Document Workflow Automation
Document Workflow Automation:
The Complete Introductory Guide
Simply put, document workflow automation makes a complicated or difficult business process quicker and easier to manage. Fewer steps result in fewer mistakes and the streamlined workflow increases efficiency, freeing up time to be spent on more productive tasks.
Documents, Printouts, Copies, – whatever the format, paperwork is a necessary evil in the workplace today. And despite easier access to digital alternatives coming on stream every day, paper usage is still the default.
Why is this? Fear of the unknown perhaps? Most people can see the benefit of moving over to a digital alternative and readily acknowledge the advantages but are still daunted by the move. Ironically, document workflow automation is guaranteed to simplify work if we can just get over the initial hurdle.
But what if it was easier to make this move?
Implementing document workflow automation to your business processes can be very simple. Achieving this through small incremental steps avoids an exhaustive effort. What is the result of document workflow automation? A streamlined business structure where duplicate tasks are eliminated, and efficiency is enhanced.
We can give you a step-by-step guide on how to achieve this.
What is a Document Workflow?
Well, a workflow is a term that is used to describe a series of steps that need to be done to accomplish a task. Let’s take the example of a permission request from school for an outing or event.
The manual workflow might look like this:
The manual workflow would contain several steps:
1. Draft the permission form in a word document – Admin
2. Print the form – Admin
3. Teacher hands it to the child – Teacher
4. Child gives it to parent – Child
5. Parent signs the document – Parent
6. Child returns the form to the teacher – Child
7. Teacher gives form to the office staff – Teacher
8. Administrator files the form in the office. – Admin
So many steps! There are several opportunities for information to be missed or forgotten and there is considerable waste of valuable teaching time.
Now, consider the steps if you were to apply document workflow automation to this task.
The document workflow looks a bit simpler:
When you turn this manual workflow into an automated digital workflow, it’ll look more like this:
Document workflow automation makes this so much simpler!
1. Draft the form in word – Admin
2. Email directly to the parents – Auto
3. Parents sign the online form – Parent
4. Form is returned automatically online – Auto
5. Administrator stores the document – Admin
Not only are there fewer steps, the roles of the teacher and the child in the transfer of the information are removed. Furthermore, two of the steps are carried out automatically, leaving two tasks for the administrator and one for the parent to sign.
Swifter, smoother, cleaner, better.
Document workflow automation means that much of the information transfer takes place via computer/internet/cloud and, by definition, is automated. Because of that, work processes are faster requiring less human intervention and less effort.
Document Workflow Automation Benefits
The benefits of automating document workflows are:
Is Document Workflow Automation for you?
Some workflows lend themselves entirely to being automated and others not so much. They may be more complex or may require greater oversight. Others, however, may be time-consuming with less human involvement required and could be ideally suited to an automated process.
Asking questions and challenging the way you work is how our experienced team can help you make this decision.
Stage 1. Carry out an audit on your process workflows:
The goal: To choose a workflow to digitize first
Understanding how tasks are being managed enables you to determine how they can be improved. Are they as seamless as they could be? Would they be better if elements were automated? Are there unnecessary bottlenecks that automation could resolve?
While you may not be able to automate all your processes, understanding what and why people are doing various tasks is very useful for an overall health check on your business. There is usually room for some level of improvement in how a task is being done.
Starting small and introducing document workflow automation to a straightforward process will help convince those who are resistant to the idea. It helps identify any pain points in the digitization process that can be ironed out while learning valuable lessons for further automation plans.
STEP 1: Establish the bottlenecks
Where are your resources being wasted? What is causing delay? Start with the easier workflows as improvements are immediate and noticeable.
Step 2: Think Technical Complexity
Is your workflow very complicated? Will it take huge resources to implement a digital solution? Ensure that the cost/effort ratio is balanced by the potential improvements.
Step 3: Prioritize
Of the potential workflows, select the one that will bring the best results for you. Decide if it will save time/money/resources and proceed accordingly.
Stage 2. Plan your Work
The goal: Ensure a smooth transition
This step is key to ensuring a smooth migration from the old process to an automated workflow.
Once you have identified which workflow you want to migrate, it is very important to plan out in detail exactly how this transition will be made. Particularly for the first time, you will want to keep everyone motivated and on side. Excellent communication and thorough research are essential to pave the way to success.
Step 1: Generate a Workflow Map
As a visual representation of all the specific processes, this is a very important task to complete. Not only does it clarify all the steps a workflow needs to take, it also highlights pressure points that may need special consideration. From the manual workflow, the digital process can be determined.
Step 2: Engage Your Team
Communication is essential so that all roles and responsibilities are clearly identified. Engage your team in the process to make sure that all steps are covered. Incorporating their input will help them feel valued and included. You need their buy-in to make this work. The more excited and enthusiastic they are about the process, the better the result.
Step 3: Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Remember, there is every likelihood someone else has done what you are trying to achieve. Learn from their efforts to spare your own.
You may need to customize some aspects but there really is no need to reinvent the wheel here.
Stage 3. Design & Implement
The goal: Implement a solution that works for your specific needs
Remember the purpose behind all this work – it is to save time, free up resources and improve your process workflow. Keep this in mind when designing your solution. Aim to have a user-friendly, scalable solution that works for you and your business.
Step 1: Simplify The Process
The solution should be a straightforward one with simple, easy to manage steps. There is no gain in adding extra steps to your process in order to automate it.
Step 2: Justify with KPIs
The goal behind automating your document workflow is to make savings in time and effort. Track these savings and manage the metrics. Meeting pre-defined objectives will encourage the team’s buy-in and will support further changeover.
Step 3: Test, Test, Test
Before you roll out your document workflow, test the process with a core group of people. Gather their feedback, discuss what works and what needs improvement. Iron out those wrinkles before introducing the process to the rest of your team.
Step 4: Roll Out
The time has come and communication is the key to success – Advertise the roll out, keep everyone in the loop but keep it simple. Run workshops, mentor sessions and coaching to ease people into the new process. Stay positive and keep other work to a minimum to enable focus on the new tasks.
Evaluate the experiment
You are not done yet, though!
After the roll out, you need to evaluate all the lessons learned – What worked and crucially, what didn’t? Where can you make improvements for the next roll-out?
These lessons will prove invaluable as you embark on the next document workflow automation plan. And once you see a positive return on investment, it will be easier to implement further workflow changes throughout your company.
Let Us Help You With Document Workflow Automation
Remember too, that help is available at every stage of the process. The team at Docutec are on hand to guide you through every document workflow automation project. Our knowledge and workflow automation experience combined with your comprehension of processes will simplify even the most complicated of tasks. Contact us now to see how we can help your document workflow automation journey.
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