Not-to-miss workflow and automation trends
Published October 12th, 2022
Detroit, Michigan, was bitterly cold in January 1914. Nonetheless thousands of men queued to accept an extraordinary offer: $5 a day, for eight hours work. The offer of double wages for one hour’s less work, was a defining moment in 20th century manufacturing, and a win for workflow management. The moving assembly line didn’t just usher in the age of the car, it changed work forever.
Marketing Communications Manager at Tiny
Assembly lines are reputedly responsible for the growth of the middle class. It’s a big claim, but given the 19th and 20th century manufacturing booms, it’s likely not far from the truth. Conveniently, a sign to that effect hangs on the gates of Ford Motor Company’s (now empty) Highland Park factory, "Mass production soon moved from here to all phases of American industry, and set a pattern of abundance for 20th century living".
The world changed in many ways.
Once industrialization began, farm work was abandoned and replaced by factory floors filled with repetitive machine-based tasks. People became accustomed to mechanized workplaces and engineers explored, tested and modified production processes to boost outputs, cut work hours, and improve returns.
Ford's success showed others how workflow management raised productivity. But what is a workflow? As a concept, it’s quite simple: everything must go through a process. In reality though, it’s a bit more complex.
What is a workflow?
A workflow is the sequential arrangement of pre-defined activities, or a collection of processes, to produce a specific result. Workflows can be basic, complex, or, they can be a series of events that occur in parallel and carry certain dependencies, rules and requirements for completion.
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The theory goes that every time you run the same workflow, the same result is produced. That's because workflows are designed to make the completion of routine and repetitive work more consistent, efficient and fast.
Notably, one-off projects don’t have a workflow: repeatable projects do. Therefore optimizing workflows requires a high level of organization.
To aid the organization of their production, Ford consulted Frederick Taylor (see below and sidebar), to examine the most efficient models to use. Four principles were employed to improve the workflow: interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort.
After time and motion studies, reorganizing resources and adding mechanisations (ie. the moving assembly line), the results were revolutionary. Ford's Model T output went from 100 cars per day to an astonishing 1,000 a day – not that far off today’s modern factories.
But how did Ford’s pioneering work on workflow influence today’s SaaS applications?
What is workflow management?
Workflow management is an organized and methodical approach to creating, documenting, monitoring and improving a workflow – to help you optimize its outputs.
A workflow management system (WFMS) is a software package that’s designed and used to setup, manage and execute workflows within an organization. It’s a business process management technique that incorporates programs and people into a process framework.
WFMSs help businesses improve their efficiency and reduce operational costs. Generally, the systems optimize:
The key aim of a WFMS is to reduce the amount of unnecessary work and manual effort that's needed to be done. The benefits of workflow management are many:
- Workload reduction
- Better return on investment (ROI) of time, effort and tools
- Improves effectiveness and efficiency
- The business data generated, informs better decision making
- Increases employee empowerment
- Reduces dull, repetitive tasks
- Standardizes workflows
- Improves auditing capabilities
- Facilitates better time management.
- Aids integrations with existing tools
Who was Frederick Taylor?
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915) is known as the Father of Scientific Management, which also came to be known as “Taylorism.”
He was an American mechanical engineer and writer of the 1911 book, “Principles of Scientific Management” based on his pioneering work in applying engineering principles to the work done on the factory floor.
His methods were aimed at improving industrial efficiency and became instrumental in the development of what is now known as industrial engineering.
What is automation?
According to Britannica, “In its ideal form, automation implies the elimination of all manual labor through the use of automatic controls that ensure accuracy and quality.”
The term was (not-so-coincidentally) coined by the Ford Motor Company in the 1940s, and was applied to the automatic handling of parts in metalworking processes. A broader meaning emerged after American mathematician Norbert Wiener developed the theory of cybernetics. He anticipated the application of computers to manufacturing situations, which further broadened its meaning to what we know it as today.
