Using technology for business improvement nowadays is a given, but when we talk about which
tools are best, there are many opinions. In general, workflow and process automation is a
relatively new category that has become more widely recognized in the last five to ten years.
Tools specifically designed for managing work at scale fall into several sub-categories, including
work collaboration, project management, process automation, and low or even no-code.
Additionally, some software is further grouped by industry. Fintech platforms meet the needs of
financial services organizations, for example. Alternatively, those that are labeled as “regtech”
serve a company’s need to manage regulatory compliance.
Given the sheer volume of tools available on the market today, it’s important for organizations to
have some kind of due diligence process and to best understand the primary objective of
deploying any kind of work-management-at-scale platform. Many niche products aren’t
necessarily scalable and may have functionality that is limited in their application. Whereas
other tools may be designed for enterprise deployment with robust integration capability, but are
more challenging to implement.
Much like Rome, workflows and automated processes aren’t built in one day. Focusing on a
smaller set of process challenges will help your company get started on the road to success far
Setting aside the choice of technology for a moment, organizations often see that business
processes are at odds with each other. Work is not optimized, and valuable resources are
consumed simply trying to align efforts. An overreliance on spreadsheets and emails has
become the norm. And while teams may have gotten comfortable with this mode of operation, it
is inherently risky, especially for companies in highly regulated industries.
A number of questions must be considered when committing to workflow automation and
choosing a technology to make improvements through better process management. Some are
more apparent than others.
Like, what are the benefits of improved workflows, and how do we achieve them?
What sectors can use workflow automation well, and how might it affect processes across an
organization or even across the team?
Given that no two organizations are alike, the path to achieving improvement is not at all
ubiquitous. However, workflow fundamentals are important to deploy in just about any type of
That’s where workflow software platforms come in; they are an elegant and modern way of
bringing balance to work activities regardless of the unique and specific nuances of how a
company operates. Risk and compliance are among the most critical and useful areas for an
organization to consider when looking at these automation tools. However, they are often
overlooked as solutions for managing governance and regulation, and seen as not being robust
enough or unable to ensure auditability.
On understanding the value and importance of compliance, Deloitte states, “An enhanced
compliance program can bring bottom-line benefits to the organization by helping to develop a
culture of compliance and by improving the organization’s reputation both internally and
externally. In addition, it can help the organization become more effective by identifying and
addressing issues, gaps, and overlaps within processes and procedures.”
However, to effectively oversee governance, risk, and compliance means having to monitor
numerous factors all at once in an ever-changing landscape. Given the manual nature of most
governance programs, ensuring quality and/or regulatory compliance is an expensive and timeconsuming endeavor.
That’s why systematic and automated assistance is nothing less than invaluable.
Benefits of Automation and How It Can Help Compliance
Any policy or standard a company implements is intended to have a clear purpose, including
running an operation as effectively as possible.
Having said that, leaving the implementation – or checking its effect – solely up to individual
employees leaves the room for arbitrary decisions, inadvertent mistakes, or even deliberate
undermining of a business process.
Automation in compliance, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to remove possible errors
that are inherently “human.”
That does not mean that having an effective automated compliance program requires a
dehumanization of a company and the way it does business. On the contrary, the very idea is to
take away the mundane and repetitive tasks that are necessary but not value-adding. And to
free up employees and management to focus on the strategic growth expansion work that is
more meaningful and beneficial to the company and its industry. Automation can be easily
incorporated into business processes using modern tools, such as workflow software solutions.
One of the most apparent advantages is that automation is rules-based and data-driven. Using
relevant data and structuring automation decisions throughout any process can ultimately affect
compliance outcomes. Most importantly, transparency and visibility are allowed to reach
optimum levels. This is extremely hard to achieve where processes and compliance adherence
is embedded in spreadsheets and emails. Automation changes the game completely.
Managing Operational Risks
When it comes to internal processes, companies do audits to ensure that everything is “up to
Some companies have internal audits every month, making sure that when the time comes for
an external audit, all is in perfect order.
However, frequent internal audits don’t always drive the outcome they are intended to deliver.
Given the frequency of audits, the process may become a bit too rote and one where
employees focus on checking a box rather than looking for continous improvement.
Of course, there is always room for error in any work environment and some form of “checks
and balances” are necessary. However, there is a much faster, more practical way of ensuring
that rules, procedures, and regulations are followed.
The answer is a workflow automation software platform. While risk is an inherent part of any
business, a quality workflow solution makes managing those risks that much easier. This allows
less distraction and more effort dedicated to enhancing operational quality and saving time for
the company; as the saying goes, time is money.
Workflow automation platforms reduce operational risks through standardization and ensures
greater collaboration across disparate teams, departments, and systems. Work that is well orchestrated and considers the complex nuances of execution can only really be improved
when all aspects of work are tracked, measured, and optimized. Workflow software solutions
allow that to happen.
Policy As Code
The idea of “policy as code” is not new, but it’s not as widely known or as accepted as we might
hope. The concept is one that purports that any kind of policy – especially those that come from
industry regulation – requires tech-savvy professionals to have a seat at the table to figure out
how to automate what can be automated, what can be measured and why, and how best to
ensure new regulation and policy are being adhered to effectively.
But why? What do “technologists” really have to do with policy?
At the end of the day, using automation doesn’t have to be about the regulation itself. It does,
however, need to be about using modern tools to manage complexity in a business that may
cause significant monetary or reputational issues for companies if not managed well. The risks
are high when it comes to regulatory compliance and internal policies and procedures.
Take exception reporting, incident management, or change management. All of these things are
much more turnkey when recorded and managed in a platform. When you get your controls in a
software tool, and then you can report and demonstrate trends on work activity with dashboards
and other reporting capabilities, hours of time invested in compliance can be reduced. More
importantly, teams get to focus on producing results for the business rather than backtracking
on work that has already been executed and is considered final.
“Policy as code” is about continuous, not ad hoc, compliance reporting. Auditing is no longer a
stressful activity. A sampling of work doesn’t need to occur. And corrective action to any
exception can be done in “real-time” – a much more efficient and predictable way to manage.
Sustainable companies don’t rely on one or two experts holding all the institutional knowledge
for executing work. When work activities are automated, and knowledge of how things work is
embedded in the system, tasks can be shared more broadly, bottlenecks can be avoided, and
knowledge transfer is easier.
Take onboarding new employees, for example. The entire process can be automated, and
important data and information are recorded along the way. Insights that are needed at a later
date are much easier to access and more readily available. Your diversity program, for example,
may require that you report on how many men, women, or minorities were brought into the
organization over a certain period of time.
Digging through email, spreadsheets or other systems where that data is recorded is no longer
needed, as it was documented when the automated onboarding process was executed. In this
case and in other areas that are automated, compliance will have continuous access to the
information they need rather than having to ask for it.
Lastly, “policy as code” isn’t about putting compliance professionals out on the street. In fact, it’s
about putting them in a better job where they can help with strategy, helping the organization to
plan and get better at everything they do.
Automation is all about gaining an advantage for your business. Proper use of workflows and
process automation gives your team the ability to focus on the bigger picture, helps reduce the
potential for errors to occur, and mitigates the impact of those that do. Every day you don’t work
toward optimizing your processes is a day your competitor does. Shift into HighGear and
workflow your way to a world of success.