Workflow automation: what it is, common examples, and the benefits it delivers

As your organization aims to retain top talent and high-value clients, you’ll need to continually provide both groups with world-class experiences. 

In the case of clients, it can be addressing their questions and concerns in real-time, and reaching them proactively with thoughtful, actionable insight; while for employees, it can be eliminating the manual tasks they perform day-to-day, as well as providing them the apps and equipment they need, quickly, and with little effort.

To deliver these experiences and to go beyond them, you can build workflow automations across your core customer and employee processes. 

What types of automations can you build? And how, exactly, can they benefit your employees and clients? We’ll tackle both questions, but let’s start by aligning on the definition of workflow automation.

What is workflow automation?

It’s a type of automation that streamlines a business process end-to-end. To implement it, you’ll need to use a trigger event that, once satisfied, leads to a particular set of actions across your apps, data, and teams.

Note: This differs from the previous definition, which defined workflow automation as a type of technology or software that can be used to streamline workflows. It also differs from workflow integration, which is the process of connecting applications in order to move data across them.

A workflow automation can be applied to all kinds of processes across functions:

  • Finance: Quote to cash, procure to pay, payroll, cash reconciliation
  • HR: Recruitment, onboarding, offboarding, day-to-day approvals
  • IT: Incident management, license management, help desk  
  • Sales: Lead routing, intelligent prospecting, quote approvals

To give you a better idea of how workflow automations can look in practice, we’ll walk you through a few use cases next.

Examples of workflow automation

Here are 3 popular automations for HR, IT, and customer success teams, respectively.

1. Streamline the employee onboarding workflow 

Once a candidate signs their offer letter, your team should move as quickly as possible in setting up their profile across your most critical apps and in sending a welcome email that they’d receive on their first day. 

Here’s an onboarding workflow automation that lets you do just: 

1. Once a candidate is marked as hired in your recruiting app, the workflow gets triggered.

2. The new hire’s profile gets created in your HRIS and in a platform like Okta

3. A customizable welcome email gets delivered.

4. A ticket gets created in an ITSM platform that tracks all of the onboarding tasks for the new hire. 

Once you’ve put this into place, you’ve set the groundwork for helping the new hire feel welcomed as well as empowered to hit the ground running. 

2. Automate your service desk

Whether an employee is new to their role or they’ve been in their position for several years, they can find themselves searching for answers to various questions.

You can help them search for and uncover the answer to any question by implementing the following workflow automation for your service desk:

1. Using a chatbot in a business communications platform (e.g. Slack), an employee types in specific keywords related to their issue and the category of the issue (the categories are extracted from your ITSM platform).

2. Once an employee hits “Apply Filters”, the chatbot makes an API call into the ITSM platform, and it identifies the specific support articles that best address the employee’s request.

3. The chatbot responds to the employee in the business communications platform by presenting the links to the articles it found.

Note: Steps 2 and 3 happen in real time.

From there, the employee can comb through the articles, and find the answer they’re looking for in minutes.

Related: 3 examples of application integration

3. Fast-track the process of identifying customers who are at risk of churning

Your customer success managers (CSMs) may have a hard time pinpointing clients who aren’t using your product to its fullest potential—especially when they’re managing several accounts. 

To help them uncover which of their clients need the most support at any point in time, you can set up a workflow automation that monitors clients’ product usage data. Once the usage drops below a certain threshold for a given client, a chatbot notifies the appropriate CSM (via your business communications platform).

Here’s a more concrete example:

A workflow that helps customer success managers identify clients who are at risk of churning

1. Once a client’s level of product usage falls below a predetermined level—as measured in a platform like Snowflake—the workflow gets triggered.

2. An enterprise chatbot combs through the client’s information in existing systems (like your CRM and marketing automation platform) and retrieves any relevant information it can find.

3. Using all of the information it uncovers, the chatbot creates a report on the client in a document. It then shares this report with the appropriate customer success manager via your business communications platform.

Note: All of this is done in real time.

You can learn more about this example by watching our on-demand webinar, “Drive Growth and Retention with Product Usage Insights.”

Though it isn’t a silver bullet, this can go a long way in helping your CSMs be responsive and thoughtful with clients. Over time, this hopefully translates to happier customers and higher customer retention. 

Benefits of workflow automation

The examples already give you a sense of the specific benefits that workflow automation provides. But at a broader level, they can deliver value to your employees and to your customers in the following ways.

Employees can have a greater impact on your organization 

By allowing your employees to avoid many routine, manual tasks, they can dedicate more of their time and energy on strategic, critical work. 

This not only benefits your colleagues, as they get to perform more intellectually stimulating work, but it also helps your organization, as higher engaged employees are more valuable to your organization. According to Gallup, employees in the top quartile of employee engagement significantly outperform those in the bottom as measured by absenteeism, turnover, productivity, company profitability, among other important metrics.

Related: How an integration platform as a service can benefit your business

Costly errors can be avoided

Employees don’t just dislike manual tasks—they may also make errors while performing them. 

In the context of important business processes, the consequences can be drastic:

  • New hires may not receive provisions to the right set of apps
  • Employees may keep their access to your organization’s devices and apps once they leave
  • Inbound leads can be assigned to the wrong sales rep, preventing the lead from receiving a timely response
  • Incidents that negatively impact the customer or employee may fall through the cracks

Workflow automations can ensure that these issues don’t take place. This should give your team peace of mind, as well as significantly improve your organization’s security and performance over the long run.

It can be implemented with ease

The process of setting up a workflow automation can be done on a single platform, and it doesn’t require writing a single line of code. This offers a couple of key benefits:

Non-technical employees can implement workflow automations themselves 

This saves your organization from dealing with integration and automation backlogs that allow inefficient processes to persist. Also, since non-technical employees are closer to their processes and better understand how they work, they’ll be able to build the workflow automations in ways that better suit their needs.

You can save a significant amount of money

You no longer need to invest in a platform that can integrate your apps and in another that can automate the workflows between them. This, coupled with the fact that you don’t have to hire or train employees with a technical background to manage each tool, allows your organization to save big.

Related: The top benefits offered by cloud integration

Build transformative workflow automations with Workato 

Workato offers a low-code/no-code platform that allows anyone on your team to integrate their apps and automate their workflows end-to-end. All the while, Workato offers a comprehensive, centralized governance model and enterprise-grade runtime—which work to ensure that your integrations and automations are kept secure and run smoothly as your organization scales. 

You can learn more about how Workato, the leader in integration-led automation, can help your organization by scheduling a demo with one of our automation advisors!