Workflow Automation Only Works If It's Useful: Roadblocks to Avoid & Key Updates to Make

Workflow Automation Only Works if It's Useful

“There is something unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing—absolutely nothing—except switch itself off.”

We couldn’t agree more with the prominent sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke’s thoughts on what have come to be called “useless machines.

Sparking a trend in the 50s, the eventual AI pioneer Marvin Minsky created a machine that did nothing more than automatically turn itself off each time it was manually turned on.

Animation of person pressing switch on box, and hand on box flipping switch back to original position

Today these useless automations can do as much (or as little?) as rip pieces of paper in half, unplug themselves, wiggle jello, and other tasks so unnecessary they actually do feel a little sinister.

Minsky-inspired useless automations could represent anything from existential reflections on the meaning of life to, you know, fun projects for kids.

However, useless automations are much less entertaining in fast-paced businesses where useful workflows can single-handedly save a bottom line.

That’s why our mission at HelloSign is to develop products that make workflow automation more useful for a variety of organizations and industries.

These are major roadblocks to steer clear of and key updates to make in your automated processes—or features to look for if you haven’t quite implemented workflow automation—to create business workflows that are useful in moving the needle.

Roadblocks Making Your Workflow Automation Efforts Useless

Workflow automation is often misunderstood as a unicorn tool that IT departments simply need to “switch on” for companies to start automagically making tons of money.

Of course, it’s never that simple.

The line between useful, money-saving tactic and useless, time-sucking nightmare is thin when it comes to workflow automation.

Avoid these common mistakes and make your workflow automation efforts more useful for you, your colleagues and employees, and of course your bottom line.

Replicating Manual Processes

If “that’s just the way we do it” is an answer to any question during the process of automating your workflows—stop.

Workflow automation is a digital process that reduces or removes the need for manual intervention during redundant tasks by using technology to learn and streamline processes.

What it isn’t is simply digitizing the manual workflows you’ve always used.

At this point, you’ve already committed to some degree of digital transformation. While you’re at it, why not look for opportunities technology has created to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your workflows?

Take for example the folder of paperwork an HR professional might need to help a new hire complete to enroll them in a healthcare program. You could eliminate literally hundreds of repetitive fields—and, over time, hundreds of hours—by using workflow automation to instantly fill in any and all duplicate information.

There are many instances just like this where technology has improved upon traditional, manual processes. All you have to do is look.

Building in Bottlenecks

There can be such a thing as too much technology in a workflow.

Over-zealous workflow automation and careless planning can lock important players out of the process and keep administrators from intervening when necessary.

Remember, workflow automation isn’t replacing your workers—it’s making their routines more efficient so they can do the thoughtful, business-building work they’re best at.

Useless workflow automation actually reverses this efficiency. Without emergency hatches or transparency, important players get closed out of the pipeline and aren’t able to manually go in and override errors, delays, and other bottlenecks. This leads to more stress, convoluted workarounds, and higher remediation rates.

Complicating the Build Out

If you’re spending the longest amount of time on implementation, you might want to look into a different workflow automation platform.

The build out should actually take you the shortest amount of time when it comes to automating your workflows.

Any good digital effort is front-loaded with careful preparation that includes:

  • Defining its purpose and key performance indicators
  • Solidifying the transformation team and each person’s responsibilities
  • Proactively considering all the requirements ahead of time

Option to read more with illustration of a horse driving a car on right side of image

Setting It and Forgetting It

Digital transformation brings fast-paced change to every element of business. The capabilities of technology are changing every day. With it, so too are department needs and perhaps even entire business models.

If you plan to set and forget your workflow automation, it’s going to become useless sooner rather than later.

Old-School Silo Thinking

Is the IT department at your organization still managing a never-ending queue of one-off software updates and printer fixes?

It’s time that kind of silo mentality goes the way of typewriters and smoking in the office.

Useful workflow automation takes into account all the teams that will be involved in and affected by its implementation and upkeep. While IT and other technical departments should chime in on technology and best practices; those in business, HR, marketing, and other departments should be consulted on feasibility and features that will make workflow automation useful for them.

Key Updates to Make Your Workflow Automation More Useful

Now that you’re good and scared of all the ways workflow automation can go wrong, let’s look at key updates to make it usable and useful for you, your customers, and your team.

