Digital Workflows

A primer for the perplexed


Despite dramatic advances in technology that have simplified our lives as consumers, our daily experience in the workplace hasn’t been nearly as easy to streamline with new apps and automated services.

One cost of that can be measured in time spent on mundane tasks and processes. Take the standard checklist for onboarding new employees. New hires need to order laptops and other equipment, get security credentials, and choose benefit plans—just for starters.

While software tools have made some of those steps easier, the workflows that stitch those parts together still tend to bog everything down. Routine tasks can chew up as much as 60% of an average employee’s time.

At the same time, mass adoption of mobile and digital technologies is inching us in the right direction by allowing for the digitization of key workflows. (Consider the relative ease today of setting up a meeting today with a few thumb taps, compared to what that process was a decade ago.) Instead of endlessly replacing the processes and platforms we rely upon to conduct business, digital workflows create efficiencies by improving the way existing processes interact with each other.

In this series of articles, we explain how familiar work tasks and processes are part of workflows. We also show how automation can increase efficiency at every level of activity. Lastly, we provide examples of companies that have solved common problems by implementing digital workflows.

Chapter 1: What is a workflow?

To understand the transformative power of digital workflows, it’s useful to differentiate between tasks, processes, and manual workflows. Everything starts as a task, but it’s the way tasks connect to processes that determines their efficiency.

Similarly, processes roll up into workflows—interconnected processes that involve multiple people, groups, or teams. Workflows range from simple to very complex, but they all comprise processes that rely on each other to accomplish a larger objective.

Read: What is a Workflow?

Chapter 2: The automation of workflows

Workflow automation requires a deep technical understanding of the component processes. But the most vital components of automation are people. Whether it’s the advocacy and backing of executives, the working institutional knowledge of individual employees, or all the organizational culture in between, people remain the indispensable element.

Read: What is Workflow Automation?

Chapter 3: Examples of digital solutions to common problems

Digital workflows often remove manual obstacles that slow down work. The slow pace of bringing new employees on board or the wait for expense or vacation approvals are just a couple that most organizations have struggled with over the years.

We’ll look at real-world examples of companies that implemented digital workflow solutions to remove these process bottlenecks.

Read: Examples of Workflow Automation