Maximize Your Workflow with Electronic Content Management
The Business Dictionary defines workflow as a “progression of steps (tasks, events, interactions) that comprise a work process, involve two or more persons, and create or add value to the organization's activities. In a sequential workflow, each step is dependent on (the) occurrence of the previous step; in a parallel workflow, two or more steps can occur concurrently.
Success Agency says that poor or inefficient workflow causes…missed deadlines, low morale, angry customers, lost revenue and regulatory issues. Business Processes make up your workflow and determine whether…your workflow is efficient.
Wikipedia defines Business Processes as a collection of related, structured activities or tasks by people …which in a specific sequence…serves a particular business goal for a particular customer or customers. Business processes occur at all organizational levels and may or may not be visible to the customers.
How Many Business Goals Does the Typical Organization Have?
Okay, there is no “typical” organization, and goals will vary from company to company. For instance, Clear Point Strategy lists 56 Strategic Objectives, while Small Business Chronicles lists 10 but let’s look at four of the most common and very broad business goals:
- Being profitable
- Providing products or services that customers want
- Hiring and retaining employees
- Maintaining a healthy cash flow
Determine the Necessary Business Processes to Reach a Goal
Starting with one of the stated business goals, maintaining a healthy cash flow, consider how many different business processes might go into that one goal. It will include any processes related to getting or spending money – the sales process, the purchasing process, the accounts payable process – to name just three. Let’s start with something simple, like the accounts payable process.
Most organizations want to pay invoices on time in order to:
- maintain a good credit rating -- business credit is an asset and considered an economic resource that makes up the financial foundation of a company
- take advantage of prompt payment discounts -- a 2% early payment discount is the equivalent of a 36% reduction in annual interest rate.
- avoid interest charges on unpaid balances -- It costs $11.76 to process a single paper invoice and interest charges only increase this amount.
Example: A Typical Accounts Payable Process
Remember, from our definition above, Business Processes (related, structured activities or tasks) make up your workflow. Here’s a typical Invoice Paying Process:
- Invoice arrives at the organization that must pay. It may arrive via email, postal mail, facsimile, etc.
- The accounts payable clerk ensures that the document is indeed an invoice.
- Then the clerk classifies and sorts the invoice into various categories. The definition of various categories is not always the same across different organizations but is normally defined by each organization.
- Once its category defined, the invoice is forwarded to the person responsible for that particular invoice (normally the person who placed that order).
- If there has been a purchase order involved when placing that order, the invoice is matched against the purchase order to ensure that the amount invoiced is correctly stated on the invoice.
- If the amount is right and the goods have arrived, the responsible person will approves the invoice by signing off on it.
- If the amount invoiced exceeds an amount that is limited by the organization, the superior of that person also may have to approve the invoice.
- Once the invoice has been approved and there have been no variances, the invoice is posted into the accounting system.
These 8 processes, or tasks make up the Accounts Payable Workflow. Now consider this:
A manual invoice process can sometimes exceed 15 steps
before the final posting is done!
This is a workflow that is ripe for maximizing through the use of ECM and automated workflow! Here's an eBook you might want to download: Improve Office Efficiency with A/P Automation
How to Maximize a Workflow
According to Small Business Chronicles, To streamline work processes and improve workflow, assess the entire operation from top to bottom, looking for areas of improvement. They list five steps to help you get started:
- Assess Existing Processes
- Analyze Results
- Prioritize Key Areas of Focus
- Automate and Streamline
- Prepare to Adjust
The efficiency of any office or production operation depends on workflow. The better a manager clearly defines a regular process, the more efficient his team becomes. This saves overall employee time, making the team more effective and able to do more with less stress or frustration. At the end of the day, efficiency leads to bigger bottom-line profits. To streamline work processes and improve workflow, assess the entire operation from top to bottom, looking for areas of improvement.
In our accounts payable example, it’s relatively easy to see how inefficient the 8-step manual process described above is. What’s not as easy to see is all of things that can go wrong in this manual process –
misplaced invoices and purchase orders, delays in processing causing missed prompt pay discounts, missing signatures and more.
Start by Automating
Maximizing a workflow starts with automation and the right ECM provides the platform that enables automation for accounts payable and every other document-based workflow process within your organization.
By automating, you avoid repetitive tasks like filing, retrieving, sending, and copying. They system takes care of this for you. Each document moves through a chain of tasks and approvals and until the work is completed. This allows the unique needs and goals of your organization to shape new workflows. Because of the clarity and automation of the digital system, you recover both time and energy (and therefore money).
An ECM a ensures accountability for your employees, guarantees security for your documents, and contains all compliance measures your company requires. Workflow automation is a powerful tool in the ECM that enables organizations of all sizes and in all industries to get more work done faster, with fewer people and lower costs.
ECM and automated workflow enable employees to work at their highest capabilities while bridging the gaps in communication. With employees working at their highest capabilities and your business aligned from top-to-bottom, you create a business that is ramped for success with a workforce that is engaged, productive and loyal.
Paper Alternative Solutions provides ImageSilo Cloud ECM and all scanning, workflow automation plus AI and RPA.