Getting to the Finer Details of Digital Workflow Software
Digital workflow software can vastly improve the efficiency of workflows irrespective of the type or scale of your business. With that said, let us now get into the details of implementing a digital workflow. Digital workflow software enables businesses to manage and track workflows efficiently and effectively.
Running a business smoothly requires effective, easy-to-use tools that map out, assess, and improve your process workflows. Digital workflow software tools do just that, they optimize and cut out the extraneous steps, accelerate workflow.
Removal of redundant steps from the workflow translates to cost-cutting, which ultimately means higher business revenues. Digital workflows happen only on the computer, there is no paperwork whatsoever. What digital workflows do is build a strong foundation to carry out workflow automation, which is critical for business processes to function smoothly without intervention.
Digital workflows offer limitless possibilities when combined with automation. Automation cuts out redundancy from business processes to ensure process efficiency and accuracy of results. While companies recognize the advantages of digital workflows, the transition from manual to digital process workflow is a challenging proposition.
Here are a few pointers that help businesses in the digital transformation:
Perform a workflow audit: This helps assess the current workflow and identify the pain points. Post this assessment, you will have a fair idea of the complexity involved in digitizing the process/s.
Prioritize the processes: Workflow audit helps in prioritizing business processes that benefit most from digital transition.
Phased Implementation: The prospect of reaping the benefits of digital workflow automation can excite businesses to jump in and try to implement on a mass scale. Ideally, the transition done in a phased manner yields better business outcomes and also enables businesses to take timely corrective action wherever applicable.
Successful adoption of digital workflows requires careful planning, implementation, and maintenance. Digital workflow automation can be as simple or as complex as we make it out to be.
Another common assumption that businesses make is that digitization applies only to high-tech business processes. The truth is that digital workflows can help businesses of all types and sizes to optimize their operations for hassle-free process flows and better business outcomes.
How to Switch to Digital Workflows
While deciding to make the switch to digital workflows, companies have to bear in mind that not all business workflows are suitable for digitization. The nature of business operations determines whether the process is apt for digitization or not. Typically, processes that are repetitive, and labor intensive are suited for the digital transformation. Some other processes may involve complex operations that may not be suitable for automation. That is why it is important to first examine the process in detail to decide whether it is beneficial to go for digital workflow automation or not.
Conduct a workflow analysis –
taking stock of the current process operations is the first and the most important step that helps determine if the process is fit for automation. A workflow audit helps determine the health of the process and nature of operations. A process map is required for auditing the process. During the process audit, each task in the process is evaluated based on the inputs, operational conditions or requirements, and expected results. While the process is audited, it can be determined whether the current process is producing the expected results, whether there are any bottlenecks that were unnoticed so far, and whether the task can be automated. It is ok to take time to audit the process because this step impacts the digitization decision making process. The following 3 steps are part of workflow analysis
1.1) Identifying the pain points – the inputs gathered from the process audit throw light on the pain points, bottlenecks, resource wastage, and technical complexity of the process. Gather a list of workflows that use up resources indiscriminately and delay the process. Most likely, such processes are prime candidates for automation. For example: approval-based workflows are usually delayed due to dependency on manual approvals. Automating these processes/tasks result in immediate and significant improvement in process efficiency and speed.
1.2) Evaluate technical complexity – considering only the bottlenecks (pain points) of the process for deciding on digitization would be a biased move. You also must evaluate the technical complexity of the process in order to arrive at the right decision. The technical complexity of the process determines the time and resources that are required to build a digital workflow. Companies that have decided to digitize their process workflows should start with processes that are less complex for a smooth transition. Some examples of simple processes fit for automation include repetitive processes like data entry, tasks that involve numbers and calculations, tasks that require review and approval, and tasks that drag resources into the quagmire of redundant tasks.
1.3) Evaluate process priorities – sometimes the order in which tasks are executed may not be the optimal order. Re-organizing the tasks in the process may improve the outcomes. Also, establishing priority among processes for digitization is also important. Assign priority of digitization based on – which processes would benefit most from prioritization; whether digitization would deliver immediate results, and what are the time and cost savings that digitization would lead to.
Create a road map –
once a workflow has been identified for digitization, the next step is to plan how to go about the transition. While creating the roadmap, it is not enough to consider the tasks alone, but also the resources involved in each task. For creating the process roadmap, follow the below steps.
2.1) Use a workflow map – a workflow map or a flow chart is a visual representation of specific tasks within the process. Creating a detailed workflow map helps you spot problems within the workflow and ensure that all the stakeholders are on the same page about the work. A workflow map enables accurate digital workflow definition. Using a smart visual workflow software helps you create effective process workflows. A good workflow map helps you design or choose a digital workflow software that will ease out the pain points identified in the process analysis step and identify the tasks perfect for automation.
