Workflow automation: How it works and why it’s helpful

Atlassian By Atlassian
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Workflow automation has emerged to meet the need for streamlined operations and improved decision-making. Automation enhances efficiency, reduces errors, and frees human resources for more strategic tasks. Tailored automation strategies can address specific operational challenges, improving productivity and customer satisfaction.

This comprehensive guide discovers what workflow automation is, how it works, the benefits of its use, and the reasons to leverage Jira's robust automation capabilities. We explore how automating repetitive tasks streamlines operations and significantly enhances decision-making processes across organizations. By understanding the features to look for in workflow automation solutions and incorporating Jira's diverse functionalities, businesses can unlock unprecedented efficiency and productivity.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is the approach to automating various business processes, tasks, and workflows in a company with minimal human intervention. Workflow automation leverages software to create a series of automated actions for the steps in a business process, which helps teams execute tasks efficiently and consistently.

How workflow automation works

Workflow automation uses task management software to route tasks and information between people and systems based on predefined rules and triggers. For example, when one system marks a task complete, the automation can automatically send it to the subsequent assignee and update dashboards. This saves time over manual handoffs and minimizes errors.

Follow these steps to start:

  1. Understand the current workflow by gathering information on how tasks flow among teams. Focus on understanding how projects kick-off, the criteria used to complete a task, the scope of work, and how bottlenecks arise. Determine what triggers each task to start and change.
  2. Outline the workflow visually to identify inefficiencies. Build a draft workflow outline to highlight breakdown points. Allow cross-functional teams to collaborate to improve the draft and pinpoint wasteful practices.
  3. Identify tasks that require integrating data from other systems and ensure workflow software supports these. Consider adjusting the workflow to meet integration requirements, such as splitting tasks into smaller subtasks.
  4. Address workflow inefficiencies, including communication breakdowns and overdue tasks. Examples include adding task accountability measures or clarifying which system information should flow.
  5. Build the workflow in workflow automation software, describing each task and assigning user roles. Based on team needs, provide visibility through Gantt charts, process maps, calendars, etc..
  6. Create automated triggers and actions to streamline recurring tasks. Customize automation recipes based on unique needs or rely on pre-built options.
  7. Continuously test and optimize the automated workflow to resolve issues. Establish performance metrics and key performance indicators to monitor efficiency. Use dashboards to maintain high-level visibility into progress and blockers.
  8. Train the team in using the new automated workflow through hands-on demonstrations. Prepare teams for process changes and workflow optimizations with change management plans.

Examples of workflow automation

The versatility of workflow automation is apparent across various industries, including: 

Healthcare: From streamlining patient registration using electronic forms to automating appointment scheduling and medication management, workflow automation enhances efficiency and patient care.

Banking: Task management software automates loan processing, improves fraud detection, ensures compliance, and enhances customer service through automated account management.

Logistics: Streamline ordering, inventory, transportation, quality control, and document management.

Retail: Optimize inventory management, order processing, customer service, and store operations.

Insurance: Streamline claims processing, underwriting, compliance, customer service, and fraud detection. 

Real estate: Improve property management, transaction management, lead management, and inspection processes.

Manufacturing: Utilize workflows to ensure quality assurance, manage production processes, and handle tooling manufacturing efficiently.

Benefits of workflow automation

Workflow automation offers a multitude of benefits across business operations. It significantly enhances efficiency and productivity to ensure continuous improvement. Here are some key benefits of workflow automation:

Increased efficiency

Automating repetitive tasks enables employees to focus on more strategic work, increasing overall productivity. Automated processes complete tasks faster and can operate around the clock, significantly increasing efficiency.

Error reduction

Automated workflows minimize human error by ensuring consistent task execution according to predefined rules. This leads to higher accuracy in tasks such as data entry, calculations, and processing. It also reduces the time and resources spent on correcting mistakes.

Collaboration tools

Your task tracker should help facilitate communication and collaboration among team members. These tools provide a platform for dialogue, document sharing, feedback, and coordination. This improves teamwork and overall project success. 

