Cloud-based workflow management can have a dramatic impact on the productivity and efficiency on any organization. In some cases you may be replacing manual processes with an automated system. In other cases you may be moving from a legacy application like SharePoint or Lotus with limited workflow capabilities. In either case great things will happen. Here are five results you can expect.
More Focus on Core Responsibilities
Companies that automate workflow to make their front-line workers more efficient quickly discover an additional benefit. Front-line workers have more time to devote to strategic, value-add tasks that are actually part of their core responsibilities. For instance, a finance manager who no longer has to spend 30-40% of their time manually handling expense requests can now focus that time on performing analytics to identify spending patterns and making strategic recommendations. These kinds of activities have a direct impact on improving cash flow.
More Availability for Projects
Not only does staff have more time for core responsibilities, they can now take on strategic projects that have long been sitting on the back burner. When a marketing team automates the internal collateral ordering process, a marketing manager who has been dealing with several collateral requests from the sales team each day can finally tackle organizing the collateral library and addressing any content gaps. Projects like these improve the quality of services and work.
According to a 2012 study “Most knowledge workers lose about 28 per cent of their day or 2.1 hours a day to constant interruptions.” You’d probably agree this is actually a little low. When email is used as a replacement for an actual workflow management system there are a multitude of inefficiencies that need to be addressed.
For instance, how often does your company send emails like these?
- “Hey, can you review this document?”
- “What do I need to submit a project request?”
- “What’s the status of the new hire?”
- “I need access to the network drive right away!”
Plus, every one of the emails listed above spawn a minimum of 3-4 subsequent emails:
- “What’s this document for exactly?”
- “What kind of project are you planning to submit?”
- “The paperwork was submitted for the new hire but I’m not sure who has it. Email Bob about it.”
- “Which network drive? Do you have approval from Fred?”
With a workflow management system, all emails like these immediately disappear from everyone’s inboxes reducing interruptions and unnecessary email communication. We can all do with having less email conversations like that!
In the example above about a new hire’s status, clearly there is no “new hire tracking” system in place. If there were, the question would easily be answered by the hiring manager checking in the company portal and seeing what stage of the process that particular hire is in. Not only is that great for the hiring manager but it’s great for HR because they have much better accountability. The HR supervisor can see where new hires are bottlenecking in the hiring process and address it with the responsible staff member.
This goes for every department using workflow but probably most notably in Finance. While it’s critical to identify and correct bottlenecks in Finance processes, it’s even more critical to provide accountability in the form of compliance audits. Auditors need to confirm a Finance group can provide audit trails for all financial transactions. Workflow management provides detailed audit trails that auditors can easily sign off on.
Faster Response Times
We’ve heard stories of customers reducing response times from weeks to days once they’ve implemented workflow mangement. That’s understandable when you consider that workflow automation changes the nature of how information flows through the organization. With it, every request:
- Goes to the right person(s)
- Contains the right information
- Gets tracked
There’s serious power and efficiency in that combination. Imagine the opposite scenario. Where many requests:
- Go to the wrong person
- Contain the wrong information
- Are completely invisible
Unfortunately, this scenario is all to common.
When there are multiple steps/paths in a process, these inefficiencies propagate exponentially and increase wait times dramatically. By automating processes, additional steps and approvals add minimal time to the process.
More Accurate Data
Workflow automation not only enforces a structure for requests by using standard forms, it reduces data re-entry. Every time data needs to be re-entered into another system, the risk of data inconsistency increases. By storing data in a system of record that simply moves it from person to person or system to system, the likelihood for errors to be made reduces.