RDA Project Manager Paul O'Neil shares his thoughts on a Nintex blog post - “RDA’s partner, Nintex does a great job articulating that implementing business process automation is more than just picking a few processes and building workflows. In addition to the initial processes to be implemented, it is important to consider the design complexity, monitorability, and many types of actors involved.
The thing to remember about workflows is that they are not necessarily one-size-fits-all.
They can be as basic as an arrangement of tasks that need to be checked off by a couple of employees. Or they could be a highly complex collection of tasks and subtasks that depend on collecting input from multiple teams as part of a wider business activity like merging that data with information stored in other systems of record, parsing it, and creating a structured document as an artifact of that process.
But, whatever your requirements for process automation, to deliver value long-term, your organization needs to have a consistent workflow management system in place.
So, let’s look at some of the essential features that your workflow management system needs to include for it to be a ‘well-oiled machine’ that will be readily adopted by your organization.
What is a Workflow Management System?
A workflow management system is your business’s way of managing its infrastructure of workflows. This includes the choice of workflow automation platform/solution and how it is applied to solve business problems and accelerate business processes.
The Need for Quality Automation
Organizations that adopt workflow automation for their business processes benefit from reduced costs and more time and resources to focus on more difficult problems. It also allows for an overview of who is responsible for each aspect of a process which improves transparency and communication.
Workflow automation can:
- Free your employees from low-skilled, repetitive processes (e.g. “the low hanging fruit”)
- Eliminate the risk of human error
- Follow up on tasks automatically
- Allow an organization to analyze their business process and make improvements
- Reorganize tasks and vastly improve communication
- Increase overall business productivity
While you can build your own individual workflows on a platform like Microsoft SharePoint — the problem with this is that building a workflow with a tool like SharePoint Designer, it’s a time-consuming process, is not reusable, is limited in its scope and feature set and most importantly, is now deprecated.
This is not ideal.
As technology improves and continues to change the way we do business, taking advantage of innovation and the speed in which we can do this becomes more essential than ever for your organization to stay ahead of the competition. Therefore it makes more sense to invest in a workflow automation solution that will make your workflow management system more accessible to more people in your organization—not just your IT team—and enable quick-to-design-and-run workflows that are more powerful than limited platform specific workflows.
So, what are seven of the most important features that your workflow solutions should include?
1. Simple-to-use designer
As noted above, if you rely on your IT department to build and run your workflows you’re missing out on the real agility needed in business today. The best solution can perform complicated tasks but feel simple and intuitive to use and design with. This type of solution scales across your entire user base, ranging from IT Pros to individuals in the business.
2. Innovation in the cloud
Almost any new system you incorporate into your business today needs to be cloud-ready.
And this remains true for your workflow management system too. Users need to be able to access content, approvals and reports from any location, any time of day or night. Along with this, cloud-based workflow solutions will have a much lower upfront investment (no dedicated servers!) and won’t be subject to lengthy maintenance ‘outages’ to benefits from updates offering the latest features.
3. Integration with third party solutions
Another benefit of tech that’s based in the cloud is its potential for seamless integration with other cloud-based services.
We’re constantly becoming more connected and the same is true for our business solutions. The best workflow management systems will connect effortlessly with other solutions like Salesforce, Google Drive, Dropbox, Zendesk, DocuSign, just to name a few.
4. Power of analysis
Once you have a set of workflows working across your organization you should be looking to explore and analyze your process. This way you can find out what’s working well and what could be improved. Your workflow solution should provide you with precise information on productivity and resource management.
5. Document integration
Documents are a central part of any business process, and when you’re building the perfect workflow you’ll need a solution that is easily able to integrate automatic document generation into the process.
6. Flexible workflow designs
It’s important that you have a solution that enables easy-to-customize workflows when you need them.
As mentioned earlier, workflow automation can cover the spectrum from a simple task to complex processes. You need a system that will allow you to handle both ends of the spectrum and tailor any process to your specific needs every time.
7. Easy to use interface
This point goes back to being easy to use for employees who are not necessarily extremely comfortable with IT.
The interface of your solution should be appealing and intuitive. It’s about cutting-edge innovation with straightforward functionality. This will reduce frustration for your users and lead to better productivity.