2.2) Communicate with the team – once the workflow map is created, the roles and responsibilities for each step in the workflow are also clear. The current process has stakeholders assigned to each step in the process. It is important to talk with each stakeholder to see if anything is missing or mismatching between the assigned roles and responsibilities. Providing absolute clarity to the stakeholders on the intention and manner of digital transition is important for successful transition.
2.3) Research use cases – researching on use cases of digital transitions that have been undertaken within the organization and outside is a good idea. You can learn from these examples and come up with the right path to digitizing the process. There could be several companies that have had similar issues with their processes and have executed digital transitions successfully. The challenges they underwent and methods adopted to overcome them could be very useful in building your digital transition plan.
Designing and deploying –
after all the research on the digital solution to your process, you should be having a fair idea on how you want the solution to look like and what needs to be achieved.
3.1) Choosing the workflow software- While choosing the digital workflow solutions consider the following points.
* Is technical expertise required to understand and operate the software?
* Is it designed exclusively for workflow automation or are there additional features?
* Does it offer solutions for multiple business areas?
* Can the solution scale up to future business needs?
3.2) Set performance evaluation criteria – what can be measured can be improved. The main reason why we go for digitization is to improve process outcomes. In addition to improving process outcomes, you should set specific KPIs you would use to track the new digital workflow process performance. Defining these KPIs clearly helps measure the right metrics and convey these metrics to the team. Some of the popular KPIs are cost savings, productivity levels, and data accuracy.
3.3) Run a beta test – even before you officially roll out the digital workflow solution, try it out on a smaller group/scale. Gather feedback on the performance of the beta test and fine tune the final roll out of the solution based on the feedback.
3.4) Final roll out – the final version of the solution should include all the corrections identified during the beta test run. Once the digital workflow software is rolled out, it is important to communicate the changes to the team and run workshops or training sessions to help the team ease into the new process.
Evaluation of roll out –
the digitization journey only begins with the first process automation. Based on the success of process digitization, you might want to digitize other processes as well. The learning derived from the first process digitization must be applied to subsequent digitizations. Analyze the KPIs to understand what worked and what didn’t, what could be changed, what could be improved, and whether the objective was achieved. Repeating the automation for other processes can be done by evaluating the first roll out.
Value Addition of Digital Workflows
We have covered the efficiency part of implementing digital workflows in the preceding sections. Let us now delve into the key benefits of digital workflow automation:
Eliminating the scope for human error: Automating business processes reduces human intervention to a negligible fraction. The more people are involved in the business process, the more is the margin of error and inconsistency. Digital workflows eliminate these issues.
Save time and costs – centralizing all tasks into a single place allows the team to have more time to focus on other high-value tasks. Saving time by automating repetitive steps also saves the costs associated with these steps.
Cutting out redundancy: Digital workflows cut off the extraneous and redundant processes to ensure an optimized workflow. As a result, work gets done faster and more efficiently.
Promotes transparency – a digital workflow process provides transparency and visibility into the status of each task in the workflow. The updates on due dates, priorities, and request status are readily available to the entire team. Moreover, digitization improves accountability among team members, as roles and responsibilities are clearly assigned to team members. Automated workflows are not just fast, but more transparent and accountable.
Record of results – digital workflow tools provide a complete record of all the team’s activities at all times. The software also allows team members to report results, store important data, and streamline the audits.
Enable data-based decisions – digital workflow automation enables accurate and updated documentation of user data and performance reports. This data is readily available for the management to make decisions on performance.
Reducing the carbon footprint: There is minimal or zero paperwork involved in digital workflows. Online form submissions, online inventory management, and online feedback forms are some of the ways digital workflow automation cuts down on the carbon footprint of the business.
The Flip Side of Digital Automation
The benefits of digital transformation have been discussed already. Being the Devil’s advocate here – is this seemingly efficient transition devoid of any drawbacks? Here are some of the drawbacks of digital workflow automation.
Initial investment –
becoming a fully digitized company may require huge investments in the long run. The initial costs of setting up a fully digital process is the main reason companies might reconsider the digitization move. Companies need to focus on the return on investment from the digital workflow solution before taking the plunge.
Reliant on technology –
once the transition to digital workflow is complete, the process is completely dependent on technology. Technical glitches or outages in the software hampers the performance of the process, which in turn affects the overall business productivity. Moreover, the team members may feel underutilized as some of their work activities are automated. This affects the overall employee morale. Some employees may also feel intimidated by technology replacing them at work.
Training costs –
as with any organizational change, digital transformation too requires a good amount of training to be organized for the employees. For automation software that involves technical aspects, extended training needs to be given to employees. Any upgrade to the software will also require training down the line.
Employee morale –
the initial enthusiasm that employees have when the automation software is introduced slowly turns into apprehension of being replaced. Automating certain tasks in the business process increases fear in the employee’s mind that they might lose their jobs. Moreover, employees might feel intimidated by the technical skills for working on the software. Uncertainty in learning the skills required to work on the software is always there in the minds of employees.