I’ve been sharing the value of document management and moving from paper-based offices to digital documents and workflows for over a year now.
The ability to immediately find information is tremendously valuable by itself, and remains the foundational value of document management.
However, once you’ve realized the benefits of finding documents in seconds, there’s no reason to stop there.
Many offices use email as their “workflow” tool. Email is a great tool for communication; it’s not a great tool for improving or streamlining a business process.
Once you’re using document management, it’s time to look into using those documents in your workflows.
Workflow automation is a next step businesses can take to improve their business processes.
Here’s a high-level overview of the steps you’ll take as you automate business processes. Keep in mind that while many business processes are simple workflows and can be automated fairly easily; the more complex a process is, the more planning and resources it will be to automate.
Step 1 -- Map Your Process
Draw out all of the steps in your current process. There are software tools available that can help you drag and drop workflows (and then turn those into processes). You can also go old school and use Post-It notes and a wall or draw it out on a whiteboard. As you map the process, look for opportunities to improve it. Many processes are processes because “that’s just the way we do things” not because they’re the way you SHOULD do things.
Step 2 -- Define the Information Flow
Now that you have a workflow, connect the information based on whether it’s static or entered by the user.
Step 3 -- Identify Roles and Secure the Process
Identify the users who will perform activities and set guidelines for their level of access to the entire process. For regulated industries, be sure to pay attention to laws and regulations to remain in compliance.
Step 4 -- Create and Enforce Business Rules
Provide the exact processes and procedures that will be followed.
Step 5 -- Set Up Alerts
In-process notifications will let users know their assigned and upcoming tasks.
Step 6 -- Evaluate the Process
Review your analytics. Are there any bottlenecks in your processes? Why? Use the data to further tweak and streamline your processes.
Automating your business processes isn’t as scary as you probably think it is. If you’re looking for a productivity lift in your office, automating routine business processes is a great place to start.