The simplest definition of a workflow is the set of activities that a work process passes through from its beginning to end. An easy example of a workflow is that of an invoice. The set of activities from the receipt of an invoice to its payment and storage constitute to its workflow. These activities would include receiving the invoice via post or email, sending the invoice to the relevant department, matching it with a supplier and purchase order, getting sign off to pay the invoice and so forth.

Another common example of a workflow is that of inbound communication. A large company will be receiving many forms of inbound communication from suppliers, customers, internal communication and other stakeholders. Depending on the content, this information needs to be routed to the correct department and personnel, once it has reached them another set of processes need to take place in order to address and act on the content of the communication. The network of maintaining and managing this is the workflow.

One more example of workflows is the collection of data from surveys, questionnaires and so forth. Once this data is collected, it goes through a process of data capture, storage and analysis.

In essence, every process in a company has a workflow behind it, some simple and others complex.

From sole trader companies to multinational organisations, all businesses from any sector have workflows- and many of them running simultaneously. Workflows are usually repetitive and are repeated on a daily basis.

The importance of a workflow

The above description of a workflow showcases its importance. Think of a workflow as a conveyor belt used for packaging a product, as the product moves along the conveyor belt, someone is there to perform the next step in the packaging process. Without a workflow, things would not get completed and a business would not run efficiently or cease to run. An organisation that wishes to thrive in the current competitive climate must find a way to reduce costs yet increase efficiency and performance levels. And there is no better place to start than looking at the workflows you have in place.

Manual workflows

Manual workflows are a severe hindrance to all organisations. This is because they take up a lot of time and lead to errors, which can be costly. If we go back to the invoice and inbound communication example, manually distributing the documents, then typing out the necessary line item data on a database and physically storing the documents and so forth leaves the potential to many things going wrong such as a difficulty in retrieving documents, cost of physical storage space and a lack of version control and transparency of that process.

If we translate these problems into other forms of workflows that are customer facing, such as processes that need be undertaken for customer complaints and enquiries, a delay in managing and addressing these can result in poor customer service, something that no organisation wants. Furthermore, this can be extended to processes with suppliers and internal communication; it can cause under-delivery, miscommunication and so much more.

Automated workflows

An automated workflow mechanism will address and eliminate all said issues and more. As the name suggests, an automated workflow eliminates manual and laborious tasks related to a business process including, but not limited to:

  • Manual data entry
  • Paper storage of documents
  • Manual distribution
  • Manual classification of documents
  • Difficulty in retrieving and search through documents
  • Difficulty in maintaining an audit trail and version control
  • Lack of transparency in the process

Use automated techniques to manage the workflow of information already present electronically such as in emails. Furthermore, combine this with intelligent scanning and data extraction methods from paper documentation, an automated workflow solution allows your organisation to bring data from different sources together and run its course through the automated workflow methodology. As a result run a process seamlessly by:

  • Improving data accuracy
  • Boosting business efficiency
  • Standardising a process
  • Reducing cost
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance

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