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What is Workflow Automation Software?

Everything seems to move faster in today’s increasingly digital hyper-connected economy.

That’s especially true of mission-critical information.  Now more than ever, organizations of all sizes must embrace digital transformation and drive superior organizational performance.

But office workers spend most of their time manually searching for files, according to a 2024 study by Quixy.  What’s more, 97 percent of corporate executives believe a lack of alignment between different parts of the organization can result in inefficiencies and delays in workflows.

That’s why more organizations are deploying workflow automation solutions – technology that digitizes and accelerates the processing of documents and data based on pre-set business rules.

Workflow automation solutions are mature and have the potential to make work better.

This article takes a deep dive into workflow automation software and the benefits it provides.

Why is workflow automation important?

Organizations sit on a mountain of information.

Inefficiencies in how that information is managed can create big issues for any organization.

  • Delays.  Conventional workflow processes bog staff down with manual paper-based tasks and back-and-forth emails and phones chasing down information and resolving issues.  All this friction can lead to unnecessary delays, information gaps and customer frustration.  Slow workflows also make it hard to respond to changing market conditions or customer requests.
  • Opportunities.  Conventional workflow processes can make decision-makers feel like they are flying blind.  Key information is not captured.  Captured data is inaccurate, Information is poorly organized.  And systems are fragmented.  Without the variables they need, decision-makers might miss out on opportunities or, worse, might make an ill-informed decision.
  • Errors.  Mistakes are inevitable whenever human intervention is involved.  A single typo or transposed number can result in downstream issues and wasted staff time on rework.  Left unchecked, errors can result in financial losses, compliance issues, and customer complaints.
  • Costs.  Labor is a major contributor to an organization’s back-office costs.  All the time that staff spend keying data, shuffling paper, chasing down information, fixing errors, and responding to inquiries about the status of things can drive up labor costs and make it more difficult for an organization to scale its operations without having to hire additional staff.
  • Penalties.  There are hundreds of regulations, laws, auditor guidelines and industry standards for how organizations should manage mission-critical information.  Organization can face significant fines and penalties for failing to comply.  But conventional approaches to managing information make it hard to control, monitor, and track processes.
  • Scalability.  Every organization wants to grow.  But paper-based workflows make it hard to exchange data with geographically dispersed sites or to scale to meet increased demand.

It’s for these reasons that more organizations are automating their workflows.

The global workflow management software market is expected to reach $18.31 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13.2 percent, according to Grand View Research.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation digitizes and accelerates the routing of documents and data.

Workflow automation typically involves the following steps:

  1. Analyze existing workflows to identify the tasks and processes that can be automated.
  2. Define the sequence of tasks, rules, and conditions that govern the workflow.
  3. Integrate the workflow system with your organization’s existing software systems and applications to allow for seamless data transfer and communication between systems.
  4. Configure the software tools, establish user permissions, and test the automated workflows.
  5. Monitor the performance of the automated workflow solution and adjust, as needed.  Track metrics such as cycle times, error rates, and responsiveness to customer inquiries.
  6. Identify new tasks to automate and refine existing workflows.

Workflow automation is a game-changer for organizations bogged down by inefficient processes.

Workflow automation use cases

From sales and human resources to finance and customer support, nearly every function with repetitive tasks or processes that follow a predictable pattern can benefit from workflow automation.

Here are some common use cases for workflow automation.

  • Sales.  Workflow automation is ideal for lead management, email follow-up, and other sales processes.  For instance, email sequences can be triggered based on a prospect’s actions. Reducing customer friction in the sales cycle can not only improve the experience that your organization delivers but also help increase sales and build brand loyalty over time.
  • Marketing.  Workflow automation can be used for email marketing, social media posting, and lead nurturing.  The technology can trigger actions based on a prospect’s behavior, such as automatically sending targeted emails to individuals who have visited a specific webpage.
  • Support.  Workflow automation can streamline the routing of support tickets, generate responses to customer issues, and respond to some issues without human operator intervention.  Chatbots can handle routine customer inquiries and provide support 24/7.
  • Human resources.  Employee onboarding, performance reviews, and time-off requests are some of the human resources (HR) tasks that can be streamlined with workflow automation software.  The technology can systematically route documents for approvals, send reminders to employees to complete onboarding tasks, and automatically update employee records.
  • Finance.  Imagine if processing invoices and reconciling bank statements didn’t involve lots of back-and-forth emails and phone calls.  Workflow automation makes that vision a reality.  Automated workflows can route supplier invoices for approval, match invoices with purchase orders (POs) and proof-of-delivery receipts, and automatically generate financial reports.
  • Shipping.  Time-consuming tasks such as inventory management, order processing, and shipment tracking can be automated with workflow automation software.  The technology can notify stakeholders when inventory levels are low or when shipments are delayed.
  • Software development.  Workflow automation can improve IT operations by automating tasks such as software deployment, server provisioning, and incident management.

