Workflow Automation 101: Definition, Benefits, Examples

In the fight for operational efficiency, workflow automation provides a means of eliminating manual tasks and minimizing the risk of human error. However, the concept of workflow automation can be a bit mysterious, leaving business leaders unsure where to begin, when to eliminate human intervention, or how to build an effective automation strategy.

To help clear up these points of confusion, you can follow this guide to the basics of workflow automation. Learn what workflow automation is, the benefits it provides, and how you can implement it to eliminate bottlenecks in your operational processes.

What Is Workflow Automation?

Workflow automation involves the use of technology to perform routine business tasks and processes with minimal human intervention. To automate effectively, you’ll need to identify time-consuming, repetitive tasks and create business rules within your software that allow these tasks to be executed automatically.  

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are a prime example of software that uses workflow automation. These platforms enable you to send automated email communications or streamline more complex operations like managing customer data across multiple platforms.

Automation technologies rely on logic to complete tasks with near-perfect accuracy. When an event occurs, such as a customer making a purchase, it kicks off a series of processes. 

The software analyzes what happened, identifies the relevant business rule, and takes a specific action. For instance, you could create a rule that sends a “thank you” email to new customers when they make their first purchase. 

Imagine, for instance, that you needed to send out these emails manually. This process would likely require an entire team just to send simple welcome and thank you messages, which is extremely inefficient.

Thanks to automation, you can: 

  • Increase efficiency 
  • Reduce errors 
  • Enhance visibility 
  • Boost accountability
  • Promote scalability 

Reducing errors and expediting response times invariably results in higher customer satisfaction and a more seamless user experience. 

Workflow vs. Process Automation

Workflow and process automation are often used interchangeably, but there are a few subtle differences to be aware of. Firstly, workflow automation focuses on the automation of tasks that are part of a larger business process. It is about optimizing individual tasks and reducing human inputs within the sequence of activities that constitute a workflow.

In contrast, process automation is much broader in scope. It looks at automating the entire process from end to end. For example, consider a scenario in which you want to streamline employee onboarding. 

In this instance, you can automate the task of setting up a new hire’s email account. Once your HR team enters all of their information into your database, a business rule triggers the IT department’s system to create an email account. That’s workflow automation. 

Now, suppose that you wanted to automate the entire onboarding process. Again, in this case, your HR team would have to kick things off by entering the new hire’s information into your employee management system. However, this time, you have multiple rules in place. One takes care of creating an email account, another creates their username for your enterprise resource planning tool, and a third creates a profile for payroll.

Benefits of Investing in Workflow Automation Software

By investing in automation software, companies can unlock numerous benefits, including those outlined below. Its wide range of advantages reveals automation to be a versatile tool that offers many avenues for business growth.

Increased Efficiency

By automating routine tasks, your business will significantly reduce the time and effort spent on manual processes. Automation software can execute tasks faster and more accurately than humans, leading to increased operational efficiency. This allows businesses to accomplish more with the same or fewer resources, directly impacting productivity and your bottom line. 

Increasing efficiency in pivotal processes creates a trickle-down effect, freeing up additional time and resources to tackle more valuable tasks. In turn, you can reallocate team members in a way that maximizes their value to the organization. 

Enhanced Accuracy

Human error remains an inevitable part of manual processes, but automation software operates based on predefined rules and criteria, drastically reducing the likelihood of mistakes. A lower chance for errors becomes particularly valuable during tasks that require precision, such as financial calculations or data entry. 

Even seemingly minor mistakes can significantly impact your bottom line. Eliminating them will help you better serve customers, accurately inform decision-making, and avoid expensive mistakes that erode profitability.  

Improved Employee Satisfaction

Automation frees your team from tedious, repetitive tasks. As a result, they can focus on more meaningful work that requires human intelligence and creativity. This shift can in turn lead to higher job satisfaction, improved morale, and reduced turnover. After all, no one wants to engage in bland, redundant work day in and day out. 

After you’ve automated tedious processes, your team can devote more time to strategic thinking, problem-solving, and customer interaction. All of these areas are more rewarding to staff while also offering more meaningful contributions to your company. That’s a win-win.


Most modern automation software is cloud-based. This means it can readily scale with your business thanks to the ability to rapidly add more resources without major capital expenditures or delays in setup and installation—which you might have to contend with when using on-premises software. You’ll be able to easily integrate new software, create custom business rules, and automate entire workflows, which magnifies your time savings. 

Automation software itself isn’t just scalable; the technology also empowers you to expand your business in that you can accommodate increased volumes of work without the need to proportionally increase staff. This scalability is vital for growing businesses that need to expand quickly but don’t want to take on a bloated payroll.

Data-Driven Insights

Workflow automation technology also empowers you to take the guesswork out of decision-making. Many tools come with analytics and reporting capabilities, providing valuable insights into your operation that can be used to: 

  • Inform strategic decisions 
  • Identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies 
  • Uncover opportunities for further optimization 

With data-driven decision-making, you can continually refine your processes and stay competitive. 

Happier Customers

Automating redundant processes transforms your company into a leaner and more responsive organization. Ultimately, becoming more nimble will allow you to adapt to shifting consumer demands and consistently deliver for your customers. 

This is an especially important development for those in the retail space. With industry giants like Amazon in the mix, today’s consumers expect organizations to understand and adjust to their individual needs.

