How to Automate Manual Processes

How to Automate Manual Processes (5 Easy Steps)

Published On: April 13, 2023
By: Warren Jenkins

Manual processes cost organizations a lot in labor costs and efficiency wasted. A lot can be achieved if organizations simply automate manual processes. But of course, the big question, arises and that is how exactly do organizations automate manual processes? In this article, we aim to answer that question and guide organizations on automating manual processes in 5 simple steps. We have helped many businesses of all sizes automate manual processes and gathered enough experience to recommend and understand the needs of most businesses and their day-to-date business processes.

Let’s start from the basics, in simple words, automation simply means having something done automatically. This could be applied to complex robotic arms to manufacture big artillery or it could be as simple as an automatic cat food dispenser that lets your cat have its fill when you’re not there! For most organizations, it would be automating things like employee onboarding, customer complaint intake, annual reporting, etc.

Leveraging automation in order to streamline business processes is a fantastic way to improve on existing processes but before we get knee-deep into trying to optimize processes in any way possible, it’s necessary to get the big picture.

Do note, automation and technology solutions can offer significant cost and time savings but automation isn’t applicable everywhere. There are use cases where automation simply makes things worse and we will explore in this article when it is okay to automate manual processes and when it is not.

There are places where automating processes could lead to chaotic workflows and lead more complexity. We are going to talk about what automation is- and what it isn’t, so you have a clear idea of what will work and what won’t.

Just so we’re on the same page, let’s address the need for automation before getting familiar with the steps to automate frequent tasks.

Why Automate Manual Processes?

If you’ve ever watched clerks recording transactions, you can imagine how quickly repetitive tasks can become boring. A faster process would certainly reduce waiting times and allow the employee some free time. More importantly, couldn’t companies save time and free up their resources by coming up with software solutions?

Workflow automation isn’t just beneficial for tackling repetitive chores. It can also reduce human errors, prevent remedial hours, eliminate delays, lower costs, enhance productivity, make employees happier, and improve customer satisfaction. That’s certainly a big impact – and can directly relate to higher performance and cost savings for the organization.

Manual tasks involve human hands, so reducing manual work also helps cut down overhead labor costs and enhance productivity. Technology solutions can reduce the number of staff needed for an organization; provide brilliant and effective ways to manage documentation, and communication, and handle frequent tasks like onboarding and customer support.

In manufacturing, automation can lead to gains in speed, accuracy, precision, quality control, and enhanced performance. Faster delivery and consistency in service mean that customers will be more likely to engage with the business again.

A 2017 research at McKinsey Global Institute Research suggests that half of the business activities could be completely automated and since intelligent automation can save 40 – 75 percent of total costs, there really isn’t a good reason to miss out!

Examples of Industries Automating Manual Processes

As a business grows, so do the internal processes that occur on a day-to-day basis. Repetitive processes like attendance tracking, billing, handling sales, order processing, generating invoices, and gathering feedback are essential to core business operations but can take up large amounts of time and resources. With the rise of technological advancements, novel ways to manage processes and run data calculations have emerged, and are increasingly being adopted by the industry.

Automating tedious tasks can make the processes more efficient but not every process can be automated- so that’s an important distinction you need to make.

These are some examples of how automation can be applied to processes in various industries:

Human Resources

We have years of experience automating manual processes for various medium to large-scale businesses and one of the most common automation we see is HR Workflows. Here is an example of how we at Jetdocs have helped hundreds of HR departments automate their manual processes.

automate manual processes
Premade human resource templates in Jetdocs covering most scenarios, you can always add more as your organisation requires!

In HR departments, one common manual process that can be automated is the employee time-off request and approval process. Traditionally, this involves employees submitting time-off requests through emails, forms, or paper-based systems, with managers reviewing and approving requests manually. This process can be time-consuming and prone to errors, miscommunication, or delays.

By implementing an automated approval workflow, the time-off request process can be streamlined and made more efficient. Here’s an example of how this can be achieved.