These are just a few examples of workflow automation use cases.

Key benefits of workflow automation software

Organizations have a lot to gain by automating their workflows.

  • Increased efficiency through the elimination of time-consuming manual tasks.
  • Better accuracy from standardized processes and less manual data entry.
  • Reduced costs from less human intervention, fewer repetitive tasks, and greater scalability.
  • Improved compliance through standardized processes and the tracking of all activities.
  • Complete transparency with real-time visibility into the status of workflows.
  • Scalability from adaptable workflows that can easily accommodate increased demand.
  • Greater agility through streamlined processes and with fewer bottlenecks.
  • Empowered employees by automating repetitive and mundane tasks.
  • Improved decision-making with analytics for identifying trends and spotting opportunities.
  • Competitive advantage by operating more efficiently and effectively.

Organizations of any size can achieve the benefits of workflow automation.

How to use workflow automation

Ready to get started using workflow automation?  Here are several to consider:

  • Determine the processes to automate.  Prime candidates for workflow automation software are repetitive, rules-based tasks such as routing account applications for approval.  Look for tasks that involve multiple steps, require manual data entry, involve approvals from geographically dispersed staff, and trigger events based on certain conditions.
  • Document your workflows.  After you’ve determined the processes to automate, map the current workflows to understand how they work and how they can be optimized through automation.  Capture the decision points, branching logic, and dependencies between tasks.
  • Evaluate prospective automation providers.  Once you have a clear understanding of your goals and your current workflows, you are ready to consider potential partners.  Workflow automation solutions range from systems designed to automate a single task to sophisticated business process management (BPM) suites.  Consider factors such as feature/functionality fit, ease of use, compatibility with existing systems, total cost of ownership, and scalability.
  • Configure your workflows.  With your automated solution in hand, it’s time to create your digital workflows.  Determine the triggers that initiate each workflow, such as a forms submission.  Define the actions that should be performed at each workflow step, including notifications, alerts of impending deadlines, updates to records, and escalation procedures.  Document the workflows so there’s no question about the triggers, logic, and rules involved.  This document will serve as a reference of users, administrators, and stakeholders.
  • Connect the workflow automation platform to your legacy systems.  To ensure optimal communications and the seamless exchange of data, be sure to connect the workflow solution with your organization’s legacy systems, databases, and email servers.  Some technology providers use software bots to connect systems without the need for computer programming.
  • Test and adjust.  Never deploy automated workflows without thoroughly testing them to ensure that they work as you expected.  Test various scenarios to uncover any issues or bugs.  And adjust and refine the workflows, as needed, based on the results of your testing.
  • Deploy.  Once your workflows have been tested, they can be deployed into production.  Monitor the performance of the workflows closely, tracking key metrics such as cycle times and errors, and many any necessary adjustments to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Train users.  Develop a comprehensive plan for training and supporting any staff who will interact with the automated workflows.  Be sure that they understand how the workflows work, their role within the processes, and how to use the automation tool effectively.  Encourage feedback from users to identify opportunities for further improvement.
  • Measure.  Continuously monitor and evaluate the performance of your workflows and adjust processes to drive continuous improvement and adapt to changing business needs.

These steps will help your organization get the most from workflow automation.


Conventional approaches to managing documents cost too much, take too long, create too many errors, provide inadequate visibility, and negatively impact the customer experience an organization delivers.  By digitizing and accelerating document management with workflow automation solutions, organizations can transform their back-office processes and drive enterprise digital transformation.

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