Workflow Automation

Drive world-class performance through workflow automation

Smart workflow automation isn’t necessarily effective automation. In fact, many smart automation initiatives turn out to be quite unintelligent. This is typically the result of business leaders’ lack of understanding of the differences in the capabilities and suitability of smart technologies. Frequently, leaders are misled by vendors’ claims that workflow automation is an easy, DIY project. Investments in non-integrated applications result in a project focus that is too narrow and that targets one-off workflows rather than broader sets of processes that can streamline and transform operations.

The Hackett Group® can help. As a leading global strategy and operations consulting firm, we offer acclaimed expertise in performance benchmarking and business process change. Our automation teams help customers identify primary targets for automation, assess suitability, select technology and implement workflow automation solutions that help to deliver world-class performance.

What is smart workflow automation?

Smart workflow automation differs from traditional business automation solutions in several ways.

  • It is more agile and can easily adapt to changes in business demand.
  • Smart workflow automation is faster and more economical to develop, deploy and maintain.
  • It is not specific to a function or process, allowing it to be flexible enough to address multiple problem sets across most processes.
  • It is modular, which allows organizations to start with smaller projects, automating a particular element and then integrating others elements to build functionality and scale.
  • It manages and direct work between and among both manual and digital labor
  • Smart workflow automation is owned, led and driven by the business rather than IT, with no-code or low-code solutions that put automation at the fingertips of a wider range of business users.

Workflow automation with The Hackett Group

The Hackett Group is an intellectual property-based strategic consultancy that supports digital transformation with leading benchmarking services and a deep understanding of best practices. Our broad range of services include business strategy, talent management, strategic sourcing, third-party risk management and enterprise cloud application implementation.

To identify how workflow automation can improve productivity and achieve cost savings, we work with clients to deconstruct workflows into component tasks and processes that allow for targeted analysis of a potential return on investment. To evaluate the importance of a workflow automation opportunity, we break workflows down into three types of work.

  • Structured workflows apply prescribed rules, methods or scripts to clearly defined inputs that are accompanied by well-defined outcomes.
  • Knowledge workflows involve the acquisition or application of knowledge for creating, conceptualizing and decisioning tasks. These workflows have inputs with significant variations that require institutional context and knowledge when performing actions. Expected outcomes of these inputs may not be well-defined.
  • Interaction workflows involve business functions that require interpersonal communication between staff members and internal customers, external customers, external service providers or regulators.

Most workflows are a mix of structured, knowledge and interaction work. After analyzing each workflow, we help determine the suitability of smart automation technologies for each workflow and aggregate information to estimate the total potential benefits of automation. This approach focuses on analyzing work rather than automating roles, which is a narrower plan of attack that limits and isolates potential benefits.

Best practices for workflow automation

When automating workflow and implementing intelligent automation technologies, we offer five high-level recommendations designed to improve the likelihood of success and the effectiveness of automation projects.

Start with education

Educate business leaders about smart automation tools’ applicability, challenges and limitations. Many leaders are unaware of the difference between unattended versus attended automation, for example, or the capabilities of different automation technologies like RPA, AI, orchestration and data capture.

Set expectations

It’s important to establish realistic expectations on applicability, outcomes and time-to-value. Expectations for workflow automation are often inflated by vendors who tout how easy their products are to deploy and how amazing the results will be. In reality, automation can’t improve problematic workflows – it just speeds them up. Organizations must shift their focus from “What processes can be automated?” to “How can we improve processes to provide a better customer experience?”

Take a holistic approach

Automating individual tasks or narrow workflows will deliver results that are relatively low in value. Thinking more holistically about how these tools can be applied across enterprise processes rather than to individual siloed tasks will help the company make better decisions faster, be more responsive to customers and improve cash flow.

Include IT

Involving the IT department ensures that workflow projects have the discipline, analysis, design and control required for successful implementation and maintenance over time. If IT isn’t available to evolve the automation as technologies change over time, the automation may break, and critical processes may fail.

Ensure proper support

Successful automation projects require dedicated resources and leadership at an enterprise level.  To prevent projects from being underfunded, ignored or abandoned, it’s important to tell a strong story about the potential business impact that workflow automation can have on the business.

Why choose The Hackett Group?

The Hackett Group is an intellectual property-based strategic consultancy and an enterprise benchmarking firm to global companies. Our services are based on knowledge and best practices drawn from unparalleled IP developed through more than 26,000 benchmark studies with the world’s leading businesses. Our offerings include a broad array of advisory programs, consulting services, exclusive assets and technologies – from business strategy consulting and digital application managed services to strategic sourcing, human capital management, process mining and more.

With The Hackett Group, organizations implementing workflow automation can benefit from:

  • Proprietary insight. From insightful benchmarking data and proven intellectual property, we offer resources that help organizations pursue world-class performance.
  • Deep experience. Through a broad variety of implementations of client solutions, we have developed the knowledge and experience to establish customized solutions for any business.
  • Faster time to value. Our database of empirically proven best practices, performance metrics and implementation tools help organizations to accelerate deployment of solutions, technologies, and programs.


What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation uses technology to automatically perform a series of processes without requiring human intervention or manual work.

What are the benefits of workflow automation?

Workflow automation enables processes to be completed with greater accuracy, fewer costs and FTEs, and in a fraction of the time required for manual processes. Because every action can be easily logged, automated workflows improve compliance and transparency. Workflow automation frees employees from repetitive, routine tasks, helping to improve retention and worker happiness. Ultimately, automation helps to improve the experience of customers by delivering products and services with fewer errors and delays.

What is workflow automation vs. robotic process automation?

While workflow automation focuses on automating processes, robotic process automation focuses on automating individual tasks. Workflow automation may incorporate robotic process automation as it automates the tasks and processes involved in a specific workflow.