When you say you had a busy day at work, what does that entail?
For most people, a busy day involves emails, meetings, and a pile of documents. Each day may come with many challenges, but the tasks are usually variations of tasks you have performed before. Workflow automation is a solution that creates a process that identifies repetitive tasks and frees knowledge workers from the burden of having to perform these tasks.
And, here in this post, we are specifically going to address document workflow automation.
For many organizations today, improving competitiveness is at the forefront of their annual goals and digital transformation is a key vehicle to achieve that goal. Imagine how many back-and-forth emails it takes most businesses to engage with a client from the time they show interest in a product, to the time they finally sign a contract and deliver. Although communication is important, it is also imperative that the business hours are not taken up performing tasks that can be performed more efficiently.
It is a relief that most companies have some kind of workflow and it is not just anarchy when dealing with documents. Most organizations have sequential tasks to ensure that document processes are executed in an organized way.
For example, an insurance company may meet with a possible client who is interested in life insurance. The company representative will take down notes about the client's need and discuss the options available.
Next, a draft policy will have to be created using a template as well as input from insurance experts to cover every inch of detail. The draft policy will then be shared with the client either through email or delivery of a hard copy. The client then has to read through it, suggest changes or even negotiate the premiums and the document will return to the agent for a final draft. When all parties are comfortable with the document, a meeting will be scheduled where the document will be signed.
Although not every insurance company or even business will have a process exactly as described above, there are still similarities. The main point here is that the process is unnecessarily long. Back and forth communication exposes the workflow to loss of authenticity, error, and guidelines can be flaunted. The common challenges experienced by organizations that use this process include:
This is why automation of workflows is a better option.
When document workflow automation is adopted instead, the process is efficient. Templates are a key feature of automation. Returning to the example of an insurance company, the company will create templates to suit different cases and include fields that can be filled by the client to indicate the kind of cover they want along with other details of the policy.
The template will have some mandatory fields and optional ones. The fields on the template include most of the commonly discussed issues when a client meets with an agent.
Instead of a physical application form, the client can access a template online and enter the required fields. This will cut out the back-and-forth emails between client and agent as well as agent and insurance company.
Once the client has completed filling the form, the template will be used to automatically create the insurance policy tailored according to the information provided by the client as well as meeting the organization’s document standard. The document will then be made visible to both the client and the concerned parties within the organization.
The automated document also includes a field for digital signatures. This is convenient because the policy can be signed immediately without the need for delivery and physical presence. Once that is done, the document will be stored in the cloud.
Changes can still be made to the same document in case the client chooses to upgrade their cover. A notification can also be set for the date of expiry of the policy so that renewal can be affected.
For a business that already has a workflow in place, it is not so difficult to automate this process. Figuring out where to start may be the hard part, but once you follow these steps, it will become plain sailing. This process will help to create a template that can be used to automate the workflow.
Identify the First Document: Choose a document that is often used and that the organization would benefit from having it automated. The success you have with this document will determine the way forward with the rest. The organization's value position can guide you when choosing the first document.
Map the Document Workflow: A simple diagram showing the different processes involved in creating the document will give clear navigation for automation of the document. At the same time, identify the different individuals involved in carrying out the processes that you have mapped.
Define Users and their Roles: Knowing the users and their roles will help to assign permissions for every user during the process. Some users may just be readers while others are editors and so on.
Link Forms and Fields: A document may have other forms that need to be attached to it. The fields also need to be defined. For example, some fields are editable, some are optional and others mandatory.
Create a Template: Based on the information collected above, you can then create a template that mirrors the different processes of the document workflow. This might be a process that is best done by a professional.
Choose the Tool: Document workflow automation can be achieved with the right software. Choosing the best fit for your need is important since some tools are designed specifically for particular industries. It is important to do research and choose the best.
With the template in place and the right software, the workflow automation can be implemented for the first critical document and the results can be measured. Some of the parameters for success should be:
Every organization may have its parameters for success and those should be used to determine whether change is needed. Once the first phase is complete and successful, the same process can be applied to other critical documents within the organization.