Information may be power, but it can also be a complex mess. That’s why organizations across the world and in all types of industries identify better information management as one of their most important goals today. For example, when asked to name their current top priorities, more than half of the U.S. firms in a recent survey chose the ability to effectively make content available to their staffs when and where they needed it.
But the sheer volume of information being created – 2.8 zettabytes in 2012 alone – creates a daunting task for enterprises trying to efficiently capture, store and access it all. Then there’s the mass of information that still resides in paper documents, which are easy to lose and hard to track through business processes. While electronic documents are easier to manage compared to manually handling paper documents, even they aren’t the whole answer. Digital documents are often only accessible within siloed enterprise applications, which make sharing information across the enterprise especially difficult.
The challenges of managing information are only becoming more complex. Today’s mobile workers not only require systems that make information readily available while they’re on the move – they need the tools that can help them capture data from the field and quickly upload it to central storehouses. In addition, there’s a growing need for organizations to incorporate large volumes of external content into their enterprise systems.
This leaves many executives wondering how they’ll survive the data deluge. For a growing number of organizations, the answer is a more modern and optimized workflow system.
Helps manage work more efficiently
Workflow solutions can provide a comprehensive platform for managing information by using automated processes for storing, processing, securing and retrieving data. To relieve the pain of manually managing paper, the best workflow solutions efficiently convert paper-based documents into digital files, extract key data from them and then route the information to relevant business systems across the enterprise. Finally, top workflow solutions also give today’s field workers a reliable platform for both receiving and sending information. In short, an optimized workflow offers a holistic approach to solving today’s information-management complexities.
Four great benefits of an optimized workflow
These capabilities translate into four clear operational benefits for growing organizations. In addition to bringing order to today’s complex document environments, an optimized workflow:
- Enables people to work together and collaborate more effectively. Organizations can capture data and ideas wherever they’re created and deliver them across the enterprise, so everyone stays in sync with the latest information and is thinking about new initiatives and ongoing business issues.
- Creates efficient and consistent processes for distributing and sharing information. Workflows can scale across the enterprise so all divisions, departments and locations benefit from streamlined business processes.
- Delivers measurable improvements in operational efficiency. An optimized workflow infrastructure can increase productivity by eliminating the time people waste looking for misfiled or lost information, and by automatically routing documents through approval pipelines and other business processes.
- Bridges information silos. When key data is required, workers aren’t forced to leave the online environment where their work is done. For example, someone working in an ERP application can access all information necessary for the task at hand without leaving the application.
Organizations across a variety of industries – including retail, banking and health care – have already discovered the value of a modern workflow system.
For example, furniture retailer Rooms To Go now processes credit applications faster, plus, it has enhanced its ability to research and prevent credit fraud — all thanks to its new workflow system. Company staffers now have immediate electronic copies of all documentation and the system has dramatically improved the security of confidential customer information. All these benefits have accrued as Rooms to Go has significantly cut internal costs. For example, the company saves approximately $40,000 on shipping expenses alone by eliminating the need to send paper via delivery services and couriers.
Banks are also seeing a payoff from optimized workflow systems. Union Bank N.A. reports significantly reduced output-related costs, optimized business workflows and improved customer service. From a financial perspective, the bank’s investment in workflow solutions and services will yield a 142 percent ROI in the first three years. That will translate into positive net benefits in year one and a total benefit of $5.4 million over three years.
In health care, an optimized workflow powers a fast, fully electronic payment process with a complete audit trail at Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The HR department uses the system to manage electronic employee records, while the risk management department uses the solution to capture and manage risk assessments, regulatory forms, closed claims and training records.
What to look for in an optimized workflow solution
While many workflow solutions are now available, not all of them provide the optimization and comprehensive range of capabilities organizations require. How can decision makers be sure they’re getting the best solution for their needs?
For the best options, look for workflow solutions that are tailored for specific industries and leverage best practices to focus on opportunities that drive down costs and improve performance.
Because siloed information inhibits collaboration and fuels inefficiency, effective workflow solutions must easily connect with other enterprise applications to promote the flow of information wherever it’s needed.
The best workflow solutions automate business processes to increase productivity and eliminate costly and time-consuming processes that require people to physically move information to each stakeholder or system.
Optimized workflow solutions also improve the performance of individuals and teams. To do this, the solutions must be flexible enough for managers to tailor work processes to address the different ways individuals think and work.
Finally, the solution should enhance, rather than replace existing systems so enterprises can continue to derive value from their existing information management systems as long as possible.
More power, less complexity
An optimized workflow solution helps managers, staff and field workers spend less time managing and hunting down critical information – and spend more time doing what they do best – empowering their people, processes and productivity.