If you don’t already have workflow automation taking care of routine tasks at your workplace, consider this your shopping list.

Focus on User-Friendly Design

If you think design is all about nitpicking font size and agonizing over which shade of orange to make a button, you’d only be half right.

...just kidding.

People today may interact more with your business digitally than they will physically. It’s important their experience is as friendly as you can make it.

User-friendly design makes workflows functional and easy to use. It’s predictive and intuitive. By making smart suggestions, automatically filling in repetitive fields, and catching mistakes in real time; HelloWorks is a great example of user-friendly workflow automation that removes the burden and responsibility from the end user.

If you have an especially long, repetitive, or complex process that’s vital to your business—make sure you’re taking advantage of user-friendly workflow automation to boost completion rates and accuracy.

Keep Mobile-First in Mind

Over half of all Google searches around the globe are done from a mobile device. In the US, that number may be closer to 60 percent. The sale of mobile devices has been outpacing that of personal computers for years.  

Many factors indicate that our society is adopting smaller, portable tools that allow us to do even the most complex and business-critical computing on the go. Why shouldn’t that adaptation apply to work and all the ways you, your employees, and your customers interact with your organization?

Graph showing percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones from 2009 to 2018

Mobile-first workflow automation makes it faster and easier to fill out onboarding forms, manage inventory, track deliveries, enter overtime, and whatever else it is your employees and customers need to do remotely. No need to pinch, scroll, and eye roll their way through minuscule PDFs or repetitive forms that never seem to work on mobile devices.

On the flip side, you will no longer have to import or re-enter any data. Your modern workflow automatically channels it into the software and databases you already use.  

Sounds pretty useful, huh?

Mobile phone showing HelloWorks workflow on left side of image with HelloWorks product offerings on right side of image

Play Well with Others

Workflow automation that performs in every single scenario in which you embed it will prove to be endlessly useful.

Digital transformation will change your business, your processes, and perhaps your entire industry in the coming years. You need something that can change with you.

Make sure your current workflow automation implementation is ready to embed, or better yet upgrade to one that was made to be embedded, into all your business-enabling apps and websites to ensure a useful experience.

In addition, API integrations make workflow automation way more useful by pulling in functions and information people would typically need to leave the process to go track down.

Take for example HelloSign, where you can integrate eSignatures into your favorite Google Apps, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Slack, HubSpot, and pretty much any other tools your business relies on.

Screenshot of Gmail email with option to sign HelloSign document using integration

Practice Safe Security

Maybe you haven’t committed to workflow automation not because you doubt its usefulness but because you’re concerned about its security.

We definitely get it.

Today’s digital climate still feels a bit like the Wild West. Your payment information can get stolen at Target and your identity exposed by the very people we all trusted to be discreet.

Why would you go putting all your customers’ sensitive data and your own business-enabling workflows out there? Well, mostly because you’re going to have to if you want to make it in an increasingly digital landscape.

We can’t speak for every workflow automation provider, but what we can promise you is that all of HelloSign’s tools are built with audit trails and bank-level security.

Our non-editable audit trails make it easy to track when certain actions were completed and approved—and by whom. Compliance and transparency are built right in for businesses in strict industries or that need to keep up with government regulations and audits.

In addition, documents, forms, workflows, and any other information that you share with HelloSign’s suite of tools are very secure.

To keep your data secure, private, and useful; we use SSL encryption during file transit. For document storage, we utilize secure server infrastructure hosted at a state-of-the-art Tier III, SSAE-16 certified data center with ISO 27001 certification.

Benefit Your Business with Useful Workflow Automation

The benefits of useful workflow automation are many.

Getting routine tasks out of the way means your organization can be more productive and your human capital more effective.

Workflow automation scales without losing any of the fidelity, security, or speed that make it useful in the first place.

Plus, intelligent workflow automation eliminates human error so your data can get to work faster and your employees can get more revenue-producing work done.

We know you’ve got high-volume transactions and awesome, high-value employees. Both are business-critical, so why tether the two together in a vicious cycle that renders both useless?

Make outdated, inefficient, and time-consuming processes useful again with enterprise-ready intelligent workflow automation.

Want to Learn More About WCA? Download "Badass Workflows"

This eBook shows you exactly how to turn process into revenue generating workflows.

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