  1. The HR department sets up an online time-off request form using Jetdocs that supports HR workflow automation. Jetdocs catalog builder can build these forms in minutes for most HR processes.
  2. Employees submit their time-off requests through the online form, which automatically captures relevant information such as the employee name, requested dates, and the reason for the time off.
  3. The request is automatically routed to the appropriate manager or supervisor based on predefined rules, such as the employee’s department or reporting hierarchy.
  4. The manager receives a notification (e.g., via our web app, Teams, or Slack) about the pending time-off request, reviews the request, and approves or rejects it within the system.
  5. If approved, the system automatically notifies the employee and HR about the approval. If rejected, the employee is informed with an explanation for the rejection and may resubmit the request with the necessary changes.
  6. The system maintains a record of all time-off requests, approvals, and rejections, allowing for easy reporting and analytics.

By automating the approval workflow for time-off requests, HR departments can save time, reduce manual errors, and improve communication and transparency in the process.

Procurement Teams

Another great use case which we have helped many businesses automate manual processes and save thousands of dollars annually is the procurement process.

automate daily business operations
Premade operations templates in Jetdocs, this is only a glimpse of what is possible within the application.

Procurement teams can benefit from automating the purchase order (PO) creation and approval process, which is traditionally a manual, time-consuming, and error-prone activity. Automation can increase efficiency, reduce delays, and improve compliance with procurement policies. Here’s an example of how an automated approval workflow can be implemented for procurement teams:

  1. The procurement department sets up a purchase requisition form using Jetdocs, forms can be created using our catalog builder in minutes.
  2. Employees or department heads submit purchase requisitions through the online form, providing essential information such as item descriptions, quantities, supplier details, and cost estimates.
  3. It is routed to the appropriate approver(s) based on predefined rules, such as the requestor’s department, the purchase amount, or the type of goods/services being procured.
  4. The approver(s) receive a notification through our web app, Teams, or Slack applications about the pending purchase requisition, review the details, and either approve or reject it within the system.
  5. If approved, the system automatically generates a purchase order (PO) and sends it to the selected supplier. The procurement team can then track the order until it is received, and the system can update inventory levels and financial records accordingly. If rejected, the requestor is informed with an explanation for the rejection and may resubmit the request with the necessary changes.
  6. Jetdocs maintains a record of all purchase requisitions, approvals, rejections, and generated POs, enabling easy reporting, analytics, and auditing.

By automating the approval workflow for purchase requisitions and PO creation, procurement teams can streamline their processes, reduce manual errors, ensure compliance with procurement policies, and enhance overall efficiency.

IT Teams

IT teams can benefit from automating the service request and incident management process, which often involves manual steps, multiple communication channels, and time-consuming coordination. Automation can improve efficiency, reduce response times, and ensure adherence to IT service management best practices.

Premade IT team internal ticketing and automations templates in Jetdocs.

Here’s an example of how an automated approval workflow can be implemented for IT teams:

  1. The IT department sets up catalog items in Jetdocs which allows end users to submit IT service requests when issues arise.
  2. Employees or end-users submit their IT service requests or incident reports through an online form or Jetdocs external self-service portal, providing essential information such as the issue description, priority level, and any relevant attachments.
  3. The system automatically categorizes and prioritizes the submitted requests or incidents based on predefined rules, such as the type of issue, urgency, or the affected business area.
  4. The request or incident is then routed to the appropriate IT team member or support group based on predefined rules, such as technical expertise, workload, or location.
  5. The assigned team member receives a notification (through our web app, Slack, or Teams) about the pending service request or incident reviews the details, and starts working on the resolution.
  6. Throughout the resolution process, the system automatically updates the request or incident status and communicates the progress to the requester or end-user. The IT team member can collaborate with other team members or escalate the issue within Jetdocs as needed.
  7. Once the issue is resolved, the IT team member updates the ticket status to “Resolved” or “Closed” in the system. The requester or end-user receives a notification and can provide feedback on the resolution.
  8. Jetdocs maintains a record of all service requests, incidents, and their resolution history, enabling easy reporting, analytics, and continuous improvement of IT processes.

By automating the approval workflow for IT service requests and incident management, IT teams can streamline their processes, reduce manual errors, improve response times, and enhance overall service quality.

There are many industries for which they can automate manual processes for day-to-day work and increase productivity ten folds while decreasing costs ten folds. The above three are just a few of the many processes our team has helped automate for various businesses.

How To Automate Manual Processes

As I mentioned earlier, thousands of users use Jetdocs to automate manual processes and we have seen it all. Our experience helping these organizations create and automate workflows has taught us the required steps to automate manual processes. Just like how streamlining a business process can require careful consideration and tweaking several methods before an ideal workflow is reached, automating as-is processes is also a continuous process.

