push a button” and have the process ready for use, testing and adjustment.


In short…

Workflow and Business Process Automation are key in any organization to make it more efficient, compete better and grow. Benefits are countless (see Productivity through Workflow Automation. 8 concrete Tips.). However, there are big challenges too.

Cloud BPM allows you to automate your workflows and business processes in an agile and inexpensive way. Automating a process can only takes hours, both in large companies and SMEs. You can achieve and show results with a very low investment of time and money.


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