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A version of this post was initially published on Manufacturing Tomorrow

Nature is diverse, which gives its organisms the flexibility and resilience to adapt to any circumstance. Yet, many businesses are not acting but reacting to the environment around them.

Over the past year, businesses have learned that to survive, they have to do more than to respond to a one-time crisis. They have to anticipate and adjust to new trends that, if left unchecked, can permanently impair their earning ability. To avoid losses, businesses need to be flexible: they must build in a capacity to change before a change becomes their only option.

Thankfully, technology is constantly evolving, and forward-thinking businesses have many tools to enable experimentation and process optimization. Flexible eCommerce workflows are a big part of that: they help organizations identify new ways of unlocking productivity to drive profitability and long-term success.

Automation unlocks many productivity gains for businesses, which trickle down to customers. Efficient workflows eliminate repetitive, manual tasks and the possibility of lost deals and orders. This leads to better products, lowered prices, and improved service, which increases customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. Automation can benefit organizations in unintended ways, promoting a culture of collaboration, experimentation, and innovation.

What Is a Workflow or Business Process?

A business process defines how a specific set of tasks get done in an organization. For B2B eCommerce businesses, this applies to a variety of functions from manufacturing processing, distribution, pricing, and customer service. Managers are responsible for many processes such as lean manufacturing principles, aligning the work of different roles, and reducing unnecessary steps wherever possible.

Automated workflows is a technology that reduces the complexity of a given business process through digitization. For example, a sales representative inputs information into a digital system which, by means of a workflow automation engine, notifies the accounting department to approve credit for that account. When approved, the system automatically greenlights the warehouse to fulfill the order.

What Is an Automated Workflow?

Businesses must have the ability to renew business models and act on trends as circumstances change. They must stay flexible to remain sustainable and resilient. This flexibility in software and processes allows for strategic experimentation as technology shifts, and customer expectations change.

The essence of workflow automation is replacing human effort with digital processing. Automated workflows can make use of data synchronization, removing the need for sales representatives to enter sales orders into a digital system. They can introduce added flexibility in processes to address changes in the buyer journey, for example.

A workflow can combine digital and manual processes. Companies of all sizes rely on manual activities that can be digitized, and flexible technology enables them to experiment with various better alternatives to ineffective strategies.

workflow-automation-example

Example of OroCommerce’s automated workflow

The Most Important Asset Will Always Be the Human One

Human assets in the form of skill and talent are an organization’s biggest asset.

If automation can eliminate everyone’s most mundane and unproductive tasks, they can do what they do best.

When employees are freed from onboarding accounts, checking order statuses, or filling out reports, they can focus on customers. People buy from other people, so brands that focus on customer interaction, building relationships, or solving problems, grow their sales.

Digital transformation is not a monolithic process. It takes collaboration to generate promising ideas that lead to success. Until AI takes over, humans will be best at experimenting and seeking creative solutions to pressing problems.

Know What to Automate to Avoid Unintended Bottlenecks

Getting started with automation requires some preparation. Start with the basics: review how your data is captured, synchronized, and organized. Is everything scattered across silos, or do you rely on a single source of truth?

The next thing to review is your actual workflows. Go through the steps that must be completed to reach the objective of a given process. Then, check if they match your workflows. This will help you determine if any of the steps are unnecessary, if you are lacking visibility, or need additional investment.

By the time you have an accurate picture of your data situation and business processes, you’ll know if any further housekeeping is needed. Researching new technology and starting the conversation with teams are good places to start.

Workflow Automation: Your Insurance for the Unexpected

Smart leaders know that being proactive pays off:

They can turn past experiences, new conditions, processes, and data at their disposal into an advantage. 

They know that nothing is static, and as technology evolves, so does the buyer, and so must the way they do business.

They invest in highly flexible software solutions since today’s workflows won’t be applicable a few years from now. 

They don’t rule out expanding to new or adjacent business models, so they address challenges now to reach a faster time to market in the future.

They view workflow automation as insurance to change, allowing them to adapt to changing customer expectations, business requirements, and economic instability.

Thus, a flexible workflow engine is your insurance for the unexpected, a proactive – not reactive – technology that enables you to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

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