Now that we’ve gotten to know about some reasons why automation can be the best thing for your business, let’s talk about how to properly automate processes. These are the steps involved in automating manual tasks in an organization:

Step 1: Define Your Goal Clearly

No organization can expect to get somewhere without setting goals first- and that’s exactly the same for process automation as well. You cannot automate things unless you know what the problem is, and goals help determine what it is we’re after. These goals need to align with the organization’s goals and help the staff prioritize activities so the most important things are performed efficiently.

Is staff onboarding slowing down the team? Is it customer support that’s consuming many hours that could otherwise be spent on more productive tasks? Once you’ve set the goals in place, that’s probably half of the automation tasks done!

Often, businesses can also run into issues where the automation strategies do not line up with the organization’s vision. This can be entirely avoided by putting some effort into defining the goals behind automation. Making sure that the automated processes are specific, measurable, realistic, and bound by some time factor is a good way to know how effective automated processes are when compared to those that are already in place.

Effective goals could look like – decreasing customer service times by 70% or having well-defined and documented processes in place for repetitive tasks like onboarding. Setting goals should also be flexible and allow for any changes to the goals/ overall vision later on.

Step 2: Identify Target Process

The first actual step in process automation is process discovery – there may be multiple hierarchies of processes involved inside an organization and without knowing what process needs to be automated, diving head first can be a terrible strategy.

Clearly defined processes help diagnose inefficiencies and help eliminate tricky bottlenecks.

Helping the customer understand certain aspects may pose challenges to automation and human intervention may be required. Such processes aren’t suited to be automated as humans can provide a tailored and personalized experience that software solutions cannot.

For instance, the customer process can seem like a tedious process but it’s just comprised of the same starting point (customer has queries) and the same outcome (satisfaction). This might involve several smaller steps in the process like routing to knowledgeable staff, documenting the particular interactions, and collecting feedback later. Here, documenting, routing, feedback gathering, and generating analysis reports can be automated.

Step 3: Map Your Process

Process mapping is a crucial step to figure out how processes interact with each other, and can also help determine any steps that aren’t providing sufficient value to the chain so informed decisions can be made.

After discovering existing actors and processes, the process workflow should be broken down into actors and individual processes and represented diagrammatically. An effective map should be complete and detailed so an accurate analysis can be done. Workflow diagrams can be created with the help of software tools – that’s actually the better choice especially if the organization is large and involves a large number of processes.

Often, employees have practical insights about the activities that the management may be unaware of. Active employee participation can help speed up process discovery and identify problematic processes.

Not only do workflow maps provide insight into the feasibility of automation in context but the visual representation can also help stakeholders better understand why automation is a better strategy than existing processes.

Step 4: Identify Tasks That Can Be Automated

One of the things that can pose a serious problem during the implementation phase is – the feasibility of automation. Does automating a certain process make sense? How efficient would it make the existing process?

Identifying the need for automation should be the key driving force behind the decision to automate. Tasks that are frequent and repetitive can be automated and could lead to human errors should be automated and this will help improve overall productivity.

That said, automating inefficient processes may not necessarily lead to efficient workflows. Automation alone doesn’t fix anything; existing processes should be carefully examined to determine the underlying issue before trying to automate it. Cost feasibility and ROI should also be considered before making the jump.

Certain tasks like designing marketing campaigns and decision-making require human input and cannot be replaced by automated tools.

Step 5: Start Automating Processes

After mapping out the necessary steps and delegating tasks to appropriate personnel, the best ways to achieve efficient automation need to be selected. Sign up for a tool like Jetdocs, where you can automate manual processes in a matter of minutes.

Now that we’ve identified what needs to be automated let’s start automating the processes.

There are many ways to approach automation – incorporating email alerts can help notify customers about their orders and collect feedback after sales, and appointment forms & sales forms can help cut down redundant steps and save large amounts of time.

Building automation to automate your manual processes is a very simple task in Jetdocs. Of course, the automation varies depending on what kinds of automation you are looking for but for day-to-day business tasks such as expense process automation, vendor management workflow, etc Jetdocs is the perfect software to build your processes in.

What Are The Best Processes To Automate?

