At Ayehu, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking and writing about workflows. It occurred to us, however, that for some, the concept of a workflow may not be such a huge part of their day to day lives. In fact, many are new to workflows or have only recently begun encountering them. To make things a little bit easier, we thought we’d take a few moments to break down precisely what a workflow is, as well as when and how workflow automation is used to get those who are unfamiliar up to speed.
To start, let’s take a look at the components that must be present in order for an activity to be considered a workflow.
- It must include a series of predictable steps
- It must be repetitive
- Done manually, it must involve 2 or more people
If any of these three things are not present, the activity isn’t a workflow. This makes sense if you think of how workflow automation works by taking a repetitive task and automating its predictable steps so they no longer have to be done manually. The steps of a workflow may be either concurrent or sequential, in which each one depends on the previous.
Now that you know the definition of a workflow, let’s delve into how to actually map one out. Chances are you’re encountering workflows every day, without even realizing it. For instance, if you’ve ever found that you couldn’t complete a particular task because you were waiting for someone else to complete his or her piece of the process, you’re probably taking part in a workflow. To draw one of these out, grab a pen and paper and do the following.
- Verify that the three elements listed above are present (to determine whether it is, indeed a workflow)
- Determine the purpose of the workflow (i.e. is it meant to increase productivity, speed up a particular process, etc.?)
- List out the steps, one by one, from start to completion
- Assign a role to each step (who is responsible for ensuring that each component gets completed)
- Account for deviations (what happens if one or more steps aren’t completed, or some other scenario arises?)
Once you’ve mapped out the details of a particular workflow, the next step is determining whether that process could be automated. With workflow automation, you can achieve a number of significant benefits right from the start, such as:
- Maximize efficiency and productivity levels
- Eliminate mistakes and redundancies
- Increase speed of processing, which can boost service levels
- Enhance visibility of progress and establish greater accountability
Of course, the best way to see how beneficial workflow automation can be is to experience it for yourself.