It’s no secret, we are big fans of automation. We love finding processes of all kinds that can be automated with thoughtfully developed software. It’s very satisfying to work with a client and find those processes that be redesigned to save time and valuable resources. The ROI of this type of software development makes workflow automation a no-brainer. In case you’re still on the fence about your organization’s need for workflow automation, we thought we should share some of the more impactful benefits of workflow automation.
It’s the simplest way to reduce errors -reduce the number of decisions a person has to make in a given process. At its core, workflow automation is an interactive checklist wherein the completion of one action, triggers the start of the next action. Everything happens in a predetermined order, making errors a thing of the past. The right software will notify relevant members of the team of late work, missing approvals and overlooked tasks.
Manual notification of completed tasks is no longer needed. The moving of responsibility to push an action forward is no longer up to teammates. Instead, automated notifications keep every project moving forward. Communication isn’t eliminated, it is fostered. With automated workflow software, notifications and project status updates are designed to keep all members of the team communicating about and working toward the same goals in a central hub.
Foster Employee Success
Workflow automation drastically reduces human error and lag times inherent in unguided processes. Employees are given the tools, information and accountability they need to be successful in their given role.
Reduce Costs and Save Resources
The element of human error in manual processes can have a domino effect and become quite costly. Additionally, the lag time in manual processes can be crippling. When a process is automated, it is optimized and streamlined, saving time and resources.
When the day-to-day tasks that burden your workforce can be automated, organizational resources are opened up for other, more dynamic work to be done. These vital resources are now available to drive the success of the organization, rather than continue to slow employees down with mundane, mindless tasks.
Chats, email and the human memory will only get your organization so far. Organization is essential to growth and success, no matter what data or information we’re talking about. Information needs to be searchable and accessible and automatically presented to employees to move progress forward as quickly as possible.
Paper-based processes can be painfully slow and inaccurate. With automated processes, information is documented and shared in real time. This makes reports immediately actionable, rather than suffering intrinsic lag times that often make information irrelevant by the time it is acted upon.
There are a lot of components that define the success of a project. Most would use budget and timeline to define the success or failure of a project. However, if the project is completed on time and under budget, but the product of the project isn’t optimal, that can hardly be called a success. So, we think it’s important for our clients and prospective clients to understand how we define a successful project.
Complete or Complete Success?
Everyone defines a successful project differently. Beyond that, successful project management doesn’t always necessarily mean project success. An author at the International Project Leadership Academy classified common definitions into five tiers:
Communication is Key
It’s a lot right? Because there are so many different definitions of success, it’s important to have an open dialogue with clients about what the success of every project looks like. When you’re on the same page from start to finish, expectations can be communicated and met at every step. I know what you’re thinking, Shouldn’t this all be mapped out in the initial contract or scope of work? Well yes, but there aren’t too many projects that go exactly to plan and sometimes that’s for the best. And since we know to expect it, we can communicate it.
Our Client Relationships Are Never Complete
Not only are there many different definitions of success, there are different perspectives. A project can be deemed a complete success, but then a few months down the road things start to look quite different. Let’s assume we’re talking about custom software to fix a pain point. The software development project might stay on budget, get done ahead of the deadline and do exactly what it was designed to do. However, after some time, it becomes apparent that no one is using the software, they don’t know how, they don’t have the time to learn the new process and keep up with business, etc.. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, that’s not a successful project.
All of this is to say, we actually don’t define what a successful project looks like. Instead, we work with clients to flesh out what their definition of a given project is. After all, it’s theirs -their software, their investment, their solution. Let’s talk about what this all means to you and your organization.
Our whole schtick is, “We make work flow”. So, it wouldn’t go over too well if our process wasn’t optimized for a smooth client experience. Can you imagine having the people promising to make your life easier guiding you through a total mess of a process? Yeah, that can’t happen.
Every custom software development project is different, because every organization is different. However, we’ve been in this business long enough to identify the common roadblocks in the custom software development process. If you’re thinking about investing in custom software, this is a quick and easy read to help you prepare for success.
