Productivity through Workflow Automation. 8 concrete Tips.

Posted on Posted in Big Enterprises, Human Resources, Knowledge Management, Small and Medium Enterprises, Time management

Boosting your productivity through workflow automation is much more than just a fashion idea. It’s a way to reduce tasks that don’t add value, and use your most scarce resource – time – in a much better way. Below I present 8 real and concrete tips, with immediate instrumentation to boost your team productivity through workflow automation and business process management (BPM) tools, both in the cloud (i.e Flokzu) or on-premise (i.e INTEGRADOC).

Boosting productivity through workflow automation

Tip 1 – Know what you have to do, and what to do first.

Seems obvious, but it’s not. Many times people don’t know what to do next or what is more important to be done first. Workflow Automation usually provides a “Inbox” or “Pending Tasks” list for each user. In this list the team member can see all the tasks that have been assigned to him, their priority and some relevant data about them. In sum, once a task is done, it is possible to immediately jump into the next priority task, without delay, increasing personal efficiency and therefore, your whole team productivity through workflow automation.

Example: you have a sales team that has to follow up several commercial opportunities. Are you sure they are following up all of them? In which order? Maybe they are calling first the less attractive, just because they know somebody there and it is an easier call.

Ready to use: See Identify Business Opportunities template from our Process Library

 

Tip 2 – Pass the tasks to the next person, quickly !

Once a task is done, many times the job (also called process instance) sleeps for a while before it is passed to the next person to perform the next task. When you automate the workflow, the process engine moves, automatically and immediately the process instance to the next person(s), and put it in their Inbox (or Pending Task list). From there, read Tip 1 🙂

Example: you have a purchase request process. Once you have revised and approved the request, somebody else should request quotations from providers. So, how do you let them know that everything is ready to request the quotations? Do you send an email? You are losing time and re-typing information. Do you call them? You are not only losing time, but also sleeping your job if they don’t answer. On the other hand, if you pressed the “Approve” button and the process instance moves to “Request Quotations” stage, and it is put in their Inbox, you and them are increasing your productivity through workflow automation.

Ready to use: See Purchase Requisition template from our Process Library

 

Tip 3 – Let the business flow without you.

When people needs to ask “what have I got to do with this?” or “Whom should we send this?” to complete their tasks, it means the business depends on you. It is a main cause of inefficiency at least. But more important, it makes you a slave of your work. You need to formalize the workflows, define what needs to be done, by whom, and what comes next in, in a system. Drawing your workflow diagram using BPMN will help you. The BPM Suite will automatically assign tasks according to this system (without asking), and when completed, it will assign another task to the next person in the flow, without your intervention.

Example: you have a loan approval workflow. When the loan applicant is younger than 30 and the amount is greater than $100.000 you need to …. and a second approval from…. Ok, you got the idea. You have plenty of these rules. Take them out of your head and formalize them in business rules through your workflow, so when somebody asks for a loan, the approval workflow runs without asking you at every step, increasing the whole team productivity through workflow automation.

Ready to use: See Document Approval template from our Process Library

 

Tip 4 – Identify and remove bottlenecks

Most processes have bottlenecks: stages where the flow of work takes more time than what’s really needed. The difficulty is to detect where they are. “The process is slow” or “It takes too long to complete” are just symptoms. You need to dive into your process to make a diagnosis: identify where the bottleneck is. Once it is done, you can solve it. But to find the bottleneck you will need BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) for real time analysis and BI (Business Intelligence) for historical analysis. These features will show you information about the running process instances, how long they have been waiting in each stage of the workflow. They will also show historical useful information like “in average it takes X hours to complete this stage”, or “in average the user Y completes Z tasks per day”.

Example: Your customers complain that the “IT Support” is slow. Ok, you have your process automated, and when you look at the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) you find that the “Average time to complete the process” is 10 days. Bad thing. But you dive into this KPI and find that this 10 days are the sum of:

  • “Analyzing the Issue”, 1 day in average
  • “Solving the Issue”, 2 day in average
  • “Getting customer acceptance, 7 days”

Is the problem in your IT staff? Obviously not! Ok, this is just an example that probably will never happen, but you got the idea 🙂 Detecting where your bottleneck really is, allows you to solve this issue and increase your organization productivity through workflow automation.

Ready to use: See Issue Reporting template from our Process Library

 

Tip 5 – Direct access to reports to make decisions

It has no sense to build your reports everytime you need to make a decision. It takes time, and probably will be the same as the previous month. Seems obvious, but most of the time we are building the reports and consolidating information every time we need to make a decision. And even worse, many time we don’t have the time to do it, so we make the decision without any analysis, using just our intuition. Reports should show relevant information about your processes in order to make decisions. They must be accessible quickly and easily. They should be sent periodically to whoever needs them.

Example: If you need to see all your commercial leads, grouped by sales person and ordered by amount, you need a simple report to show it. You can’t spend your time asking for information, checking emails, guessing… Just click the report link, and read it. This will reduce the time to collect the information you need, so you as a decision maker, will increase productivity through workflow automation.

Ready to use: See how Custom Reports works in our Knowledge Base.

 

Tip 6 – Centralize your information and documents.

One of the worst ways to waste your time is to search for documents and files in your mail, in your PC’s file system, in your notebook, in your WhatsApp, etc. You should centralize relevant information in one place, with a powerful full text search engine to retrieve it immediately. A Business Process Management Suite (BPMS) with Knowledge Management capabilities will provide these tools tightly integrated to your business processes. Document management features will allow you to identify the different versions of any document quickly and precisely.

Example: You need to send a proposal to a customer, similar to one you sent 3 months ago. You start searching for the previous one in the mail. Then you find it, but it is in PDF format so you can’t edit it. Finally you can’t find it on your PC’s… remember you changed the computer last month. You’ve lost several hours until you finally find it…. but you don’t even know if it’s the latest version. If you had that document in a centralized repository, as an attachment of the business opportunity process instance, you would have recovered it in seconds. You would have been much more productive.

Ready to use: See how the Full Text Search works in our Knowledge Base.

 

Tip 7 – Avoid re-typing between applications

Not only does it take time, but it is also very prone to errors, which take even longer to rectify. You must integrate your applications to exchange relevant data. There are standards like Web Services, and cloud IFTTT applications (“If This Then That”), or even RPA (“Robot Process Automation”), that make these integrations much easier.

Example: your web design team develops a form, for customers to enter their data and be contacted. This form sends an email with that data, and a salesperson reads it and re-types the data in the business opportunity tracking system (or a CRM). Not only it is a waste of time to re-type, but it is also very error-prone. Even you can lose customer contacts. On the other hand, if the web form directly invokes a Web Service provided by the BPM Suite, and creates the business opportunity with all the data, it would save a lot of time, errors and costs, improving your whole commercial team productivity through workflow automation.

Ready to use: See how the Public Forms allows visitors to start processes,  and how Zapier lets you integrate your workflows with any other web app.

 

Tip 8 – Be productive, wherever you are.

Your productivity also increases when you take advantage of idle times and make them useful. When you are commuting, or in a Uber, or in a taxi or waiting in the boarding lounge for your plane, your mobile device allows you to work on process instances, completing more tasks that day, thereby increasing productivity.

Example: You have dozens of applications to approve. None of them take a long time and are not very complex, but there are many. The 30′ of commute is an ideal space to complete them from your mobile phone.

 

Ready to start boosting your productivity through workflow automation?

Start your free Flokzu trial here, where you can automate a whole process in minutes, without installing software or complex configurations. 

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