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6 Trends Shaping Workflow Automation

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Savvy business owners know that nothing ever stays stagnant. Customer needs change, the technological landscape changes, regulation and security requirements update, and your organization has ever-evolving needs. It’s crucial for businesses to stay on top of these changes and invest in technology that allows them to be flexible and efficient.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of available technologies can be overwhelming to business owners who don’t know what exactly they need and where to begin. Rather than being inundated with information, getting frustrated with the implementation process, and going into analysis paralysis, many organizational leaders choose to keep things status quo. To best make a decision to automate, it’s important for businesses to understand exactly what their current shortcomings are and how each piece of the automation puzzle can be transformative for their current processes.

What is "Workflow Automation"?

By definition, Workflow Automation is the process of using rule-based logic to launch a series of tasks that run on their own without any human intervention. What does that mean? Basically, any process that your organization completes manually can be replaced by a fully digital process.

For PiF, our most common example of this is within Accounts Payable. Most businesses currently rely on a printed or emailed invoice with data that manually needs to be entered into their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software), then someone needs to pass the invoice from department to department for approvals and to get the payment processed, once it’s processed the invoice gets put away in a filing cabinet. With automation, an invoice is received and data is automatically entered into the ERP, those who need to approve it are immediately notified and can digitally sign off, and once the invoice is paid it gets securely stored in a digital system. A process that typically would take weeks to complete can get done in just days. 

Workflow Automation doesn’t just have to happen within accounting, essentially any manual process can be transformed with the power of automation.

What are some inflection points that drive businesses to invest in automation?

Flexibility
Business Process Overhaul
Connectivity with Other Systems
Collaboration
Cost
Security

Flexibility

In the not-so-distant past, many businesses just needed a desktop and a phone to complete their work. In the age of connectivity, with employees working hybrid, remote, and across different offices, the need to be flexible is more important now than ever. An interconnected office requires technological systems that can handle employees in different locations. 

The ever-changing needs of clients and customers also can be a catalyst for change. To best fit the needs and wants of their customer base, organizations need to adjust their processes to create a better customer experience. 

Flexible businesses are often successful businesses, the ability to pivot and embrace change allows them to grow in an evolving business environment.

By investing in automation, organizations can be flexible and meet the needs of their customers without completely reinventing their processes. Automation also allows businesses to free up their employees who would typically be bogged down with manual tasks, meaning they can focus on high-value tasks that can promote long-term business success.

Business Process Overhaul

Understanding how your business completes processes can help you understand where your gaps are. Organizations rarely work in simple linear step-by-step processes, and developing an understanding of how work gets done can help you complete your work better.  

There are always exceptions, and often when these come up in “real-time” for organizations (for example when performing three way matching on invoices and data is incorrect), the employee has to halt their work entirely and find a solution.

If you’re aware of gaps, that becomes an opportunity to reevaluate your current processes. Part of automation is reviewing your current state, identifying potential variables, and creating a cohesive workflow. Technology is just one piece of that!

Connectivity with Other Systems

If an automation solution doesn’t work with your existing ERP, HRIS, or other line of business process, then it won’t work with your organization. Often organizations become enamored with the glossy interface and features of a new software but don’t consider how it will work within their office. 

When organizations invest in solutions but can’t implement them successfully due to system incompatibility, they’re set back even further than they were when they started.

The benefit of PiF Technologies is that we employ a universal methodology for bi-directional integration. What does that mean? We utilize one of four different methods to ensure that your data is seamlessly pushed and pulled in between systems. These can include Robotic Process Automation, a flat file export (through an XML or CSV document), an Application Programming Interface, or directly with systems that are ODBC compliant. 

Whatever current system you’re currently using, we can easily integrate with it.

Collaboration

Offices need to be connected. Whether employees are working across different parts of the building or different parts of the world, the ability to collaborate in real-time is necessary for a productive and successful office. Beyond just in-office collaboration, organizations need to keep stakeholders, vendors, and clients informed with accurate, up-to-date information.

Paper rarely works for collaborative projects, and more often than not leads to inaccurate information being shared. 

With a smart Workflow Automation solution, you can easily share information across multiple departments and easily retrieve approvals, notes, and signatures. With enhanced security features you can also ensure that the right people are seeing the right documents at the right time. A digital system is far more productive than paper, and can help your entire organization be more collaborative across varying projects and departments.

Cost

How much does it cost to complete common processes in your organization? For example, processing an invoice can cost an organization up to $35. If you’re processing hundreds or thousands of invoices monthly, that quickly adds up. Similar processes also can incur costs that your organization may not even consider. 

Automation has a high return on investment and can enable you to replace or reallocate employees completing manual, menial work. 

Our customers typically see a tangible return on their investment quickly. PiF customer and beverage distributor Pine State Trading’s Chief Financial Officer Gary Grunewald states, “previously, we had four employees devoted to AP processing, and today that headcount has been cut in half, down to 2. Additionally, the PiF solutions allowed us to change our month-end closing process, and have contributed to us closing our month in 2 days, which used to be a 10+ day process. Using these factors as the basis of our return-on-investment assessment, the payback on our AP automation initiative was 18 months, tops. We experienced a very fast payback.”

Security

Did you know that employees are often cited as the primary cause of data breaches? While file sharing technologies like Google Drive and Dropbox are making it easier to share content, they also lead to gaps in security. Paper documents and physical filing systems can also be a security risk for your organization, and if sensitive data is stored in physical documents your entire organization could be affected by documents going missing or getting damaged. 

Investing in a security-centered solution can reduce your risk of compromising important documents and data. Seek out a solution that allows for group, document, and user based access rights, redactions, and other features designed to protect your data.

Better yet, invest in a Cloud-hosted solution that can protect your data from ransomware and hacks. A Document Management and Automation solution hosted in the Cloud with role-based permissions

Finding an Automation solution that works for you.

For organizations who see the value of automation but have no idea where to start, the process can be daunting. Fortunately, throughout our 25 years of experience we’ve worked with customers at all levels of knowledge and needs regarding automation. We pride ourselves on creating complete systems that directly transform organizations, rather than the “set it and forget it” mentality that many software providers have. 

We’d love to have a discussion with you on the value of automation and to better understand your unique needs. Complete our brief contact form and we’ll reach out!

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