Disconnect Between the Decision Makers and the People Actually Using the Software
The decision makers for investments like this are usually not the people who will actually be using the software. That means they are also not the same people facing the everyday pain points that lead to the decision to invest in custom software. Naturally, there is almost always a disconnect here.
Be sure to have a team of people who will be using the software involved in the development process. Ask them to supply you with a list of client-facing pain points, as well as their own. Then, ask them for a wish list -a list of tools or features that would be great to have, but aren’t necessarily must-haves. You might find that some of those wish list items make a lot of sense financially. We often find daily manual processes that can easily be automated, saving large amounts of company resources as time passes.
Desired Features vs Wishlist
Speaking of wish lists, they have a tendency to get a little…out of control. There is a big difference between automating a workflow and deciding what you really wanted looked more like the Star Ship Enterprise. Don’t get us wrong, we love when the creative juices get flowing, brainstorming gets exciting and problems begin to untangle. It’s exciting, and we definitely depend on our clients’ unique insights and industry experience for that to happen. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you would like a solution to look and feel like. It’s never too late to add the bells and whistles.
In fact, that’s part of what makes us different at Volano; we don’t enter agreements, we enter relationships. We make sure our clients know software updates are necessary and they’re given the support to know how to maintain their software and get the upgrades they need.
Failure to Properly Integrate and Train
Let’s say you’ve got this beautiful, customized Ferrari and then you realize that no one knows how to drive a stick shift. Don’t invest in custom software and then let it collect dust in the garage! Training and integration of your custom software is vital. There will often be an aversion to new technology or processes in the workplace, but that is easily overcome with the right leadership and encouragement. In true Volano fashion, we have a blog for that, here. Here’s the general outline:
Give Context -Why is this change happening? What benefits can the employees expect? What are the benefits to the organization? How will this change their everyday routine?
Customize Training–Instead of whizzing through a one-size-fits-all training course, communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis about their specific training needs.
Plant Ambassadors -Target your most tech-savvy go-getters and get them familiar with the technology before you introduce it to the entire team.
Reward Buy-In -Consider gamification of the training process; making it fun, engaging, and exciting. Creating a buzz around the change with rewards is a really effective tool.
Avoiding these common roadblocks is easy; do some internal research, have a vision of the desired solution and don’t sabotage your own investment by not properly integrating or training. Custom software is intended to save resources and optimize processes. We want to do everything we can to make sure the entire process is as smooth as your new workflow.
If you didn’t catch the first three articles in this series, the beginning is always a very good place to start. We’ve covered Accountability, Collaboration, and this final article will center around the clarity that comes when Transparency is introduced in an organization, top to bottom.
Ok, so now you have that culture where accountability thrives. The team knows what to do and gets it done, and you have the confidence in the completion of their work. You KNOW who is doing what, and when. Communication is rich and you’ve stopped using email as the project management tool that it most certainly is not. Getting un-stuck feels good, right? You now have the time to lead, navigate and maybe even plan a summer vacation.
To call transparency the “icing on the cake”, would imply that it isn’t 100% necessary, but let me ask you this, “Who in the heck wants cake with no icing?” However you take your cake, organizational transparency is essential to employee empowerment, productivity, and it fosters a positive image publicly as well as internally.
Transparency is clarity and clarity allows for vision. Seeing your business at the highest level. The ability to look at the top and bottom line with perspective. Seeing the full landscape; no more forests and trees. Traditionally, this has been the vantage point of the few at the top of the ladder. Now, with all we know about organizational transparency, information no longer pools at the top of the ladder to trickle down.
Transparency is like a zipline. You go through the hard work of climbing to the top of the platform and when you get up there, you find the view is breathtaking. You’re above the tree line; you can see the horizon. You totally get the metaphorical sense of clarity. You can see for miles…you can see where you’re going, and where you’ve been. And it gets better. You strap in…and launch! The acceleration is exhilarating, forward movement in pre-defined direction. This is how your business should be. Moving fast with a clear vision.
The power to ACT – Accountability, Collaboration, and Transparency. No more losing sleep wondering if the nuts and bolt are in place, no more notes to grandma, no more being lost in the forest. If you’re dealing with systems, be they internal, external, or purchased software, … whatever you do, remember the principle of the power to act.