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What process should I automate?

Best processes for automation and real world examples

With a no-code tool, building an automated workflow is the easy part. Sometimes, the challenge comes in actually deciding, “What process should I automate first?”

Modern automation platforms are great for a variety of workflows that impact customers, employees, and suppliers. You can build workflows where no process existed previously. Or you can build workflows to augment existing systems or to “fill in the gaps” between them. 

While no-code workflow automation platforms can allow you to build almost anything, here are some good criteria and ideas that will inspire your shortlist and help you select your first process to automate.

What makes something worth automating?

While automation can be a massive time-saver, not everything is automatable. At the very least, a process needs to be repetitive and recurring with a degree of predictability to apply automation. 

Things good for automation are usually:

  • Repetitive
  • Recurring
  • Manual
  • Multiple hand-offs and approvals
  • Data-heavy
  • Involve deliverables

A process with some or all of these criteria can be good contestants. These patterns often indicate the right amount of frequency and complexity for no-code workflow automation.

But just because something can be automated doesn’t always mean it’s worth the effort to do so. A no-code tool can significantly speed up the process of building, but the time an automated workflow can save you still needs to be worth the time and effort it takes to create.

"A no-code tool can significantly speed up the process of building, but the time an automated workflow can save you still needs to be worth the time and effort it takes to create."

For example, you would want to weigh the time cost vs. savings of automating a process that happens annually vs. one that happens daily or every week. You would also want to weigh the complexity of workflows to determine which would be easiest and quickest to build.

Sometimes simpler can be better for your first use case. Even small uses of automation can add up to big efficiencies.

Top departments using automation

Workflow automation can be effective in almost any role or department of any industry. That’s because every department and function has its own operations. The way the team operates across people, systems and data is what workflow automation is all about. 

With that said, there are some departments that are most common starting points regardless of industry:

 

In healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, insurance, staffing alike, these roles typically involve many processes with patterns that can benefit the most from automation.

Common process patterns for automation

There are a few common patterns across business processes that meet these criteria and make great starting points:

Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures are perfect for workflow automation since they are frequently recurring repeatable processes with multiple steps—and important to get right, every time. Think processes like onboarding where you have to do things like:

  • Collect data and engage people
  • Create contracts and other documents 
  • Assign resources and tasks
  • Provision and update systems 

Employee onboarding might be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s certainly not the only case with this pattern. Workflows that onboard customers or vendors are common too. Offboarding process can be just as important.

Beyond onboarding, processes like order fulfillment, audits, closing procedures and business continuity plans are great examples of common standard operating procedures that can use some help from workflow automation.

Creating reports and deliverables

Often, disconnected data and software sprawl make creating consolidated reports a challenge. Similarly, many common deliverables like quotes, contracts, and presentations can take too much time to prepare over and over. Creating reports and deliverables like these are also prime targets for an automated workflow. 

It can:

  • Gather data from multiple sources
  • Clean, transform, and pivot data
  • Review for issues and insights 
  • Input data into spreadsheets, documents, and presentation templates

Imagine automatically generated customer deliverables such as personalized reports and presentations for sales and customer success teams.

Finance and accounting departments can set up automated and consolidated financial statements, KPI reports and dashboards.

HR could take advantage of automatic offer letters, contracts, headcount reports, forecasts, and diversity reporting.

Procurement and supply chain teams can have automated supplier performance scorecards and compliance reports.

Processing forms and requests

Today, it’s easy to set up an electronic form or survey with a variety of tools. But just like their paper predecessors, completed web forms tend to pile up too. Automated workflows are perfect for processing anything that comes after someone hits the “submit” button. 

It can:

  • Review and route
  • Scan information and extract pertinent data 
  • Cross reference and update systems
  • Update all parties

 

Using an automated workflow to complete next steps could help sales and customer service process RFPs or any other request faster for a better experience.

Finance teams could take care of pre-processing approvals, post-processing payment data, remittance, denials, and other account updates.

HR can automate processing employee services such as leave requests and performance reviews, plus automatically aggregate and route employee survey feedback.

Procurement and supply chain operations teams can process supplier updates, certifications and documentation, KYC, then updating master data.

Picked your process? Time to implement

Although workflow automation can be used for almost any process across the entire company, we often start with these four departments leveraging one of the three patterns above.

Then, following a proven framework for implementation, employees in these roles can use no-code workflow automation to start automating these processes for themselves.

An easy-to-use tool like this saves time for IT while giving the business a quick solution that is guaranteed to meet requirements, since they know the ins-and-outs of their own processes best.

YOUR NEXT READ: 

NO-CODE IMPLEMENTATION PLAYBOOK

Now that you have a better idea of what you should automate, read about the "how." Take a look at the journey, best practices, tips, and checklist items to expect when building your plan of attack.

Read the guide

 
Written by Catalytic