Early office automation began with the introduction of mechanizations – typewriters and adding machines – during the 19th century. As offices grew in size and number, they faced the challenge of managing, maintaining, and scaling workflows. Computerisation resolved the issue, aided by specific workflow and automation software that has helped to provide a competitive advantage.
What is workflow automation?
Workflow automation (and task-specific automation software) allows you to set up certain processes within your workflow, to happen automatically. It’s especially useful for repetitive tasks and generally uses project-specific workflows as the basis for the automated operation.
Automations augment manual workloads, reduce human error, and remove time-consuming tasks that don’t require human intervention. The removal of those tasks lets you better use the ‘gained’ time, to solve more challenging issues and help drive revenue.
Automations can also help your workflows run smoother, by acting as an IT bridging tool. This means the automation software can join together processes that run across different tools and departments. Currently, the term ‘workflow automation’ is used to denote modern, low-code tools that allow anyone to streamline their digital tasks.
Origins of workflow management
The history of workflow management dates back more than 200 years, to the Industrial Revolution. Despite the tools having altered, the foundational principles of workflow remain unchanged: to streamline processes, improve productivity and increase efficiency.
The concept of workflow and its management can be traced back to two mechanical engineer pioneers, Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt. They analyzed, organized and tracked work to improve its efficiency, and graphically depicted the subsequent workflows.
Frederick Taylor led the development of an entirely new discipline – industrial engineering or scientific management. From the 1880s onwards he found various ways to eliminate redundant processes and make both employees and mechanisations more efficient. Using his ‘scientific’ approach, the managerial functions of planning and coordination were applied – he added a hierarchy of managers between workers and owners – throughout the production process.
In an eerie echo of today’s digital transformation efforts to improve workflow, Taylor believed that a factory manager’s primary goals “... were to determine the best way for the worker to do the job, to provide the proper tools and training, and to provide incentives for good performance.”
Around 1912, Henry Gantt created the Gantt Chart – the methodology and work management tool that still remains in use. The Gantt Chart is a graphical representation of the tasks and work processes needed to plan and manage milestones in any project.
Taylor and Gantt’s combined efforts advanced workflow management to the point where many late Victorian and pre WWI-era infrastructure projects were no longer done on an ad-hoc basis. Instead, they were accurately planned and managed with work, costs and resources apportioned against each project milestone.
Following the application of Taylor and Gantt’s Scientific Management methodologies, the Ford Company continued to trial and succeed in his workflow management practices. From that era, one of the best known examples of an optimized workflow is their 1913 introduction of the assembly line for the production of Ford Model T cars.
This marked the beginning of large-scale workflow organization and management.
The assembly line had been specifically designed for the sequential organization of workers, tools or machines, and parts. Prior to this, people built cars unit-by-unit rather than part-by-part, which took longer, and cost more. By creating a linear process of work, Ford sped up the process of mass-production and transformed the practice of manual labor.
The next major step in workflow management occurred during World War II, when there was a high demand for efficient, organized work methods. Draft registration cards, file systems and classifications of all sorts were required to organize the logistics of people movement, equipment, records and paperwork.
With the advent of computer software in the 70s, workflow (at the time) was just a small feature within an enterprise suite and in many cases, didn’t even have a name. It usually just consisted of a process map or flowchart, without any other functionality.
In the early 80s and 90s, companies saw the potential benefits of defining and refining their internal workflows. It also became apparent that product-oriented processes designed for efficiently making cars, weren’t that efficient (or people-centric) in an office or home. Movements like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma (6σ) soon emerged, to address problems in traditional workflows.
Eventually an entire methodology and software industry emerged (2005), that was dedicated to workflow and business process management (BPM) – where planning was linked with execution. Features and modeling tools helped companies analyze and contrast ‘as-is’ processes in an organization with ‘to-be’ processes, in an effort to make them more efficient.
Workflow management software market size
Workflow management software (WMS) has gained widespread support as businesses attempt to optimize their workflows, as part of digital transformation. WMS is designed to help enterprises automate certain operations and tasks, to better control the monitoring of workflow performance, and free up teams to solve more important issues.
