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What’s workflow automation

Whether you work in human resources, finance, operations or sales, workflow automation is about streamlining and automating business processes (i.e. leave requests, supplier orders and expense claims, for example). Anyone and everyone should be able to create a workflow, regardless of the task at hand or the individual’s technical ability. Workflows should improve processes, integrate content and empower employees to become more productive, whether they are in the office, working from home, or another location. In essence, workflow automation should enable employees to spend more time thinking about value-added tasks instead of mundane distractions.

Steve Jobs once said: “Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features.” In the case of workflow automation, those ‘crucial features’ are the everyday business processes that can be delivered quickly. Workflow automation is not a new concept, but some businesses are yet to appreciate the ROI they are missing out on as they continue to rely on manual legacy systems, paper-based forms and excel spreadsheets. As a result, they lose out on vast operational and productivity benefits as they focus on bigger picture tasks – such as design, branding and so on – rather than automating those ‘mundane’ tasks that underpin the smooth running of a business.

The importance of ROI

Key drivers for businesses looking to introduce workflow automation are improvements in productivity and business efficiency and implementing workflow solutions to deliver this will essentially overhaul core processes. Many IT or C-Level decision makers are reluctant to take the leap and overhaul current processes and supporting systems if the benefits such an overhaul can bring are not clear. Understanding the return on investment (ROI) is important if the solution is to demonstrate real value to business leaders before they will commit to moving forward.
In October 2014, bluesource partner Nintex worked with research house Forrester to calculate the Total Economic Impact of Workflow Platforms. The study, which incorporated multiple experiences of using Nintex Workflow and Nintex Forms, provides a framework to evaluate the potential financial impact of a workflow automation solution within an organisations that covers three core components and shows it’s not just about cost savings; there are other rewards to be reaped:

  • Hard ROI – i.e. cost or time savings – is the easiest return on investment to calculate, and usually the measure businesses look for in the first instance to prove value or performance. Other examples of hard ROI include reduced shipping costs, reduced overall costs to IT, improved market share through increased competitiveness, or simply reduced calls to help desks.
  • Soft ROI – i.e. efficiency gains or employee / customer satisfaction – can be more difficult to quantify. But take examples such as facilitation of home / remote working, decreased response times to operational processes (an expense claim approved in a day), reacting to new business requests for IT applications in weeks not months, or improved collaboration amongst teams. Organisations with high staff retention shouldn’t be surprised to hear comments such as ‘I love working here as I can get things done’ echoing around their corridors. It’s common knowledge that it costs less to keep an employee or customer than to find a new one.
  • ​A third type of ROI – compliance and risk mitigation – is extremely beneficial to businesses. Improved resiliency and disaster recovery through more automated processes is an example, as is compliance with ever-changing regulations and reducing post-audit remediation.

The best vision is insight

​As American businessman Malcolm S. Forbes once said, ‘the best vision is insight.’ Workflow automation can power a business and drive success. It can save time, cut costs, ensure compliance, increase accuracy and avoid headaches. And the proof is in the pudding – many of our customers globally have provided testimonials speaking to the benefits they have experienced from delivering solutions using Nintex. Businesses need to learn to work smarter, not harder. And the insight these customers are sharing points to one conclusion – making changes to your business now can ensure success in the future, and impressive ROI along the way.

Thinking about how workflow automation could deliver results for your business? Let’s talk about it – Contact us at