Automated Workflow Adds Consistency to Office Processes

Posted on April 14, 2010 under Uncategorized by

Document control software includes collaborative tools anybody can use

Getting a team of employees to properly follow a complex chain of work procedures sometimes requires a lot of training.  Even then, errors, bottlenecks, and miscommunication can still continue to plague a cycle of workflow.

Rather than giving everyone multiple refresher courses on all the steps they need to follow, it might make sense to automate the procedure using file management software.  With automation, employees don’t need to remember all the smaller points of procedure, and the system ensures they don’t leave out any necessary information or skip an important step in the process.  Since the system tracks where documents stand in the flow, it is easy to monitor work progress.

Setting up custom workflow based on your business processes might sound like a time-consuming task for a team of computer scientists, but easy-to-use document control software now give administrators simple tools to set up and manage workflow without programming.  Managers can also add automated business processes gradually and refine them over time.

Here’s some basic techniques used in document management systems to help improve workflow.

Completion status tags – For a recurring document with multiple contributors, employees can save the file not just by name, but also by the stage of completion within the overall process.

These “metadata” tags can be as simple as “stage one completed” or “waiting for manager approval.” Indicators such as these prove invaluable in identifying where work needs to flow next.

Automatic notifications – Once a certain action is performed or a stage in a process is reached, the system can send electronic notifications cc’ed to any number of users.

Say a recurring document is saved with “waiting for manager approval” status.  The system automatically sends the manager an email reminding her to review it with a link to the file. There is no need for sending around large attachments that proliferate redundant documents and confuse versions.  File management systems can also automatically insert calendar reminders for future deadlines in applications like Outlook.

Integrated templates – Traditionally, a new work process is kicked off by some kind of form detailing the basic information. A work order or a price quote, for example, might instigate a series of actions among several work teams. An initial form made in Word or Excel template can supply the essential job data — like the name and address of a customer, project number, and so on — into the database of the document management system, which can automatically populate later documents in the process.

Auto-fill techniques through simple templates add consistency to common business processes, supplying complete information to forms without employees having to look up or re-type it every time.  In addition, templates can be integrated within workflows.  For instance, a date in a job order templates could be used to calculate due dates or automatic reminders later in the workflow.

Workflow Management Systems used to exist only in the largest corporations, but today with a variety of affordable “out-of-the-box” digital filing solutions, small- and medium-sized businesses can use many of the same tactics.

The results of automating workflow can be transformative; with a few automated steps, companies gain consistent communication, accurate record keeping, and a streamlined business processes that are faster and far more efficient than before.

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