Consequently, the global workflow management system market is growing rapidly – currently accounting for around 40% of the total business process management (BPM) market. In 2020, the global market was valued at $6.9 B, and by 2028 it’s estimated that the global workflow management system market size will reach US$55.35 B, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.6% from 2021 to 2028.
Who was Henry Gantt?
Henry Laurence Gantt (1861–1919) was an American engineer who is best known for the creation of his planning methodology and management tool, the Gantt Chart.
As a scheduling tool, the Gantt chart was employed on major American infrastructure projects including the Hoover Dam. It continues to be utilized in project management and program management.
Gantt’s work primarily focused on the application of quantitative analysis to improve productivity. He was an associate of Frederick Taylor, a promoter of the scientific school of management and his views on worker compensation were forerunners of the human relations school of management.
Ford's Model T output went from 100 cars per day to an astonishing 1,000 a day
Who invented the assembly line?
The assembly line was introduced in 1913, at the Ford Motor Company, after William "Pa" Klann returned from visiting Swift & Company's slaughterhouse in Chicago. There he saw what was referred to as the "disassembly line", where carcasses were butchered as they moved along a conveyor.
The efficiency of one person removing the same piece over and over without moving his location, caught Klann’s attention. The idea was subsequently suggested and implemented on the Model T Ford’s production line.
This new assembly line method reduced the time it took to build a single car from 12 hours to 93 minutes. It also lowered costs, increased wages (through increased productivity), and helped cut the workday from 9 to 8 hours.
Workflow management system market segmentation
Workflow management systems efficiently automate business processes to streamline workflows, improve key performance metrics and increase productivity. The market is broken down:
1. On the basis of type. The workflow management system market is segmented into software and services.
- Software is further segmented into production workflow systems, messaging-based workflow systems, web-based workflow systems, suite-based workflow systems, and other workflow systems.
- Services are further segmented into IT consulting, integration and implementation, and training and development.
2. On the basis of deployment type. The workflow management system market is segmented into cloud and on-premises.
3. On the basis of industry vertical. The rise in the demand from various industry verticals is rapidly escalating with the growth of the market. The workflow management system market is segmented into Banking Financial Services and Insurance, Public sector, Healthcare, Energy and Utilities, Retail, IT and Telecom, Travel and Hospitality, Transportation and Logistics, Education, and others.
Workflow management market leaders
The key leaders in the workflow management market are:
- Xerox Corporation
- Oracle Corporation
- IBM Corporation
- Nintex Global Limited
- Software AG
- Newgen Software Technology
Workflow automation market size
The rising demand for workflow automation is leading to rapid investment in the development of more sophisticated and efficient software. Key companies are focusing on Gartner’s predicted 2022 Tech Trend of Hyperautomation, by providing unified workflows across all the functions of business, including finance workflows, accounting workflows, procurement workflows, and others.
According to Emergen Research, the WorkFlow Automation market size was US$12.02B in 2021 and is expected to witness a revenue CAGR of 23.5% during the forecast period to 2030.
Camunda’s 2020 State of Process Automation Report reports that 97% of IT decision-makers believe process automation is crucial for digital transformation, while 36% of organizations are already implementing business process management software to automate workflows.
Likewise, research undertaken by SalesForce, showed that ninety-five percent of IT and engineering leaders say their organizations are prioritizing workflow automation. Based on the insights garnered, it seems that most users are eager to accelerate digital innovation, with over two-thirds of line-of-business users interested in using low-code tools.
Workflow automation market segmentation
The workflow automation market is broken down similarly to workflow management, with slightly fewer industry verticals.
