How Workflow Automation Gave Me a New Lease on Life

Working in an office can sometimes be tedious and frustrating. Feel better with that out in the open? I do.

The worst is when a seemingly simple task takes all day, like getting something reviewed and approved by several parties. At my previous job, I would have to get contracts and invoices in front of the right people – they’d review it, maybe comment, maybe reject it – and then it would ultimately get their formal approval. I’m not sure if you’d consider this protracted process a tragedy or a comedy…

For example, the process of developing, revising and approving a contract had to go through a dozen people. I’d author a document in Microsoft Word, send it around the office to receive comments, and track changes. I’d have to deal with different versions, conflicting comments, and too many changes to keep track of. There were so many different font colors and highlights, I thought it might blind me.

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked my old coworkers. But some of them were absolute experts at wasting time. A few of them would print out the documents I sent them, write notes on them by hand, and give them back to me that way. Their contracts would usually come back to me with tears, coffee stains, or worse, Cheeto dust. Sometimes, documents wouldn’t come back to me at all.

I’d bounce around a maze of cubicles and send endless reminder emails asking everybody:

  • Hey, do you still have my contract?
  • No, sorry, Bob has it
  • Sorry, I sent it to Stacey
  • Trent has it to review now
  • No, I gave it to Bob
  • Sorry I was at lunch, Are you sure? I saw Harold with it.
  • I’m telling you, Bob has it.
  • Oh, sorry, it’s here. It fell in the trash

Yeah, Bob and his inbox were kind of a bottomless pit of documents.

I thought this was going to be my workplace reality forever. I thought I was doomed to tediously run after approvals, track comments, and deal with peoples’ messy documents. But then, something extraordinary, something beautiful happened – Workflow Automation was introduced into our company.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is a type of software program that follows preset rules to guide a real world process. In this case, it was documents being successfully routed through my department. Where I once had to keep track of files floating around, remind people of our priorities, and keep things organized, the workflow automated the task – routed the document to the right people in the right order based upon the previous person’s action, reminded them of their responsibilities to review, comment and approve, effectively tracking the entire process.

Workflow Automation

Workflow automation software comes with pre-made and customizable templates so we can create an automated system that works for us. It’s so easy to tailor with the simple drag-and-drop interface. I don’t even need to be an IT professional or programmer to use it.

When a document is taking too long to get approvals or e-signatures, the workflow automation system can pinpoint who’s taking too long to finish their part (cough, Bob, cough), and will gently send them a reminder. I don’t start wandering around the office aimlessly or staring blankly at my inbox, trying to figure out where my contracts have gone. It’s able to set priorities and track goals so our whole business can be more efficient.

Integrating workflow automation makes every single aspect of running a business smoother, and I’m not afraid to admit it: now we’re working smarter, not harder.