Automation and workflows are very popular demands from business leads. Many see big benefits from improving the way they work through enabling the tools within Microsoft 365. These general benefits can be things like;
- Reducing costs
- Increasing efficiency
- Improving consistency and confidence
- Improving a service
- Creating visible, auditable reports
- Producing reliable Management Information (MI)/ Business Intelligence (BI)
- Process optimisation
Workflow – Understanding how you want processes to flow is crucial – because from this understanding, you can judge which areas should be automated.
The immediate benefits are clear – Fewer opportunities for human error, fewer unproductive work hours, less time lost to holidays or employee absence, reduced training and HR costs.
Speed is another area in which automation shines. It can enable you to bring products to market faster and fulfil contract requirements sooner. Automation also puts in longer hours than competitors if they rely solely on a human workforce.
The challenges without automation extend beyond technical capabilities, negatively impacting management and employee morale. Fostering better practices – better morale and management – this can be done through automation, which in turn introduces effective resilience.
Common pitfalls with automation and workflow
Despite the recognised benefits of automation, few organisations leverage the capabilities to their full potential, and those who do often only deploy them partially.
It can be due to time and resource constraints as to why automation isn’t implemented sooner. The idea of ‘automation anxiety’ hits home with many employees; after all, would you be fully behind implementing something that can replace your job for you?
However, the anxiety around automation needn’t be as big as you think. Automation and workflow in Microsoft 365 are designed to alleviate menial tasks that nobody wants to do – and to free up their time so they can focus on the bits of their job that they actually enjoy!
Where to start with automation and workflow
Here’s a question we’ve asked our clients recently: what would you do if you had had 12 months to plan for the disruption we’re currently in?
Or another way to ask this is – what would you do if you were starting from scratch?
Your people are often your greatest asset. Automation can enhance their productivity and improve workflows across the board at companies of all sizes. Adding machines and intelligent software to your workforce rarely makes your existing employees useless; more often, it actually makes them even more productive.
So, really, the question is no longer whether you should, but what and where you should be applying automation.
So, if you were starting from scratch – we recommend starting with the following question:
Is it scalable?
Automating a few disparate tasks isn’t going to show much ROI. However, introducing technology to automate the work of many small or large teams performing various intertwined tasks will provide greater value and may significantly increase productivity.
A big gain here is removing mundane, repetitive tasks from staff – freeing them up to work on more challenging, and morale boosting activity.
A good example here is one we spoke about on a previous webinar – a finance team processing invoices manually. The introduction of an automated system – using Power BI and SharePoint meant they could remove almost all the manual effort involved – saving them many hours per day.
Start by determining whether your approach could be expanded to cover a sizeable portion of your processes and activity. The more comprehensive your automation strategy, the greater your returns.