1. On the basis of type. The workflow automation market is segmented into software and services.
2. On the basis of deployment type. The workflow automation market is segmented into cloud and on-premises.
3. On the basis of end-user industry. The workflow automation market is segmented into Banking, Telecom, Retail, Manufacturing and Logistics, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals, Energy and Utilities, and Other End-user Industries)
Workflow automation market leaders
Businesses are turning to automation to find more opportunities to connect with customers and reduce escalating employee workloads. With this growth in interest comes intense competition, whereby the Workflow Automation Market consists of only a few major players:
- IBM Corporation
- Software AG
- Oracle Corporation
- Pegasystems Inc.
- Xerox Corporation
- Appian Corporation
These companies leverage strategic collaborations to increase their market share and profitability.
Trends shaping the growth of workflow and automation
It’s anticipated that the software and cloud segments of workflow management are on target to be the fastest-growing markets from 2021 to 2028.
Software growth is primarily due to organizational upsizing and digital transformation – where they’re having to handle larger volumes of data and additional functionalities. The growing preference for cloud deployment is due to its flexibility, real-time software updates, and work-from-anywhere capabilities.
In order to support their drive for increased efficiency, organizations are integrating application software like customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise content management (ECM). This is expected to drive the growth in both the workflow management and automation markets.
It’s always helpful to know what's ahead and the technologies involved. Currently, there’s six trends affecting workflow management and workflow automation:
- No-code and low-code apps
- AI, robotics and machine learning
- Ease of cross-stack integrations
- Automation-as-a-Service (AaaS)
Workflow and automation rich text editor advantage
The positive effects of workflow management and automation are clear. Henry Ford recognised the benefits and implemented wholesale changes across his factory floors to maximize the flow-on effect for his business and workers. But what else affects the implementation of a workflow system, automations or upgrades within an organization? The rich text editor that’s embedded in the workflow software.
Integrating the best Workflow editor components in your tech stack can help you achieve your efficiency, productivity and output goals.
A WYSIWYG editor experience reduces content creation time by 90%. Over a year, your users could save thousands of hours in their workflow.
Maximize developer output
Comprehensive documentation and customizability allows developers to mold rich text editor components into a CRM solution that perfectly fits their needs – saving up to six months' of developer time for each new feature.
A WYSIWYG editor creates an experience that’s loved by users – with many reporting 85% increases in engagement and readability.
The workflow and automation trends you need to track
Prior to digital transformation, companies relied on traditional management methods that involved human interventions which slowed processes, increased errors and reduced efficiency.
With the need for rapid digitalization and streamlining, organizations are focusing on workflow management tools to help them identify redundancies, track uncompleted tasks, and strategic priorities.
Workflow and Automation Trend 1
The automation of manual work is creating significant services, software, network and hardware opportunities.
Hyperautomation is a trending strategy that enables organizations to amplify the automation of their business processes, across organizational boundaries. It’s linked to the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning (see Trend #3) and no-code tools (see Trend #2) to:
- Expedite and scale manual tasks
- Increase operational efficiency and accuracy
- Reduce errors
Coined by Gartner and included in their Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2002, “Hyperautomation is a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. It requires the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools and platforms, including Robotic Process Automation (RPA), low-code platforms and process mining tools.”
Workflow and Automation Trend 2
No-code or low-code apps
People want the ability to quickly integrate apps into their existing tech stack, and no-code apps are perfect for rapid scaling, business continuity, and ease of deployment.
Workflow software that incorporates the use of minimal or no coding, makes process automation more accessible across an entire organization. It democratizes technology by expanding and empowering non-IT professionals to discover and apply specialized skills beyond their expertise.
Zapier, the archetype automation app, surveyed no-code tool users and found:
- 82% of no-code users started using no-code tools during the pandemic
- 90% of no-code users think their company has been able to grow faster due to its no-code usage
- 76% of no-code users use no-code tools for their own personal projects
- 85% of no-code users plan to use no-code tools more in the next year
While Gartner’s Top Trends for Tech Providers for 2022: The Democratization of Technology report, predicts that by 2024 80% of technology products and services will be built by ‘citizen developers’ who are not full-time technical professionals.
