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What the Heck is Workflow and Why Should My Business Care About It?

workflow-pws-iconIn an earlier blog post we addressed some of the myths surrounding workflow and how it affects business processes. This week we thought we’d revisit the topic and illustrate with an example.

What are the risks of handling business-critical documents manually?

As documents manually flow through an organization, there is a considerable cost to track, manage and balance staff activity and ensure that all work is completed within agreed service levels. Documents can be lost, forgotten, routed to the incorrect personnel, or processed out of sequence. These interactions cause delays that negatively impact organizations, costing time, draining resources, and inhibiting their ability to provide quality customer service. Is there a way to manage this?

Tell me again: what is workflow?

Workflow is the movement of documents, tasks, work and responsibilities throughout an organization or department. Workflow identifies the particular process by which work is to be completed; in particular it:

  •          defines the tasks
  •          determines the order in which they are undertaken
  •          assigns the person responsible for completing them

Workflow automation

Automated workflow monitors and manages this process by setting timers and automatically sending alert notifications to ensure the documents are processed at the prescribed pace, in the correct order, and by the appropriate personnel. Workflow automation solutions increase visibility and help those in management positions to establish metrics for each step of the process. Employees are able to improve their productivity through access to standardized processes which can be used both locally and remotely.

What does this deliver? Workflow automation enables organizations to:

  •          achieve operational efficiency
  •          reduce transactional costs
  •          provide better customer service
  •          ultimately increase profitability

Illustrative example

Let’s illustrate with an example from the insurance world: a hand-written Property & Casualty claim comes into the mail room, where a clerk reads the document, identifies it, and walks it over to the Claims department. A claim number is written at the top of the page. The Claims clerk walks it over to the Adjustor, who then takes the document to the property site, takes photos and obtains appraisals to repair damage. All these documents are then returned to the file, with photos paper-clipped to the inside. No date and time stamp. No audit trail. If the case involves an injury, medical reports and legal case precedents can add up to an 8’ high stack of documents.

An organization using a workflow automation solution is able to manage an insurance claim consistently and correctly from the initial call to the final settlement. Workflow automation monitors the process to verify that each person handling the claim executes the appropriate steps and consistently fulfills their designated responsibilities. Each step of the process is confirmed to be complete before proceeding. All documents, photos and reports are stored electronically. This enables organizations to maximize their efficiency, ensure sound business practice, and provide uniform quality service.

We understand that your business processes change all the time. New people are added, new approvals are required, and new departments need to get involved. A robust workflow software solution should feature a graphical process builder that allows users and administrators to easily map out their current processes and make any changes required over time. Your business isn’t static, and the software that you use to manage your business shouldn’t be either.

For a deeper dive into evaluating enterprise content management systems, check out the white paper below:


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Heather Edmonds Penstone

Heather is the former Marketing Supervisor at Microdea, a leading transportation document management software company and one of the fastest growing 500 companies in Canada.

Supporting the trucking community

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