Workflow automation can be an intriguing yet daunting task. Where do you begin? What tools do you use? How do you automate your workflows?
Many small and mid-sized business owners want to get started with automating workflows to:
- Save time.
- Improve the quality of data.
- Reduce low-value administrative tasks.
In this article, you’ll learn how to automate your workflows with the top 3 best practices for growing businesses.
The benefits of workflow automation
The first step to improving your workflows through automation is understanding the most time-consuming, manual, and repetitive tasks in your workday. These will usually include:
- Customer onboarding.
- Email communication.
- Instruction-based processes like product set-up.
By automating your manual tasks, you will be able to get time back into your workday. Time you can use to work on high-value tasks that fuel your business growth.
Beyond this, using automation and workflow best practices decreases the chances of data inaccuracy.
This is beneficial as working with information that’s up to date makes it easier to take actions that strategically move your business forward.
Getting started: How to automate your workflows
For any growing company, automation becomes crucial as the manual business processes of yesterday don’t get the job of today done efficiently.
An ongoing part of your business process, automation and workflow best practices are central to growing your business.
And while the value of workflow automation often goes unquestioned, many struggle with the thought of getting started.
Keep reading for three easy ways to kickstart your automation and workflow journey.
Analyze your existing processes and look for repetitive tasks
With the possibilities for automation endless, it’s hard to know where and when to dive in.
Especially when workflow automation can range from simple communication tasks to internal activities like assigning employee work or reporting.
Workflow automation is widespread and valuable as research shows that on average, 20% of a CEO’s daily activities can be automated.
The lesson here is that regardless of your role at a business, there are elements of your job that can and should be automated.
Doing so allows you to focus on work that produces results and frees you from the tasks you must do for operational reasons.
When it comes to choosing where to start with automation and workflow best practices, administrative tasks need to be your first area of focus.
To begin, think about the elements of your work that are redundant and repetitive, as this opens the door for simple automation that makes a quick impact.
Map out the challenges you want to solve and the workflows you want to automate
Within your business, there are a series of tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming. Over time, this work becomes a pain for you and your team to deal with.
As a result, your business needs to identify and build a list of your routine tasks.
An automation and workflow best practice is to think about what business challenges you want to solve with automation and keep this at the forefront of your work.
Once established, you can see where within your business processes to automate.
You may be surprised by the number of manual tasks that automation can replace. With everything running in the background, you can be sure that your customers get a consistent quality of service — an outcome that will save you countless hours each workday.
Use no-code tools and integrations for your automation and workflow needs
Automation is what empowers small businesses to compete with corporate giants. What’s more, is that no-code tools and software integrations offer accessible ways to automate your workflows.
To get everyone up to speed, here’s a quick overview of the terms no-code and software integration.
No-code: A software platform that empowers you to build your own apps and workflows without any coding knowledge.
Here are some of the top no-code tools for those looking to automate workflows with ease:
- Method: The #1 CRM for QuickBook users! You can start your free trial here.
- If This Then That: A great tool for beginners to play around with.
- Notion: Useful for everything from taking notes to blogging.
- Descript: A lifesaver when it comes to podcast editing.
- Scribe: A game-changer for how you share and document processes.
Software integration: A connection between programs that pushes, pulls and updates your data across tools.
Software integrations help minimize double data entry and make sure your information is always accurate. It’s best to integrate your favorite, every day tools so that you’re never working with data that’s out of date.
If there aren’t native software integrations between the programs you use, fear not, as Zapier is an integration engine that’s perfect for seamlessly connecting your tools.
3 automation and workflow tips that fuel your growth
1. Create a test environment for your automation and workflow adventures
When it comes to workflow automation, make sure that you have a testing environment.
A test environment frees you to experiment with automation and workflow best practices without involving your customer or user base as test subjects. With one, you make room for trial and error — and even better, innovation!
When creating test environments, setting up test accounts is a great starting point. This way, you can play around with things without any real-world consequences.
Regardless of the workflows you build, ensure that your automated process gives you the end result that you want before making it a permanent part of your business.
2. Remove bottlenecks with streamlined approval processes
Task automation can make a difference when it comes to increasing productivity.
Especially when you consider the endless hours spent on manual work every week. This is precious time that could go to strategic planning and growth.
One process area that bogs teams down is approval processes. Often a manual process, someone forgetting to formally ask for approval or communicate their response to said request can put things to a halt.
Automation is valuable here as it ensures that work is instantly sent for approval once completed. With this automation and workflow best practice, projects keep moving, and your team stays efficient.
3. Improve your communication with automation
A great place to apply automation is your onboarding and instructional emails. Here’s why.
You want the communication between you and your customers to be seamless yet personal. However, manually reaching out to every contact database is time-consuming.
The best way to do this is instead through automated emails. When you find yourself copying and pasting text from old emails into new emails, it’s time to automate the task!
Once you’ve automated your emails, create a personal touch related to your business and its values.
Pro-tip: Adding an FAQ link to your email templates is a great way to instantly provide them with the support they need. Not to mention that it results in better service for your customers!
Recap: The top 3 automation and workflow best practices for your business
The ways in which you can automate your business are infinite. When starting this process, it’s important to:
1. Single out the areas where automation can bring value.
2. Identify the challenges you want to overcome with automation and build workflows that support this with no-code tools, software integrations, and test environments.
3. Apply these automations to areas where bottlenecks occur to better serve your customers and keep your team happy.
The whole point of automating your workflow is to focus on furthering your business and reaching your company’s highest potential.
To learn more about automation and workflow best practices, check out this webinar!
Image credit: rh2010 via AdobeStock