Some processes lend themselves very well to being used over manual tasks – while others need a human element. Automating processes effectively can not only save precious time and resources, and reduce errors but also helps a business focus on its intrinsic values and innovation.

Automation can make tasks more efficient, reduce errors and increase production, so businesses should take some time to research whether their processes can be automated and how that would impact their overall productivity.

These are some processes that can be automated within an organization to increase the productivity and efficiency of individual processes:

Marketing

Along with value creation, marketing is one of the most important activities in a business environment. New customers cannot hear about an organization’s offerings without a decent marketing campaign, and despite the product being one of a kind, if the prospective customers do not know about it, it’s going to fail.

Marketing involves several processes like lead creation, market segmentation, targeting, survey design, data collection, modeling, and analyses to determine appropriate clients.

Automation can help manage surveys and gather large amounts of data and statistical tools can show results and interpret them in an error-free manner.

Purchase Orders

Automated processes can help create an organized system for managing purchase orders with correct details and then routing the orders to the approving team before being forwarded to the vendors. The purchase orders can be automatically recorded for future analyses.

In order to generate dynamic forms, automated software can be used – and it’s free from silly mistakes and inefficiencies if properly implemented.

This kind of automation can help reduce the steps necessary for obtaining approvals, purchase order receipts, and manual logging. This also means that the employees at the business don’t need to spend their valuable time on some routine that’s not their expertise.

Sales Funnels

Recording customer information and the sales business can be a tedious task for the sales team. Sales are a vital step in any business’s revenue flow but handling the process manually isn’t exactly the best way to do it.

For example, one of the most popular automation we have helped our users build is a sales approval process where different sales-related things are sent for approvals to appropriate departments by sales teams.

Automation software can generate dynamic forms with saved customer details, product details, pricing, discounts, and calculations done already. This works seamlessly with an existing ERP or CRM software and works as both an accountant and an efficient assistant.

The beauty of automated processes is that several technologies can be integrated- the customers can get email alerts once they place an order, and their orders can be automatically routed to appropriate teams, and processed without errors or delays.

Automating also speeds workflow so both the staff and customers have to spend less time here.

Invoice Approvals

Large organizations can have several tiers of approvals baked into their process flows. While this is meant to ensure that the tasks run smoothly and no errors seep in, it can also cause delays due to the number of approvals needed even for simple tasks like invoicing.

Automating invoice approvals and record-keeping into the workflow can reduce the amount of time staff spend on manually processing approvals. It also helps keep an accurate record of invoices so further monitoring and changes can be made.

Compliance

Businesses often have a separate compliance and legal team that deals with the legal issues that can occur as a result of their actions. This is to avoid hefty fines like copyrights and breaches of regulations.

Automating compliance and audits can help a business remain out of trouble with the law as well as serves as a point of reference so informed and data-driven decisions can be made. Software solutions are very accurate, make no calculation errors, and aren’t biased- so automation is an excellent technique for staying compliant.

Conclusion

As the operations of a business grow, so do the processes and complexity. The time and resources consumed in manual processes might pose a bottleneck to overall productivity and can cause issues in scalability.

Manual processing can pose issues in processing speed, real-time data processing capabilities, deal performance, operational efficiency, and allocation of resources.

While automation isn’t suited to approval-based processes where a human element is needed or an important business decision is to be made, it’s important to think about how automation can be applied to repetitive and labor-intensive processes in the workplace like data entry, handling approval of purchase orders, employee onboarding, and customer support.

Effective automation can not only eliminate repetitive tasks and reduce the chance of errors but also helps improve delivery times and increases both employee and customer satisfaction rates.

Automation can be made more efficient by continuously monitoring the process. Successful automation backed by accurate data-driven decisions can help get reduce the need for costly manual labor and prevent wasteful practices that may be harming the productivity of the business environment.

Let Jetdocs Streamline Your Processes

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Warren Jenkins

Warren Jenkins

Expert Author

Warren is a process manager here at Jetdocs where he helps businesses to identify business processes that require optimization. With a data-driven approach to analyzing processes and identifying areas for improvement, such as reducing waste, increasing efficiency, and improving quality, warren has the experience required to form efficient business processes. Warren covers the topic relating to creating, optimizing and streamlining business processes in Jetdocs blog. Connect with Warren on Linkedin