Five Reasons To Consider A Workflow Solution
In an article entitled “Workflow Beyond the Enterprise,” published in the September 2000 issue of the eAI Journal, Martin Butler summarizes a recent report by the Butler Group. He writes that workflow is “one of a long line of key enablers of the adaptive, responsive organization. In mature markets, the re-engineering of business processes is essential to achieve competitive advantage; the automation of workflow is fundamental to process redesign. Workflow is often seen as just a subset of the larger groupware product set, but this understates its importance. Workflow is a key factor in creating competitive advantage.”
He goes on to define workflow as “essentially a set of methods and technologies that support a business process through the analysis, redesign and automation of information-based activities. A key aspect is coordination, which goes beyond simply communicating information through electronic media. It also involves individuals, within an organization, who work on projects to implement prescribed business processes or achieve goals.”
According to Butler, proper workflow engineering can benefit an organization beyond labor and paper savings. For example, he writes, “in many organizations, business processes are often undocumented, relying mainly on the knowledge of procedures that often reside solely in someone’s head. This situation is error-prone and inevitably leads to chaos, which can easily hamper the organization’s competitiveness.”
Butler goes on to discuss five key reasons why an organization should consider adopting a workflow solution:
Process efficiency and standardization can lower costs. This can occur through staff reduction. Workflow solutions also encourage higher workload capacity, reduce process throughput time, and improve process quality via standardized and higher quality procedures. Workflow can eliminate the elapsed time between each stage of the work, enabling the next task in the process to be addressed as rapidly as possible.
Process management improves management control. It does so by monitoring the current state of a workflow instance and how it’s progressing against plan. It ensures that work gets done and bottlenecks are minimal. Trends in data volumes can be tracked, so management can take proactive action to minimize processing problems.
Efficient task delivery reduces administrative burdens. Managers can issue tasks automatically rather than through a laborious, case-by-case process. Workflow automation can address, for example, approving expenses (eliminating the need for reminders), load balancing, and the intelligent selection of tasks by workers (allocating tasks through role definition).
Timely delivery of information resources to the worker increases worker efficiency. Workflow automation ensures that the information resources (applications and data) are available when required. Tighter control over the distribution of work items to the point of activity creates a more efficient workforce, which promotes a customer-led business ethic. Tasks are better coordinated and not missed or forgotten. When tasks are skipped, an alert system can be automatically invoked. The duplication of tasks is eliminated and information sharing and reuse is encouraged. The potential for human error is minimized, which tends to lower costs and increase customer satisfaction levels. Finally, automated delivery of tasks directly to the worker provides added security advantages. Each participant only has access to tasks directly assigned to them.
Process design encourages process thinking. It encourages both business and IT professionals to think of their organizations in terms of its critical business processes, rather than the traditional hierarchical, function-based activities. This leads to more consistent results, better customer service and higher levels of customer loyalty and retention. The ability to embed business rules in the workflow ensures that all employees work to a standard, corporate-based model, avoiding time-consuming, costly deviations.
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