Cost savings

Automating routine tasks reduces the need for manual labor. By minimizing errors, companies save on the costs associated with fixing them. Workflow automation also optimizes resource allocation.

Enhanced collaboration

Workflow automation often has features that promote a collaborative work culture among team members, regardless of their location. Real-time updates, shared workspaces, and automated notifications help keep everyone on the same page. This improves teamwork and enables collaborative meetings.


Workflow automation allows businesses to handle an increasing workload without proportionally increasing their workforce. This supports business growth without compromising quality or efficiency.

Features to look for in workflow automation solutions

Selecting the right workflow automation tool is crucial for achieving the desired benefits. Here are some essential features to consider in workflow automation solutions:

Ease of use

A user-friendly interface and intuitive design are paramount for making sure employees can easily navigate the tool, fostering swift adoption and facilitating a quicker return on investment.

Integration capabilities

Seamless integration with existing systems and applications is vital to ensure smooth data flow between different tools and platforms. It also inhibits data silos and maximizes automated workflows.

Customization and flexibility

The ability to customize workflows according to specific business needs is crucial. A flexible workflow automation tool adapts to your unique operational requirements, securing alignment with strategic objectives.


Workflow automation solutions should handle increasing volumes of work as the business grows. This includes supporting multiple workflows, users, and data without compromising performance or reliability.

Reporting and analytics

Insightful reporting and analytics are indispensable for gauging workflow efficiency. These capabilities highlight improvement areas and enable data-driven decision-making through access to real-time insights.


Automation tools must have robust security measures such as encryption, access controls, and audit logs to protect against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Mobile accessibility

Mobile accessibility is increasingly important, enabling staff to remain productive and workflows to progress smoothly, regardless of geographical location.

Use Jira for workflow automation

Jira's powerful automation engine enables teams to easily automate tasks and processes so that teams can save time, reduce cognitive load, and scale operations. The software helps move projects across the finish line. It supports planning, work definition, and real-time progress tracking to keep projects on track. With Jira, teams can automate their workflows and focus on delivering value while efficiently managing tasks and timelines.

Jira also offers various features to help with project management, including Boards, Issues, Timelines, Dashboards, Reports, and Templates.

  • Boards visually represent your project's progress, allowing for flexible task management within Agile project management frameworks like Scrum and Kanban.
  • Issues enable detailed tracking and management of all work elements within a project, offering customizable workflows to mirror real-life processes accurately.
  • Timelines assist in project planning and visualization of deadlines. Project timelines also ensure alignment with broader project or portfolio objectives.
  • Dashboards offer a customizable overview of key project metrics and statuses, enabling instant insights into progress and challenges.
  • Reports generate valuable data on team performance and project advancement, supporting Agile workflows, methodologies, and continuous improvement.
  • Templates exist for different types of projects, including software development, project management, task tracking, and more. Jira templates come with pre-configured workflows, issue types, and fields to help teams start quickly and adopt best practices.

For detailed descriptions of these features, visit the Jira features page.

Jira task management software makes project management possible for every type of team. Software development teams can use Jira to get a clear understanding of what they’re working on. They can also see how it connects to the bigger picture and what’s coming next. As things change, Jira has the flexibility your team needs to pivot and stay on track to meet your goals.

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Workflow automation: Frequently asked questions

What tasks can you automate with workflow automation software?

Workflow automation software can handle various tasks, including data entry, email marketing campaigns, social media postings, lead nurturing processes, customer service ticketing, and employee onboarding. These tasks typically involve repetitive actions that software can standardize and automate to save time and reduce errors.

What are some challenges of workflow automation?

Common challenges of workflow automation include integrating existing systems, managing change within a company, ensuring data accuracy, and the initial setup and customization of the automation software.

Teams can overcome these challenges by carefully planning implementation, choosing software with robust integration capabilities, providing thorough employee training, and starting with small automation projects.

Can you customize workflow automation for different businesses?

Workflow automation solutions are highly flexible. Teams can customize them to fit the specific needs of various businesses. This flexibility allows companies to tailor the automation rules, workflows, and interfaces to match their unique processes, industry standards, and operational goals and ensure the solution provides maximum benefit.