Workflow Automation Explained + the Best Tools to Get it Done in 2020
According to research from McKinsey Digital as much as 45% of the activities people are paid to perform can be automated by existing technologies. Stop and think about that statistic for a minute. almost half of the tasks being performed in corporate America can instead be performed by machines.
That doesn't mean that half of workers will be replaced by automation—it means that half of the tasks we're performing can be offloaded to machines. This is an important distinction because automation won't eliminate the need for humans, instead, it will allow machines to take over tasks, like data entry, that is prone to human error. And allow us to focus on high-level planning and strategy decisions that machines are incapable of.
Hollywood has dramatized automation as the foundation of a scary dystopian future, but it's far from that. Many companies are already using business process management and workflow software to improve efficiency and save time and money.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation is the elimination of manual tasks through data-driven processes. Workflow automation software typically includes forms, databases, and if-then logic allowing for the automation of specific tasks when certain criteria are met. The best workflow automation tools include visual process builders and a spreadsheet-like environment for organizing business data.
The Best Workflow Automation Tools of 2020
Fortune 500 companies already rely heavily on workflow automation tools, typically referred to as business process management. Even though these tools are effective at automating repetitive work, they can cost your company an arm and a leg just to implement. While it's possible to automate work with business process tools, the expense (time and money) rarely justifies the cost. Luckily, there are several no-cost or freemium tools that can accomplish the same outcomes, no setup fee required.
Google Sheets is a cloud-based spreadsheet tool, similar to Excel. Since Sheets is cloud-based and dynamic, it's easy to use Sheets as much more than a spreadsheet. And since you can publish Google Sheets to the web, you can create everything from a web scraper to a dynamic database from a simple Google Sheet. You don't have to be an expert at coding to start using Google Sheets as a simple form of workflow automation. Here are a few of our favorite tutorials to get you started.
Integromat is an online automation platform that connects to hundreds of apps and services you already use to help automate manual processes. With a visual process builder and JSON modules, Integromat can connect to virtually any service on the internet to automate your tasks. From ecommerce to customer service, Integromat has dozens of prebuilt templates and use cases to help you stay ahead of every task.
Zapier is the glue that connects all the data, tools, platforms on the internet. In just a few clicks you can set up Zaps to connect information from your email marketing tool to your cloud-based CMS to your internal communication platform. If you've never used Zapier, check out their library of popular Zaps to see how easy it is to get your tools to start talking to each other. By combining Zapier and Google Sheets, it's easy to start automating your workflows with if-then logic and replacing manual data entry with an automated process.
Zapier and Google Sheets are excellent tools for automating workflows, but what if you could combine the spreadsheet-like environment of Google Sheets with the if-then logic and integrations of Zapier. Hivewire is a new no-code automation tool that gives you the best of both worlds. Import your spreadsheets, visually map out your workflows and set up automation using if-then logic based on data-driven criteria. Hivewire makes it possible for anyone to create the advanced automation that used to only be available to software engineers.
Whether we like it or not, automation is coming and is already here for many companies. If you learn to embrace automation it can help you accomplish much more than what you're currently doing. In the long run, it will allow us (humans) to focus on high-level tasks and remove repetitive, mind-numbing work from our nine to five. The most successful companies of the next decade will need to rely heavily on the best automation tools and technologies available—allowing them to ultimately serve more customers.