Workflow – Improving Business Processes
Workflow is the process of automating business tasks. Just as an assembly line in a warehouse keeps things moving and improves the rate of production, workflow increases the production rate in business processes.
Every department of a company can utilize automated procedures. As an example, let us look at an invoicing process that is paper based.
- The invoice arrives in the mail
- Staff receives the document in their inbox
- They make a copy of it that gets sent to their manager
- The manager receives it and then approves, sending yet another copy to another manager
- This next manager approves it and sends along a copy to a CFO
- The CFO receives and approves it
This is not only a lot of paper for one invoice, but the entire process is time consuming. How can automation be brought into play to increase efficiency in this process?
- The invoice arrives and this time, is scanned into the system
- Since it is an electronic file, it is instantly accessible to all authorized users, taking much less time to traverse the entire process
Only your imagination is the limit as to how the efficiency of your business processes can by increased by utilizing workflow. Just try to think of every type of document you interact with, to get an idea. In this example, a document scanner was all that was needed to optimize a business process.
Other examples could involve processing a loan or student enrollment. Whatever it is, there are people involved and steps that need taken to complete the process. These processes get much more complicated as a business grows. Things get lost while others are duplicated across departments. This leads to a lot of waste in time and money.
The other large part of a business process is technology, which can be either a hindrance or a positive difference maker.
Optimizing Business Processes – Technology & Workflow
Here are some tips on integrating technology with your businesses processes to maximize efficiency.
- Get organized and use the same filing approach with both your paper and electronic documents. If you have both types, be sure that your information, in whatever form it takes, is available instantly
- Work towards going paperless. Take a look at your processes and see if converting to an electronic format would be a clear upgrade, as in the invoicing process example
- Take special note of records that involve copies. Technology can be used to greatly discourage redundancy in records management
Security of Your Records
An electronic document management solution is a great way to ensure that you records are kept safe and in multiple ways.
- A natural, cost saving backup of all of your information that protects you with disaster recovery, with no interruption in your workflow
- Defined user roles – control who interacts with each document
- Transparency – know both where all of your information is located and who interacted with it and when
Everything starts with identifying the business processes in your organization that exhibit bottleneck behavior in relation to access to information. It can appear confusing initially, how technology can be applied to solve these problems. Just keep in mind that you are not changing the way you file your records. You are changing the storage and access medium instead.
If you are thinking about using an electronic solution that will handle both paper and your current electronic records, it might be best to transition into an eventual full solution. You could start with imaging your paper records. Then, when you are in full electronic form, address the next step on your priority list of making them all work together in an organized fashion.