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5 Common Workflow Fails and How to Solve Them

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5 Common Workflow Fails and How to Solve Them

Automation technologies capture the imaginations of developers in their introduction, but things can soon go awry.

· DevOps Zone ·
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Imagine someone looking around the house and seeing a bunch of mess, dirt, and grime everywhere. He finally decided to do something about it and rushes to the store, buys a vacuum cleaner, unboxes it, tells the rest of the household what it is, and then waits for the house to get clean.

Pretty ridiculous, right?

But how many companies do the same thing when they are trying to solve a solution with software? Just because you have purchased a spic-and-span workflow management system doesn’t mean all your workflow related issues will be fixed at once.

You might have worked hard to find the perfect workflow management software for your organization in terms of functionality, deployment, integration, and cost, but there is still a good chance for the project to fail. There’s no guarantee that all your processes will untangle or that your automated workflows will deliver the expected ROI.

According to a recent KPMG survey, only 42% of process improvement techniques deliver the full ROI. Proper implementation is vital in lining up your processes, streamlining the process flow, and maximizing the ROI. It is essential to avoid errors during the implementation phase.

Here are five workflow automation mistakes you should avoid to keep your workflow management system operating at optimum efficiency.

1. The Half-Implementation

Software implementations start with a lot of hype and excitement. People awe at the ease-of-use and human-centric nature of the tools and wonder at the possibilities.

When a demo is launched, every employee is impressed. On-premise implementation organizations bring in implementation experts to do the groundwork and set up the initial essentials like forms and workflows.

But that’s where things start to deteriorate.

Once the initial set up is done, for a few weeks people insist on trying the new workflow system. After a point of time, the initial reverence fades and people start to look at it as a hindrance rather than hope.

Skimming through the training phase is the quickest route to reach an implementation failure. While management might feel that just investing in software and implementing it might solve all problems, without proper training, workflow automation will turn out to be flakey very soon.


  • Take all employees through a full-blown training program.
  • Ensure that everyone gains the new skills or training they need to adapt to your workflow system.

2. Doing Twice the Work

Another major workflow automation failure is that the system streamlines only the process flow and routing, the rest of the work is still all over the place. Let’s consider the contract approval process, for example.

A good workflow software might monitor sign-off sequences for a contract, but if you need to print the document at each step and sign it manually, it is an epic automation failure. You might end up with a file that says FinalFinalContract3-BrutusVersion4.docx.pdf

It’s similar to the purchase order process where the approval process is taken care of, yet all the data needs to be rekeyed manually into financial software. This is not an automated process.

The same thing happens when a purchase order is approved through a workflow system, but then all the data still has to be manually transferred into your financial software. In these instances, the workflow management systems just become an approval management system that keeps the workflow intact while the actual work is done manually outside the system.


  • Choose an integration-friendly software that keeps data import/export easy.
  • Eliminate data silos and manual reconciliation through API integration.

3. Broken Processes

Trying to automate a broken process will stir up a lot of trouble. When organizations automate a flawed process, it will run awry, slip out of hands, and deliver poor results quicker than you imagine.

Workflow automation can neither streamline nor fix a broken process. If a process is inherently inefficient, it is better to leave it untouched. Digitizing a process without ensuring if or not a process is ready for it will just create chaos and confusion.

Similar to a famous quote by Bill Gates, automation when applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. But automating an inefficient process will only magnify its inefficiency.


  • Analyze a process thoroughly before automating it.
  • Talk to process owners and find out ways to improve it before attempting to digitize it.

4. Side-Stepping

Most of us would prefer to take a familiar path rather than trying out an unknown shortcut even if it saves us a significant amount of time and effort. Similarly, employees might be used to doing things in a certain way and when you implement a new workflow system, their first reaction is to find a way around it.

Be it a senior manager dropping an email for new purchase instead of initiating a request in the workflow tool or an employee who sends a last-minute leave request via a group text rather than apply leave through the workflow system, there will be a few people who come up with crafty ways around the system.

This could be prevented only by educating your employees about the benefits of a fully automated system. While it might be easier to stick to the old way, employees should be made to realize that replacing balding car tires is indispensable.


  • Encourage people to route all requests through the workflow system and reject all manual requests.
  • Simplify the process of workflow initiation and make it easier than workarounds
  • If you need workarounds to complete a specific process, go to the root of the issue, examine the workflow, and come up with ways to improve it
  • Demonstrate workflow automation benefits at each stage and educate employees frequently.

5. The Stale Process

You did a good job in launching your workflow system. Your key users know the ins and outs of the workflow management system. They used their learning to create comprehensive forms and clear workflows. You managed to convince everyone to get on board and adopt the new system and have managed to stay clear of common workarounds.

Will this mean that your work will go on perfectly forever? Not really.

Processes are not set in stone. They keep evolving and workflows need to adapt to those changes. Be it a creation of a new department, or a job, or new software, certain approvals might become trivial as time passes by. Stakeholders might be happy to receive just notification about the status rather than being a process bottleneck.

If you let your workflows stay unchanged for a long time, they might soon become irrelevant, paving the way for workarounds and sidestepping, ultimately leading to total abandon.


  • Review your automated workflows frequently.
  • Encourage process owners to evaluate workflows and spot holdups.

Implementing a Working Workflow Management System

Setting up a workflow management system and digitizing the process flow is seldom easy. There are too many pitfalls and failures to stay clear of. It’s important to realize the workflow automation must make processes orderly and clear rather than causing chaos.

In reality, workflow automation carries a considerable amount of risk. You might be tempted to cut corners and keep some people out of the loop just to launch your workflow management system swiftly.

To prevent epic workflow automation failures at the implementation stage, organizations should take measures to prevent these common workflow automation failures. If organizations manage to offer comprehensive user engagement, carefully-crafted training program, prevent workarounds, and keep their workflows getting moldy they might be on their way to a successful automation.

workflow automation ,tools and technology ,automation ,devops ,anti patterns ,devops solutions

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