What Is Workflow Automation?

Workflows are integral to a company's success. Without defined processes and workflows, time and resources are quickly used up without significant progress being made. By understanding how to create a workflow and implement it, your business can save valuable time and always stay on task.

A workflow is an orchestrated and repeatable series of tasks that allows users to complete large goals in a timely manner. They are important because they enable companies to reach larger goals, while also effectively combining the talents of technology and humans.

Workflows combine many elements together such as tasks and processes. In this digital age, they have come to encompass different platforms and tools via API integrations. This has meant that understanding what it can do for your business has become increasingly complex since there is so much that a workflow management system can do.

What is a BPM workflow?

You may have heard of business process management (BPM) before. It’s an organizational discipline that covers various ways to discover, model, analyze, measure, improve, optimize, and automate business processes.

In BPM, a workflow encompasses more than just the tasks or processes that those tasks build. It focuses more on the management between people, processes, and technology.

Essentially, building a BPM workflow means that you can manage not only tasks and processes but also different platforms and tools. As an example, FireStart is a BPM platform that allows you to integrate and manage different platforms like Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, and DocuSign to name a few.

A good analogy is to think of a BPM platform like a powerboard that you can plug everything into. It helps you manage your process ecosystem in one platform.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is the next logical step to making them run more smoothly. Previously, they were simply a chain of events that needed to be completed in order to achieve the end goal. Now, the chain of tasks can be completed automatically.

By implementing workflow automation, the jumps between technology, processes, and people become smoother. For example, in a typical onboarding workflow, the HR Manager doesn’t need to manually send interview or rejection emails, this can be automated to save time. Or collecting and saving CVs can be automated so that is it stored digitally, saving on paperwork and printing costs.

Workflow automation saves employees and managers from time-consuming tasks, so they can focus on more important tasks.

How to create a workflow

Start creating by setting up a process. A complete process includes all the necessary tasks needed to reach the end goal. Mapping out the process can be done with paper, or done digitally straight into FireStart Cloud.

In FireStart, when your ideal process is complete you can make it active by clicking “Run Workflow.” From there, you have a complete overview of the whole workflow from start to finish. With time, it’s possible to identify and solve potential bottlenecks or make other improvements.

With FireStart Cloud, you’ll always be able to see which stage it’s at by clicking on the “Workflows” tab. The stage of the workflow is always highlighted by a blue line, with the green line indicating that the process has finished.

How to create a workflow diagram

In process management, there are different “languages” that are used to show the steps in a workflow, but all the languages accomplish the same goal: to visually illustrate a process. Using a standard process language means that anyone is able to read it and clearly understand what each step means.

At FireStart, we use a simplified version of BPMN 2.0 to visually communicate the process. To understand this language, you need to know the main symbols and what they represent.

  • Circles indicate the start or end of a process. In FireStart, the end circle is bolded.

  • Rectangles indicate tasks that need to be completed. In FireStart, each Task has a Form assigned to it as well as a capability to assign roles.

  • Diamonds illustrate decision-making moments. In FireStart, gateways can either be inclusive (if scenario A, then B happens) or parallel (when tasks need to run simultaneously).

  • Arrows represent the chronology in the set of tasks. In FireStart, you can string each task together simply by dragging.


Following the onboarding example from before, here’s how a typical employee onboarding process would be mapped out in FireStart Cloud.

You’ll see that team members only need to jump in for critical decision-making steps. Otherwise, everything else in the process can be automated, making the process much faster.

It’s important to note that BPM software, while effective, is designed to work with your current workforce. Workflow automation tools are simply a support for your team, to reduce burnout and endless manual processes which can make their job frustrating.

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