Every company has processes in place to handle different jobs. Using one or more applications to help automate those processes is the basis for workflow automation. The best solutions are going to give a company the flexibility to take those manual process and automate it with minimal changes, as well as allowing the company to add additional checks throughout the process so it reduces how much an individual has to manually keep track of (knowledge silo).
In this light, we interviewed, Jacob Pegg, product director at SalesPad, regarding workflow automation, ERP technology, and how the both technologies help organizations gain a competitive advantage. We also asked Pegg how workflow automation could help ERP professionals.
SR: What do workflow automation and ERP technology have in common?
A large number of the processes that a company implements for success are based on modules that are handled in the ERP system. For example, product-centric companies will have processes for purchasing, receiving, inventory management, and sales, just to name a few. All of those functions typically revolve around transactions within the ERP system. Specifically, if we look at just the sales process, that can also have multiple processes around just that one set of transactions.
Companies will have one process for handling quotes, a different one for handling orders, a different one for handling invoices, and possibly a completely different process from the others when handling returns. Having the ability to digitize and automate steps in these processes can significantly increase efficiency as well as accuracy. This also allows for repeatability with the reduction in missed steps within that company’s process.
SR: How are they different?
In general, ERP software will handle the information needed to drive a company’s financials where workflow automation deals with the processes the company uses to create/complete the information that is used by the ERP system.
SR: How can workflow automation benefit ERP professionals?
Accuracy, efficiency, repeatability, and ease of use are all results of using workflow automation with an ERP system. Sticking with the sales example, if you hire a new sales rep into an environment without sales workflow, not only is the company having to train them on what they’re selling and who they’re selling it to, they also have to train on the specific process needed to enter the different types of sales transactions that they work with, like quotes for example.
By having a workflow in place for quotes, the training time is significantly decreased because the sales rep doesn’t have to manually walk through each step of the process. These processes are further improved when you can automate rules around the process for quoting, like rejecting a quote if a margin is too slim.
SR: Are there usually workflow automation capabilities built into ERP systems? Why or why not?
There is usually some very light built in capability, but only in a very limited fashion. A lot of ERP systems offer a form of workflow automation, but typically there are a set number of predefined named steps, which doesn’t give the end user much flexibility, forcing them to change their process to fit the system.
Along with the limited offering, most of these systems offer very little functionality for automating rules or steps within that workflow. With this tending to be the norm within ERP systems, a lot of companies look to third-party vendors for workflow automation systems that integrate with their ERP system.
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