Workflow management: The missing ingredient in your operations strategy (2023)
Improving operations in the current climate is a tricky business. Many industries are encountering a scarcity of talent, and budgets are being slashed in response to the economic downturn.
A third of workplaces are now looking to generative AI to automate procedures, delight customers and speed up work. Although AI can go some way to alleviating the pressure on service teams, the overarching problem is often overlooked: workflow management.
Workflow management is the most powerful way to truly transform your operations. Scattered and fragmented processes are optimized and brought together under one single source of truth. Used effectively with an orchestration tool, it can be the glue that holds your operations and organisation together.
What is workflow management?
Workflow management is the end-to-end running of all work involved in an operation within a single system. It is particularly necessary when it comes to procedures that are disjointed and hampered by inefficiencies. A perfect example of this is invoice processing.
Workflow management example: invoice processing
Let’s look at the breakdown of a typical invoice procedure:
Verification: Every invoice must be confirmed as valid and accurate. This step involves verifying that the goods or services have been received, the amount matches up with purchase orders and receipts, and the invoice is genuinely from the supplier.
Exceptions: In the event that any discrepancies or mistakes are identified during the verification process, steps must be taken to fix them. The invoice is then referred to the appropriate people before it can be verified again and move on to the next stage.
Approval: When an invoice has been successfully validated, it will need to be approved, usually by the relevant budget holder. Though on the surface, this is a simple process, invoices are often delayed as approvals get missed, forgotten, or stuck in a backlog.
Payment: The final stage is when the invoice has been approved and lands with the finance department for payment by the due date. If the previous steps have gone smoothly, then this should be done in good time, but any difficulties can result in late payment.
In the absence of effective workflow management, there are usually multiple software used across each stage, with various different people involved. The margin for error is considerable, and it’s challenging to maintain clear oversight when things inevitably go wrong. This is just one example, but these issues pertain to a whole host of processes. Creating an operations workflow that covers these procedures from end-to-end effectively joins up the dots. All the relevant people gain both transparency over each step of the process and insight into what can be improved. Plus, delays and errors are greatly reduced. Leaders are therefore better positioned to make the requisite changes needed to streamline their operations.
Reasons to take workflow management seriously in your operations
Discover some of the key reasons you should prioritize efficient workflows for all your operations.
X-ray vision: One of the biggest roadblocks to streamlining procedures is a lack of clarity over the status of tasks and where issues or bottlenecks are arising. If you can't see what's going on in your operation, you can't make positive changes. Establishing an end-to-end systematic workflow with real-time tracking and audit history gives you X-ray vision into your procedures. This makes it much easier to ensure work is of high quality, efficiently managed, distributed correctly, and completed in a timely manner.
Co-ordinated processes and tooling: Employing a dedicated end-to-end workflow management platform will enable you to coordinate all your processes harmoniously. Complex webs of tangled spreadsheets and emails will be left behind and replaced by a single, cohesive system. In the instance of an orchestration workflow tool like Enate, it wraps around your current tech stack and eliminates the issues caused by disjointed legacy systems and siloed processes.
Customer satisfaction: The mistakes, delays, and inefficiencies caused by cumbersome operations are minimized by workflow management. Orchestrated workflow automation ensures that everything runs smoothly and any issues are identified and handled quickly. Meanwhile, purpose-built features have been designed with the needs of the customer specifically in mind. As a result, you can rest easy knowing you’ll never miss an SLA again.
Automation opportunities: A good workflow management system will offer automation opportunities galore while always keeping a human informed. A good workflow tool will allow you to integrate RPA, OCR, AI-ML, IDP, or Python scripts so you can easily augment and automate processes without any need for bespoke technical intervention. You gain the efficiencies of automation while also ensuring that your human workers maintain clear oversight and control.
Actionable insights: Identifying areas in your operations that are in need of improvement is easy when you have custom reporting built into your workflow management system. You will gain a deeper knowledge of the productivity, utilization, SLAs, trends, and automation potential across your business’ ecosystem. This will allow you to pinpoint operational gaps and the areas in greatest need of transformation.