Do you find yourself spending time trying to figure out what happened to a customer’s order? Interested in keeping staffing counts stable while growing revenue? Do your auditors want to see the details of how transactions were processed, including approval signatures? We all want to increase efficiency, and are often becoming more customer-driven. Many of us have compliance requirements as well.
Organizations typically rely on a combination of major systems and manual transactions that are done off system. Few have a reliable, quick way of accessing the history of transactions, approval processes and communication between departments that span the various systems. Workflow software automates processes by moving a task through different stages of a process. Think of it as sending the task through a series of in-boxes, some of which belong to systems and some to people.
These “processes” or “workflows” can get very complex, with large decision trees and detailed tasks to be performed. Some examples:
- Customer service calls need to record details about the call and any follow up. If the call is not complete, the “queue” of open calls needs to be reviewed and worked. Normally, customer service reps have several applications they need to switch between. Instead, for example, a resolution of “request service” can automatically create a ticket in the maintenance system.
- Customer applications (e.g. loans, insurance) have a significant amount of data that needs to be collected and retained. The old process of having paper files required moving the file to each level of approver. Having the information online reduces turnaround time for approvals and can reassure a customer by showing where his application is in the process.
- Internal processes. How many of you find that new employees don’t get equipment or security access on time, are missing their name plate or aren’t set up in payroll? Employee hires and terminations are great processes to automate as they usually involve several departments whose tasks can happen simultaneously. Companies are notoriously lax with terminations in making sure physical and system access has been removed, equipment returned and HR exit interview is completed.
The benefits of implementing workflow software include:
- Faster turnaround times.
- Eliminate the issue of paper files sitting on the desk of someone busy or on vacation.
- Upon approval, automatically move to the next step in the process.
- Focus personnel on handling exceptions rather than reviewing each task by auto-approving “normal” cases based on whatever criteria is appropriate for your business.
- Better documentation.
- Have a central place to look for what happened when and see images of the relevant documents. Many systems keep only parts of the transaction making it difficult to see an overview from start to finish.
- Increase cross training capabilities. The software moves processes from people’s heads onto a shared platform.
- Standardization of process.
- Standardize so the most efficient process is used consistently.
- Be able to defend the process against accusations of special treatment or discrimination.
- Be able to show proof to an auditor (or court) that a process happened, including the who, what and when of it.
- Reduce audit prep time and auditor time since the information is readily available and access can be granted on an inquiry only basis to the audit team.
Workflow software shortens the turnaround time of many processes, gives personnel immediate access to the status of processes in your organization and satisfies many audit requirements. As the economy continues its recovery, keep your expenses constant as your revenue grows by reducing the amount of time it takes to handle transactions and being able to focus employees on exceptions.
About The Guest Author: Laura Pettit Rusick provides strategic technology counsel to CEOs at small and mid-sized organizations. Her company, OPT Solutions, helps them enable growth, reduce costs and improve efficiency by optimizing business processes and technology. For those interested in benefiting from business process efficiency projects, sign up to receive the PDF “Ten Critical Success Factors for Optimizing Business Processes“. Laura’s website is http://www.optsolutionsinc.com. You can also follow Laura on Twitter @OPTSolutions.
This is a great article on what all business should strive for. Automated processes make everyone’s lives simpler and makes it easier to analyze business processes.
Excellent article, Laura!
“The software moves processes from peopleâ€™s heads onto a shared platform.” I’m really glad you gave voice to this, as it is something that is often overlooked, people regularly underestimate how much is actually taking place in their own heads (or the heads of others), and sometimes people even actively resist moving it to a shared platform due to a sense of loss of control. However, moving this to a shared platform is really the only reliable way to ensure consistency, quality, efficiency, etc. in workflow.
“As the economy continues its recovery, keep your expenses constant as your revenue grows by reducing the amount of time it takes to handle transactions and being able to focus employees on exceptions.” I think this is an incredibly prescient (and important) point to make considering today’s market. The recovery holds enormous opportunity for organizations that can reduce (or keep constant) their expenses and improve efficiencies through better workflow.
Thanks again for the article. It was a great read!
Thank you, Eric and Michael!