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On its surface, the concept of automation brings forth images of robotic arms on production lines and superficial emails that are more irritating than useful. But on closer scrutiny, automation is really just a better way of organising repetitive tasks to give you more time to focus on what you do best - delivering exceptional training. Here’s a quick overview of workflow automation and how it’s used in vocational education.
Workflow automation is more than just using email-based or cloud-based technology in place of paper-based systems. Workflow automation allows companies to streamline their business processes primarily in three ways; their people, their processes and their content. At all times, the outcome is coordination of the activities of different sections of the business — such that at the right time the right person gets the right information about what needs to be done and in what order. And it’s all accountable.
When work is flowing in an automated system, you can concentrate on getting more done and focus on the things that matter - providing quality training and ensuring compliance with the regulatory authority! Workflow automation allows training organisations to spend less time on the processes that support the work and more time on the actual work itself.
Imagine a VET-accredited training business trying to conduct a Cert IV competency assessment for a student in a practical exam. Using traditional educational administrative technologies, the teacher might be required to register the student’s attendance, evaluate performance and then register the student’s grade with other administrative personnel. The admin team might be responsible for issuing a grade to the student, or invoicing the student for the expense of the completed course. In turn, the student must receive his or her invoice and must make arrangements to pay.
As long as different personnel or divisions of the company are doing separate tasks, there is the very real risk that one or multiple aspects of this student’s attempt could be mis-recorded or not recorded at all. Therein lies the attraction of a workflow automation system designed to capture all aspects of the student’s engagement with the training provider simultaneously.
Workflow automation may seem like such a big undertaking, and it’s easy to assume technology like that is unattainable. But in all reality, that’s far from the case. Workflow automation is not only easy to attain … but it can improve processes you never even thought to improve before.
Workflow automation allows training providers to automate continuous and scheduled tasks, from simple to complex actions, including:
An automated system will perform an action based on a ‘trigger'. The trigger may be a date, time, event, status or schedule. If only a single action is performed in response to a trigger, it is called a single-step automated workflow.
Sometimes a particular task will involve more than one action. For example, you may want to generate a report and then send different notifications to clients based on the report results. When a series of actions are involved, it is called a multi-step automated workflow.
Let’s take an example to see how multi-step automation can work for a training organisation:
Manage student payment plans using report-output task automation
Precision, order and beauty - don’t you just love a formal garden? Whether it's a garden, the stock market or a training organisation, a system functions optimally for the benefit of users when it operates in an efficient and resilient manner. (Yup, even gardens have automated tasks to ensure their survival! Anyone forgot to water the lawn?).
In 2017 there was an estimated 4.2 million students enrolled in VET with an Australian training provider and 29 million subject enrolments. Just imagine the thousands of hours needed to support this student-body and teaching staff as well as support roles like administration, library services, human resource management, marketing, finance and compliance. With the volume and complexity of tasks involved, it is surprising to find some RTOs still relying on manual processes or home-grown systems for this ‘behind the scenes’ work.
To secure your business and your sanity - workflow automation is a hedge that pays. Different workflow programs offer different levels of interoperability. Whichever workflow system is selected, employees must be trained to a competent level on workflow software. To fit the fluidity of modern technology, it should be cloud-based automation, as this allows employees to contribute and engage with the software from any location, and means that valuable data governing the operation of your business can’t be destroyed or lost by physical damage.
Just as the latest technology has been embraced in classrooms to equip students in the use of state of the art tools and resources that are required in modern workplaces, training organisations need to take advantage of available technology to update internal processes. Workflow automation is the key to this evolution.