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Category workflow management

What is Workflow Automation?

While it’s absolutely true that a lot of your business processes are important, they also expose your organization to a wide range of potential issues that you may not even realize.

Every manual process performed by one of your actual human employees leaves open the possibility for productivity bottlenecks. Things are getting done, but they’re just not getting done as quickly as they should. It also creates the potential for miscommunications — two people involved in the same process just weren’t on the same page and now they’ve suffered a major setback because of it. The mishandling of information, low employee morale, you name it — these are the hidden costs of those tedious manual processes.

But the good news is that it is possible to make sure that all of this work gets done in a way that allows you to avoid every one of the issues outlined above. It’s called workflow automation and if your organization hasn’t already begun to explore its wide range of benefits, now would be an excellent time to start.

What is Workflow Automation? An Overview

At its core, workflow automation involves both the digitization and automation of business processes, all in an effort to reduce the amount of manual labor required by your employees as much as possible.

All told, there are a wide range of different types of workflows that are prime candidates for automation. These include but are certainly not limited to ones like:

  • Filing or making changes to documents with a consistent structure.
  • Reviewing and approving changes that have been made to documents.
  • Notifying people (like team leaders) when a change to a document has been made by an employee.
  • Processing accounts payable or similar administrative functions.
  • The management of records retention and document storage.
  • Executing process management reports.
  • And much, much more.

With an intelligent document management solution like M-Files, for example, you can make sure that documents are always routed to the correct person when they’re created or when certain status changes have been made. If you have a single document that needs to be approved by 10 team leaders before it can make its way to a client, for example, the employee who created that document shouldn’t have to spend time chasing down every single one of them to keep things moving. With workflow automation, each of those team leaders can be instantly notified that there is a document that needs to be signed off on and once they do, it continues to move further and further down the line.

Likewise, many workflow automation solutions allow you to monitor, report on and even analyze your current business processes — all to help capitalize on opportunities for improvement on an ongoing basis. Many provide reporting dashboards, for example, that allow process managers to view each step of a particular business workflow in fine detail. This puts them in a better position to eliminate the types of performance bottlenecks that cost time and money, thus improving those processes in meaningful ways.

They even offer the ability to show users a full history of all business process steps, confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that automation software is getting the job done in a way far more efficient than humans could on their own.

In a larger sense, workflow automation also makes it easier for employees to communicate with one another — which itself is a great way to empower their ability to collaborate. A lot of the workflow automation solutions you would be using include built-in communication tools that make sharing documents and other important project-related data easier than ever. When you make it easier for your employees to work together, you increase the chances that they do — thus improving employee morale and improving the quality of work that they’re able to do in the first place.

In the end, workflow automation is more than just another IT trend or passing fad. It’s an opportunity to optimize processes across all departments in a way that eliminates human error, gets rid of performance bottlenecks and that improves the quality of work you’re able to do with your clients. It improves the speed at which your organization can move because it frees up the valuable time of your human employees so that they can focus on those matters that truly need them.

It’s also a way to save valuable resources while improving both internal and external transparency, which for many businesses may very well be the most important benefit of all.

Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/what-is-workflow-automation-why-it-matters-and-why-you-need-it

Real-World Information Management Use Case: Four-Eye Review and Approval

At its core, the concept behind the Four Eyes principle is a simple one — it’s simply a matter of getting two different people to approve some type of action before it can be taken. You’ve no doubt heard the old saying of “two heads are better than one.” This is simply the same concept, applied to the larger world of business. The Four Eyes principle is something that you see play out in a wide range of industries. In the legal profession, for example, many documents require two signatures for verification instead of one. In a retail environment, there may be a requirement to have at least two people unloading a truck or stocking shelves at the same time in an effort to reduce the risk of injury or theft. Even some data management systems require two people to approve updates to documents before those changes are committed to the data. Regardless, what you’re really trying to do is increase accountability across the board. A second person might catch an error or other type of issue with a document that the first one missed. Of course, in some environments, this is a lot easier said than done — particularly in those where data is spread out in a lot of different repositories and leaders may lack basic visibility into what is being stored where, when, and how. If you’re not actually sure where the most recent version of a document exists, it’s hard to get one person to sign off on it or review it — let alone two. Thankfully, there is a solution that can allow you to leverage the full benefits of the Four Eyes principle to your advantage. A simple workflow process in an information management system like M-Files can not only make this easier than ever, but simple and efficient at the exact same time.