Examples of Industries Using Workflow Automation

Companies across a wide range of industries are embracing automation. In fact, roughly 31% of businesses have fully automated at least one major function, and experienced a variety of benefits as a result.


The healthcare industry has embraced automation to improve patient care and operational efficiency. Organizations use automation to schedule appointments, manage patient records, and even streamline diagnostic procedures. 

For instance, AI-driven algorithms can analyze medical images more quickly and accurately than human radiologists. They can even identify conditions such as tumors or fractures.

Automated systems also manage patient data to ensure medical professionals have timely access to critical health information. The result is enhanced decision-making and better patient outcomes. 

Furthermore, automation streamlines administrative tasks like billing and claims processing. This helps by reducing paperwork and allowing healthcare providers to focus on patient care. 


The manufacturing sector has long been a frontrunner in adopting automation technologies, with robots and automated assembly lines revolutionizing production processes. These technologies enable manufacturers to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Manufacturers have also embraced back-end process workflow automation to expedite inventory management processes. Systems track material in real time, thereby reducing the risk of a stock accounting error and increasing visibility over available inventory. 


The retail sector takes advantage of automation to enhance customer experiences and streamline operations. Chatbots are employed by eCommerce platforms to provide instant customer service and handle routine inquiries, which reduces the burden on human support staff. In physical stores, automated checkout systems reduce waiting times and improve efficiency.

Like the manufacturing sector, retail has also adopted workflow automation to enhance inventory accounting. Businesses no longer have to rely on manual counts or error-prone processes. Instead, they can update stock levels in real time using integrated inventory management and point-of-sale (POS) systems. This functionality reduces stockouts and helps retailers keep in-demand goods available. 

Ready to Automate? Follow These 5 Steps 

Before you embark on your workflow automation journey, it’s vital that you chart out a course to help you navigate what lies ahead. Each company’s path to automation is truly unique, but the following five steps represent some common preparatory strategies that everyone can embrace.

1. Define Your Why

After learning about the benefits of workflow automation, you’re probably eager to eliminate redundancy from your processes and enhance business efficiency. However, it’s important to define your company’s “why.” This means establishing an overarching goal, as well as smaller and more measurable objectives or milestones.

Start with something broad and begin to fill in the blanks. For instance, if order management is one of your company’s major weak points, your goal may be to automate order intake, processing, and fulfillment. Next, you can set more specific milestones like, “I want to automate order intake so that we can start fulfilling orders within 24 hours of receipt.” 

The bottom line is that you can’t automate for the sake of automating. Implementing new technologies requires focus and deliberate action. Setting goals and defining your why helps you maintain the visibility of your ultimate objectives once the initiative gets underway. 

2. Identify Departments Ripe for Automation

Next, you can identify departments that present opportunities to automate. Naturally, you should focus on departments relevant to the goals you set during the first step. Building on the same scenario, you should prioritize automating facets of your order processing and fulfillment workflows. 

If you set broader goals during step one, such as reducing operating costs, you can explore automation opportunities in a wider range of departments. Identify the most inefficient aspects of your business model and create a priority list. 

Prioritizing the most inefficient departments will allow you to maximize your return on investment. Each win in your automation journey will free up valuable resources and set the stage for additional technology investments and process improvements.  

3. Choose the Right Tools

After you’ve decided what you want to automate and why, you’ll need to choose the right tools for the job. For example, if your automation goals center around the customer journey, you’ll need a robust customer relationship management platform that allows you to implement personalized business rules and workflows. 

Carefully evaluate each prospective option to ensure that it is a good fit for your company and its existing tech stack. Look for solutions that offer out-of-the-box integrations that will be able to connect and share data with your mission-critical platforms. By integrating your automation tools with your foundational technologies, you will begin to maximize data visibility and accessibility. 

4. Train Your Team

Change is hard, even when that change is both necessary and beneficial to your business. Implementing automation technologies alters your team’s day-to-day work. Therefore, it’s important to keep them in the loop from day one. Inform them about what you are doing, why, and how it will reshape their roles within the organization.

As your initiative progresses, deliver targeted training to each department that teaches them how to get the most out of your new tools. By instilling a sense of confidence in your team, you’ll maximize technology adoption and minimize resistance to change. 

5. Monitor, Evaluate, and Scale

As you automate workflows, continuously monitor the impacts of those changes on your business. Then, carefully measure your results and identify which changes are moving the needle in a positive direction. Once you’ve worked out the bugs in newly automated workflows, it’s time to scale.

Over time, you’ll build momentum and achieve significant efficiency gains. Use this to your advantage by scaling the most inefficient processes first and working your way down to workflows that are more complex to automate. Before you know it, you’ll be automating entire processes and elevating the level of service you provide to your clients.

Fuel Your Workflow Automation Journey with Mission Control

Weaving workflow automation into your business model paves the way for enhanced visibility, improved efficiency, and more nimble operations. But if you’re ready to go beyond saving time and reducing opportunities for error, and are interested in leveraging advanced business rules to massively improve profitability, Cavallo Mission Control is for you.

Mission Control is a powerful, no-code workflow engine designed to detect and stop every low-margin order in your system. Users have the power to quickly build automated processes that rapidly route orders through queues and set systems in place to prevent unprofitable orders from getting out the door.

Ready to learn more? Start a conversation with a profit expert.