We have all experienced this particular office horror story at some point in our careers: looking for that one document in our company’s document repository, we find duplicate file names, multiple document versions with inconsistent file naming, missing files, and redundant folders and cabinets. Once a simple task, file retrieval can turn into a chore as we try to navigate a graveyard of uncategorized files that resist maintenance and control.
Unfortunately this problem is all too common. It occurs when too many users have the ability to create files and folders, leading to unnecessary and mislabeled file creation. This is where workflow comes in. With a properly defined workflow we can determine who needs to take action on a particular file, thereby creating a smooth and efficient system that has the potential to save time and money.
Defining Workflow and Workflow Management Systems
A workflow may be defined as a progression of orchestrated and repeatable patterns of business activity, tasks or interactions that comprise a work process. It can be depicted as a sequence of operations, declared as the work of a person or group, an organization or staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms. In a sequential workflow, each step is dependent on the occurrence of the previous step; in a parallel workflow, 2 or more steps can occur concurrently.
In a nutshell, a workflow must contain the following essential elements:
- It must have a predictable progression of steps
- It must be repetitive
- It must involve at least 2 people
A workflow management system is, simply put, a software system that provides an infrastructure to implement, execute, and monitor a defined sequence of tasks arranged as a workflow.
Increasing Efficiency with Workflow Automation
While document management technologies and services can successfully eliminate the burden of a paper-dependent office, successful workflow automation generates the greatest return on investment (ROI) by streamlining key business processes.
When your workflow is successfully automated, you ensure that all tasks are routed to their appropriate destination, and built-in notification systems means that you can rest assured that each step will be completed without redundant and easy-to-miss email reminders. This means that all relevant parties involved in the workflow can focus on their individual contributions.
In summary, automated workflows will help you:
- Vastly improve efficiency
- Eliminate unnecessary redundancies
- Enhance the process of delegating tasks
- Improve team and client coordination
- Facilitate traceability and transparency of work processes
- Improve accountability
- Provide logical and sequential approaches to operations
The great thing about workflows is that they can benefit almost any type of organization from small businesses to international corporations. Any business seeking to streamline their work processes and improve efficiency (and who isn’t?) will find it worthwhile to implement a workflow management system in their organization.
Workflow Management Software Implementation
Implementing a workflow is not as difficult as it may initially seem. Creating the ideal flow can begin with only a few moments of pre-planning and composed, clear thinking. You should be able develop a draft workflow using pen and paper.
You should start by:
- Identifying your pain points: The first step is to critically look at your current processes and start identifying critical business issues. Common business pains include high cost overruns and excessive errors due to employee inefficiencies in undertaking manual processes such as:
- Not being able to retrieve documents quickly during audits and non-conformances due to not being able to meet regulatory standards
- High invoice aging and poor cash flow
- Messy document repository with duplicate files and folders
- Lack of management visibility into business processes
- Document your work processes and steps one by one: The next step is to document what documents need to be captured? What kick-starts the workflow? Who needs to be involved in the processing? How do rules and regulations affect the process? How do you know when the process is over? Are all the steps sequential or can they occur concurrently?
- Select an appropriate workflow management software: Once the above steps are completed you are ready to start looking for a workflow solution for your organization. Research the various software available and take some time to determine which is right for your needs.
- Take it one step at a time: It is best to start automating workflows in phases rather than attempt to implement it into your work processes in one go. Remember the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Start with one intensive process, test it successfully, and ensure that employees are trained and understand the benefits of the new system.
I Would Like to Establish a Workflow Management System in My Company: What Are My Options?
There are many products on the market to choose from, but eFileCabinet’s workflow features place it a cut above the rest. eFileCabinet’s point and click functionality allows users to easily and intuitively create workflows with little to no learning curve. And unique to eFileCabinet is the ability to message relevant persons upon completion of workflow processes via email or even text message.
In addition to providing powerful workflow capabilities, eFileCabinet is a full-fledged document management system. Workflows and document management systems go hand-in-hand, so there is no need to purchase additional software.
To find out more about eFileCabinet’s workflow and document management solutions, fill out the form provided for a free 15-minute demo.