The Four Eyes Principle and M-Files: A Match Made in Heaven

Consider the Four Eyes principle within the context of a professional services firm, where two different people need to review the same document before it makes its way into the hands of a client. Here, this protocol provides a level of quality control on all client deliverables — not to mention a series of checks and balances to make sure that important items are getting out the door on-time. If for just one example, a firm has finalized an updated corporate tax return for a client, it will obviously need to be reviewed by at least two people — the accountant that prepared it and the client’s account manager. With an information management solution like M-Files, you don’t necessarily need these two people to be in constant communication with one another because the system is designed to handle every step of the process. As soon as that corporate tax return is completed, that information automatically gets assigned to a workflow that instantly notifies the reviewing parties. This happens regardless of where the information is stored or in which data repository it may exist. M-Files connects disparate repositories, creating a single source of truth for information across a business. At that point, all collaborators can then co-author the document and add notes for further changes. Only once everything is formally approved by all key stakeholders will the document be authorized as a client deliverable. This helps make sure that only the best quality version of the document makes its way to the client, thus improving their experience and avoiding unnecessary delays as well. Without getting too in the weeds, four-eye approval workflows can be configured however the company prefers. Consecutive, Down-the-Line Approval. One such configuration is a consecutive approval workflow, where the document flows to the first approver and then on to the second afterward.
Concurrent, Parallel Approval. Another option has review and approval done concurrently, and after both have completed their review, the document process is complete.
The configuration is completely up to the user. Either way, this type of workflow automation is a great way to create an audit trail of advisory deliverables to track who made what changes, when, and why. If anything about the document comes into question in the future, you can always see who made which revisions and get insight into what their justifications were. This isn’t just helpful for tracking the overall status of documents as they make their way around your business — it’s also absolutely essential for compliance and even legal reasons, as well. Generally speaking, the organizations that tend to have a difficult time successfully implementing the Four Eyes principle are ones that don’t really have control over their data in the first place. They tend to lack a way to really track the progress of documents that are in play, creating a situation where two different people may be working from different versions of a document — causing unnecessary errors along the way. The right information management system like M-Files, on the other hand, is built to keep these types of situations from happening. M-Files can help break down those data silos so that communication and collaboration are easier than ever before. This in turn creates the most important benefit of all: a situation where the Four Eyes principle is executed quickly and seamlessly. Source: https://resources.m-files.com/blog/real-world-information-management-use-case-four-eye-review-and-approval

How Better Document Workflow Management Will Improve Efficiency and Remove Headaches

This is an age when so many competitive businesses depend upon efficiency. Still, problems with document workflow productivity create challenges. In contrast, superior document workflow management tools and tactics can offer amazing productivity boosts. Learn how inadequate document workflow management reduces efficiency and even more, how the right technology can help improve all areas of your business.

Why Reconsider Your Document Management Strategies?

Document workflow management simply refers to the process of transferring information from one person to another during various stages in the business process. Typically, work has to get approved before the completed work moves to the next step. For a simple example, a supplier might send an invoice to a buyer. The buyer may need to approve it as matching the order and route this document to inventory to confirm delivery. Once confirmed, inventory will approve it and route the invoice to accounts payable.

This example may appear simple, but you probably already know the problems that inefficiencies in your own document management system can introduce to a business. In the example, flaws in the process can lead to violations of payment terms, issues with future orders, and increased workloads.

According to Business.com, these are common issues that many companies struggle with.

Document mishandling issues: Common problems include the inability to find documents, issues opening documents emailed from others, and duplication of incorrect information on multiple documents. Either way, these challenges led to an estimated loss of productivity of well over 20%, based on a global IT survey.

Collaboration using email: It’s still common to find companies emailing documents back and forth for collaboration. This generates multiple copies of the document as it’s in the process of getting emailed. Generally, discussions occur within long, cumbersome email threads as well. There’s also no way to assure that the final version ended up in the inbox of the person who has ownership over the data.

Versioning issues: Old-fashioned methods of sharing documents create versioning problems. They make it difficult to ensure that everybody’s working on the latest iteration or even knows how to find it. Business.com mentioned a Harris survey that found 83 percent of respondents said that tracking versions caused problems.

Wasted time searching: Knowledge workers reported spending an inordinate amount of time looking for the documents they needed to proceed with tasks. Dealing with misplaced or lost documents took them even more time. When key employees leave or transfer out of departments, files often got lost.

Lack of remote access: Increasingly, today’s workforce runs remotely. Relying upon hard copies or even electronic files stored on somebody’s disk drive can limit accessibility to necessary documents. Having an on-premises-only system may also encourage employees to create even more unmanaged copies of documents, so they can take them home or on business trips.

Expense of manual approvals and signatures: An automated and convenient electronic signing and approval process can save time, ensure faster results, and reduce the costs to handle each document. Otherwise, employees waste even more time delivering documents, asking for approvals, and then waiting for them.

Security and compliance: In this age of BYOD, or bring your own devices, security has grown increasingly challenging. Understandably, employees may try to download documents to their own devices to take with them for work away from the office. However, it’s difficult for companies to protect information on scattered devices and also, to make sure the document only gets used in ways that the government allows.

How a Better Document Workflow Management Will Make Your Business More Productive

Modern, smart, cloud-based document management systems can address common issues. For instance, the system can have input rules that minimize human error and help ensure that employees use the latest version of the right document. They incorporate features like notifications and electronic approvals to keep the approval process streamlined. They also come with built-in collaboration tools that eliminate the need to require upon cumbersome email threads.

Even better, these systems run from the cloud, so they make it possible to access files from almost anywhere and at any time. Nobody has to travel back to the office or even worse, wait for somebody to unlock the door. At the same time as they improve accessibility, these document management systems incorporate smart security, so management can set rules to ensure that only the right people view sensitive information.  This helps ensure security and compliance with legal rules.

The system also keeps a complete version history, so it’s simple to track changes and view the document’s history in case of problems or audits. Finally, these systems allow companies to classify and tag documents. This ensures that it’s easy for employees to find what they need and never waste time looking for lost documents.

Source: – https://www.m-files.com/blog/how-better-document-workflow-management-will-improve-efficiency-and-remove-headaches/