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  • Writer's pictureSaurabh Pangarkar

Avoiding Common Mistakes: Key Challenges in Workflow Automation Implementation

The Covid pandemic accelerated Digital Transformation at never before pace. The era that we live in requires businesses to be in step with the latest technological innovations that change the very paradigm of how a business or an industry conducts its affairs. Workflow automation is one such paradigm redefining technology that is transforming the way businesses operate by ensuring that repetitive tasks are carried out most efficiently. Workflow automation solutions leverage advanced software and tools that help business processes function in a super-efficient manner. What’s more, they require minimal manual input, even while they help accomplish tasks extremely fast and with minimal errors, when compared with traditional methods.

It is a fact that a majority of small and medium-sized businesses need to perform repetitive tasks that take a long time to accomplish and would benefit enormously from the adoption of workflow automation. That being stated it is important that the implementation be carried out the right way, or the business in question could suffer unintended consequences. Let us look at the most common challenges a business may face in implementing workflow automation.

1. Ill-Defined Objectives: Well begun, they say is half done. If one is not explicitly clear about what a business’s objectives are with regard to workflow automation, one is bound to experience trouble in its implementation. Instead of allowing a business to reap the immense benefits of workflow automation, one could end up messing up a perfectly fine preexisting system in the shape of myriad problems arising out of a poorly thought-out implementation strategy. A messed up automated inventory management system for example could lead to stock shortages negatively impacting customer goodwill.

2. Not Knowing Which Process to Automate: A corollary of the above point, sometimes organizations that would definitely benefit from workflow automation, make a hash of things because they don't know which processes need to be automated and which ones should be left alone. Often enough organizations may invest in automation because it is the thing to do. While the thought behind following the industry trend and doing what others are doing to grow their business is the right one, you do need to know why you are required to automate and what exactly you are required to automate, if you don't want to end up automating the wrong process.

Simply allocating resources will not resolve the inefficiency plaguing an organization. You need to take stock of your existing processes to zero in on the real causes behind process inefficiencies. If you can improve things simply by innovating or adding more resources, by all means, don't go in for automation. However, if on the other hand automation technologies like RPA (Robotic Process Automation and IPA (Intelligent Process Automation) provide clear advantages and great ROI, you have the right reasons to adopt workflow automation.

3. Automating Without Optimizing: A business may gladly rush into automating a business process without optimizing it first at its own peril. However, this is exactly what a lot of businesses do and suffer on account of simply having automated an inefficient process to start with leading to even greater inefficiency than before! It, therefore, makes great sense for a business to examine the existing process and see if it is performing at optimal efficiency, before going in for automation.

4. Not Keeping Stakeholders in the Loop: One of the most common mistakes companies make in their endeavors to usher in workflow automation is to not keep all the stakeholders in the loop about what automation is capable of delivering and what it cannot do. That is what helps a business's management manage expectations at a very early stage and thereby build the required trust to make workflow automation implementation a success.

5. Automating the Most Complex Process First: Many organizations make the mistake of automating the most complex process first. It is much like trying to learn to fly a supersonic aircraft, even before getting the hang of flying a regular aircraft. It makes eminent sense for a business to work its way up by starting with a simpler process initially. That will give time to the operations people to find their feet. It would be a good idea to let them manually check whether the automation put in place is effective or not.

6. Not Paying the Desired Attention to Actual User Data: They say that a people deserve a government they elect and so is the case with workflow automation with regard to the data used to design it. It makes immense sense to actual user data in the form of clicking patterns, video recordings of real users and so on, to devise an automation system rather than relying on internal perceptions and written and verbal feedback from customers, which is often unreliable as they may not do what they say they do. You have to use real data that points to how they act.

7. Over Automating: There is something like automating too much too quickly. You need to focus on making the user have an easy experience by way of making fewer mistakes and saving their time performing their tasks. The idea is not to indiscriminately automate everything that is performed manually. Instead, one should keep the real goal in mind of tackling the problem areas which impede the growth of your company and come up with the perfect automation flow for your company.

8. Harboring Unrealistic Expectations: Like everything else in life, don't expect workflow automation to work miracles from the world go. It takes time to set up an automation process and it, therefore, becomes important to synchronize the implementation according to your company's objectives. Put in place a workflow that aligns with that and implement it at a pace that everyone is comfortable with. Most people are not able to use more than a small part of what automation can do for them. Implementing the automation process in stages is the way to go ahead.

9. Not Paying Enough Attention to Change Management: Any company thinking of ushering in workflow automation without having a clear idea about its impact on the employees and planning for that is in for a great deal of turbulence. Any business processes automation program can cause disruption and create confusion in the employees leading them to resist the changes being carried out. To counter this the automation process in question should be designed keeping the end users in mind. Things like a lot of new steps to be followed, the need to access additional systems or experiencing extra wait time can lead to a fair deal of resistance. Care should be taken to incorporate familiar methods of working as much as possible.

Did you know that it is quite easy to avoid making common mistakes while implementing workflow automation?
  • Choose the right tools for the job: There are many workflow automation tools available. It is, therefore, important to choose one that is right for your specific needs. Consider factors like the size and complexity of your workflows, your budget, and the level of technical expertise required to make a decision.

  • Document your workflows: Prior to automating your workflows, you need to document them thoroughly. That includes identifying the steps involved in the workflow in question and the inputs and outputs of each step.

  • Start small: Never automate all of your workflows at once. Start with a small number of workflows that are repetitive and time-consuming and build up from there.

  • Get buy-in from key stakeholders: It's important to get buy-in from key stakeholders before you implement workflow automation. This includes managers, employees, and customers. Explain the benefits of automation and how it will make their tasks easier. If they have your back. you have a greater chance of success with your workflow automation endeavors.


Workflow automation promises to transform and revolutionize the way that businesses across the scale carry out their activities, making them more competitive than was thought possible and growing at a rate which was thought unachievable for them. That being stated, implementing workflow automation is not like waving the proverbial magic wand that makes everything miraculously wonderful.

Businesses have to learn to get the most out of their workflow automation systems and this requires that they avoid the many pitfalls described above concerning faulty and misplaced adoption and implementation of workflow automation systems. From ill-defined objectives to not knowing which process to automate and from automating without optimizing to not keeping all the stakeholders in the loop and not paying enough attention to change management, the path to implement workflow automation may be a challenging one but the rewards far outweigh the obstacles.

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