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The state of workflow technology: Automate or stagnate

May 20, 2020 | Tips

An agile business is a successful business, and any executive would tell you that a company needs to keep a firm eye on what the market is doing in order to stay ahead of the competition. Automation is already here, but its impact on the Australian workforce will create ripple effects for decades to come. Whether or not your business embraces automated workflow technology today could be the difference between success and failure.


Why is workflow so critical?

If cash is oxygen to a business then workflow is its beating heart. The myriad pathways that data must travel in order to complete tasks is essentially endless, and over the centuries the processes to manage workflows have evolved as needed.

Today, with businesses and employees more hyper-connected than ever before, technology is playing a critical role in workflow management – particularly in its effectiveness. Firms that rely on traditional workflow solutions are languishing behind their more tech-savvy competitors, and in the next decade the rise of automation will elevate some organisations while bringing others to their knees.

So the question every business leader must ask themselves is: should we invest in automation today, or keep the purse strings tight and risk stagnating? The answer, predictably, is that automation is essential to your firm’s future.


Firms must embrace automation or risk being left behind

Automation is already changing the way industries operate, and the next decade will be particularly critical. C-suite executives and accounting professionals are already recognising the need for change, as more than half of them (55%) say “the development of intelligent automated accounting systems” will be the biggest game-changer for the industry over the next three to 10 years, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

That figure earns even more clout when you realise the respondents placed automation’s influence above a variety of other crucial factors, such as “greater harmonisation of accounting and business standards” (42%), “adoption of cloud computing by business” (41%) and “different aspirations and expectations of coming generations” (39%).


Key benefits of automation and workflow technology

Accountants, in particular, understand the value of automated workflow technology. Often hampered by repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as invoicing, data entry and template generation, with the right they can be relieved of those duties to spend more time with their clients and focus on more creative, income-generating projects.

And with humans doing fewer repetitive jobs at work, they are shown to become more engaged generally. That’s good news for all practices that adopt automation, as companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competition by 147%.

On a wider level, industries of all types will see benefits from automation. McKinsey reports that automation will take over up to 46% of current work activities, increase the average Australian salary by up to $15,000 by 2030 and add a significant amount – between $170 billion and $600 billion – to the GDP during the same period of time.

While it’s true that automation will eliminate jobs in the coming years – particularly jobs that are easily automated due to repetitive, non-creative tasks (e.g. legal researchers, mechanics, radiologists) – it will also open up a new job market. And, according to the McKinsey research, this market will create demand for workers with greater technological nous and the ability to use their social and emotional skills for more nuanced tasks.


The businesses already reaping the benefits of better workflow tech

Almost every publication with a technology slant is talking about how automation is disrupting industries and the economy at large, but where are the hard statistics – particularly in terms of businesses automating their workflow processes?

IBM set out to find evidence of how automation is improving business operations. In its Reinventing business with automation research paper, the technology giant concluded that organisations that had implemented changes to their workflow management via automation were already reaping serious benefits:

  • PNC Financial Services Group saw an 80% to 90% reduction in loan applications requiring manual reviews following the automation of its business processes and rules.
  • Within just six months, the UK National Health Service Blood and Transplant used a cloud-based automation solution to automate more than 40% of its 96-step heart transplant allocation process.
  • The Carlsberg Group reduced the time it took for back-office personnel to process orders by more than 90% – while also eliminating order errors – thanks to automation technology.


For accounting practices looking to leverage the power of workflow technology, the rewards run the gamut from improved reporting practices, to automated daily work processes, to streamlined education for staff, and even real-time access to a valuable knowledge pool.

Learn more about how workflow can boost your firm’s output and streamline everyday activities by booking a consultation with us today.

APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting Firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.