December 16, 2014 by Mitch Taube Categories: Office Automation

The “Let’s Learn” series helps make navigating document scanning and document management space a little easier so you can get the best solution for your business challenge.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation, which can also be referred to as business process automation, is automating and streamlining paper based business processes to improve efficiency, reduce costs and provide transparency into critical business processes. Any of the following can be passed from one person to another for action, according to your existing business rules:

  • Electronic documents, such as a Microsoft Word document
  • Scanned documents
  • E-forms
  • Information
  • Tasks

These rules are a programmed series of automated steps that route all of that content to various users on a multi-user document management system.

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Other names for workflow automation

Besides the definition of workflow automation above, here are a 3 more commonly used terms:

  • Business process automation (BPA) is the automation of business processes, in whole or in part, where documents, information, or tasks are passed from one person to another for action, according to a set of rules.
  • Business process management (BPM) is used by a business to contain costs. It consists of using workflow automation software applications and integrating them throughout the organization while minimizing labor costs.
  • Business process outsourcing (BPO) is the contracting of a specific business task to a third-party service provider. Usually, BPO is implemented as a cost-saving measure for tasks that a company requires but does not depend upon to maintain its position in the marketplace.

Are there different levels of workflow automation?

Different companies may require different levels of automation. Some may only need to manually kick off an automated workflow a handful of times a month. This is called an ad hoc workflow, which is a simple, manual process by which documents can be moved around a multi-user document management system on an “as-needed” basis.

Other companies will want workflows kicked off immediately once a document enters the system, such as an invoice, with no human intervention. This is rule-based workflow, which is a programmed series of automated steps that route documents to various users on a multi-user document management system.

What are some common applications where workflows can be automated?

Automated workflows can be beneficial for many departments and applications within an organization. Here are just a few:

  • Invoice processing
  • Order fulfillment
  • Expense reporting
  • Outsourced mailroom services
  • Employee reviews
  • Time-off requests
  • Onboarding
  • Benefit documentation

If you found these definitions useful, you can download them as a PDF by clicking the button below.

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