Workflow and Automation Trend 3
AI, robotics and machine learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has firmly taken its place in both operational and strategic business processes. So much so, that it’s hard to imagine a future without its use.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is already being used to automate routine, manual tasks to help reduce errors and increase speed. It supports you, so you can perform more useful, productive, and valuable work. It’s likely that RPA’s ability will be enhanced, to observe and learn from human patterns, and then optimize both front- and back-office experiences.
Likewise, machine learning is poised to revolutionize workflow, helping to enable companies to trigger new processes, reroute running processes and make action recommendations based on predictions.
Workflow and Automation Trend 4
McKinsey’s ‘Next in Personalization 2021 Report’ revealed that “Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And seventy-six percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen”.
Integrating the best Workflow and Automation HTML editor components in your tech stack can help you achieve your goal of personalized touches that build deeper customer relationships. In many cases, using the best technology can also increase the engagement with and quality of the outputs from your automated workflows.
WYSIWYG HTML text editor essentials for personalized communication
A WYSIWYG editor includes easy to use, feature-rich options that enhance users ability to personalize communication and create deeper engagement:
- Clean, modern interface: a sleek intuitive UI that speeds up work and blends into your app
- Clean, accurate copy-paste: content from Word, Excel, or GDocs that replicates its source, without breaking the underlying code or needing developer bug-fixes
- Ability to limit toolbar options: able to hide or disable options like HTML editing, font formatting, and font sizes to prevent straying from the default style formats defined, so your users aren’t distracted and content is clean inside your database
- Compliance checking: if accessibility is imperative for compliance, ensure your editor automatically spots and suggests fixes for issues before the content is published
- Multi-language spell checking compatibility: the ability to add your product and brand terms to ensure all content creators spell and capitalize them correctly – and in the same dialect (for example, British English) - across regions
- Templates: reusable, predesigned templates with your brand styles so that users can easily insert predefined content into your app (time saver)
- Easily pull styling and formatting: take formatting from another paragraph, document, or page and apply it to your selected text
- Mentions and Comments: deepen engagement and collaboration, particularly among remote teams or teams with time zone differences
- Merge tags: open up opportunities to personalize communications at scale, generating a piece of content once and personalizing it for 10 or 10,000 people
- Optimized outputs for desktop and mobile
Workflow and Automation Trend 5
Ease of cross-stack integrations
The accelerated rate of change in technology brings challenges. With rapid change comes rapid obsolescence, so it’s important to use solutions that play well with other tech stack components, and the proliferation of automation apps have shown the way.
Modern workflow management software and components are usually capable of some form of integration via either a direct connection or import/export across tools.
However the most reliable means is the use of well documented APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) – making system integrations possible (legacy or new), and facilitating easy integration between workflow and automation app components, like your rich text editor.
WYSIWYG HTML text editor essentials for cross-stack integration
- Well documented APIs
- Full source code access for endless customizations
- Availability of (core) open source software that's extensible with advanced features
- Ability to work with emerging digital technologies such as web-native apps and systems.
WORKFLOW AND AUTOMATION TREND 6
In its 2021 State of Business Automation report, Zapier found that 88 percent of small and medium-sized businesses say that automation helps them compete with larger corporations. Plus, 65 percent of knowledge workers say their stress levels are lower as a result of automating mundane tasks.
Automation-as-a-service (AaaS) is gaining popularity – but not yet full acceptance – as a critical way to deliver intelligent automation. Deloitte's research showed that 64% of respondents already use some form of AaaS, most often for end-to-end development, followed by management and maintenance of automations, the development of automations.
Future of workflow automation
Since the Industrial Revolution, work has become increasingly complex. The introduction of Ford’s moving assembly line marked a turning point in mass manufacturing, along with the introduction of workflow management.
Efficient workflows unlock time and resources so they’re able to be better utilized.
Those redirected assets go on to create greater value and improved experiences, just as they did for the workers queuing outside on a cold January morning in 1914.
Marketing Communications Manager
Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.
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