Flash back five years, to my first summer internship. On any given day, chances are you could find me hunched over the printer following the directions to unclog the frustrating contraption. Usually about fifteen minutes later, I would finally get the printer to work, after copious amounts of muttered swear words and a few pieces of paper taken as casualties.
Once the document was finally in my hands, I would slap a sticky note on top and write down the names of those I needed to review it. Then I was off to play in-office mail (wo)man. I would physically walk to the document to the first person’s desk and hope they were kind enough to pass it down the line when they were finished. Then the waiting game began. I had no visibility into the review process, or when my document would find its way home. Not to mention the time that would be eaten up if someone was on vacation.
If all the time and effort I put into unclogging the printer and physically walking documents around the office was measured and monetized, I have a feeling the number would be shocking (even with my intern pay). When you stop to think about the time and money that goes into moving information around your company, manually routing really begins to add up. Back then I just saw this as a necessary evil of having multiple steps or reviewers within a process. Now, I know that doesn’t have to be the case.
What is Workflow?
Workflow allows you to do the job you were hired to do and eliminate needless time spent chasing paper. With the implementation of a workflow automation solution, documents can be electronically routed through an organization; in return, it enhances accountability, visibility and mobility. No more fighting with a printer, physically walking a document from desk to desk, or unknown waiting periods.
Increase Accountability: One significant problem with manually routing documents around the office is a lack of urgency and accountability. Just because a document has been placed on someone’s desk, doesn’t mean it will become a top priority. There is a chance that other work will pile up and your document could be forgotten. When a workflow solution is implemented, documents can be routed based on pre-defined business rules. Automatic routing ensures smooth handoffs between users and effective collaboration that allows for the acceleration of critical tasks. With the use of email notifications, gone are the days of forgotten or mysteriously lost documents!
Increase Visibility: Each document within workflow is tracked with a detailed log that shows a complete history of each action taken on the document, and at any time users with the appropriate rights can take a peak to see where the document is within the process. The added visibility into a process allows you to recognize patterns, drive improvements, and, if needed, reroute a document.
Increase Mobility: Another benefit of removing the paper from a process is added mobility. Business as we know it is changing, and the more flexibility you can build into your processes, the better. Reviewers no longer need to be physically present to view and route a document around without a messy trail of emails. With mobile applications for smart phones and tablets, documents can be accessed securely from virtually anywhere.
This is just one example of the power of workflow. Do the challenges I faced sound familiar? What types of process improvements do you see a need for within your organization? We welcome your questions/comments and hope you’ll share some of your own experiences!