Extend the power of your back office and embrace change with a next-generation workflow platform
Process excellence, Process Improvement, Lean Six Sigma: whatever you call it, managing and optimising processes is a discipline with tools and a language of its own.
And for today’s IT/Ops/Compliance managers, the question of “which system do we use to manage processes?” is important.
For some, the answer is very clear: “We have a system, and it’s called Microsoft Dynamics/SAP/SharePoint/Salesforce.” (delete as appropriate).
Indeed, these industry systems do – in varying degrees – offer embedded process management as part of the licence fee.
Yet, as this article explains, workflow software has a very specific set of functions that bring benefits over and above what can be achieved through a transactional system.
Using back office systems for workflow
Let’s start with the systems you have now.
Whether it’s SharePoint, Dynamics or another system based on the Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) standard – you should be able to utilise one of the pre-programmed workflows to carry out and automate manual processes. These include things like:
• assigning leads
• issue tracking
• signature collection
• document authorisation
All these simple processes can be handled within the capabilities of your current system.
When things get complicated
We don’t have to tell you that to be competitive, you’ve got to be connected. What would happen if you needed to make changes to these simple processes? Not just to change the process flow, but to link with other systems, and reach out to modern process apps?
Most developers will tell you that customising complex flows within transactional systems can be a tricky business. Caught in a constant cycle of custom development, upgrades and bug testing, more time is spent communicating changes back and forth than adding value.
Why invest in workflow software?
Does your back office cover you for workflow? Here are some key questions to get you thinking.
• Can your existing software talk to other systems and services? If not…
• Do you have the skills to make more extensive customisation of your existing workflows?
• Can your existing system deliver on-demand reports?
• Can you create personalised analysis, in visual and user-friendly formats?
• Can your system – let’s say a CRM application – drive key processes?
• Can you make changes to your processes quickly and cost effectively?
• Are your business processes accessible online?
• Can you interact with your processes from mobile or tablet?
If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’, then you have no need for workflow software.
But if you find yourself answering ‘no’ then it sounds like your current setup is fundamentally a transaction driven system of record (as opposed to activity or task-driven).
If this is the case, then your business could benefit from workflow software.
“Not another software application!” we hear you groan. Perhaps you’ve just migrated to MS Dynamics and swear you’re never going through that again. That’s understandable. So let’s give you some strong reasons why you would want to invest in workflow software – and how you can get the benefits without the headache.
Where workflow software adds value
Make changes to processes quickly – without code. Today, if the customer or C-level doesn’t like the way things are working, then you need to change it – fast! Using a workflow system, business users become the driver for change.
Connect your critical information – yes, you have a transactional system, but what about document management, reporting, data management and decision-making engines? Often these are held separately, which makes information difficult to manage and report on.
A workflow software can be implemented quickly – in weeks, rather than months. A good business analyst can spec up a proof of concept fast, implement a tangible process application quickly and allow for rapid product iterations as you gain feedback and buy-in from users.
Enhance what you have – workflow software is a platform onto which you build applications. These interact closely with your system of record, so you get to plug those inefficiencies without impacting the integrity of your core data.
Get return on investment, fast: workflow software can be built in rapid development cycles (weeks not months) and delivered in the cloud, accessible through cost effective user licences. This significantly lowers the amount of upfront spend usually associated with back office systems, lowering the risk but delivering the benefits.
Workflow in the real world
Need more proof? Let’s look at some real-world examples of how workflow systems are benefitting businesses around the UK.
1. Compliance, call handling, policy and claims management
The scenario: The regulator is announcing some changes. Take the recent FCA updates to complaints handling for example. What constitutes a complaint is different to what it was in the past.
• How will you ensure that Operations knows how to deal with these complaints?
• How can you prevent compliance officers being bombarded with internal queries?
How workflow software helps: a ‘triage’ approach allows all the rules associated with complaints to be embedded in the system. The operations guys don’t have to know what the rules are: the system guides them through the appropriate response, ensuring complaints are handled correctly and leaving only the most complex cases to be dealt with by the compliance team.
2. Marketing, events management, costing
The scenario: Your CMO wants her team to demonstrate ROI on a recent networking event.
• How will you capture information currently held in an Excel spreadsheet?
• How will you accurately report and analyse that information?
With workflow software, you can: set up electronic forms to capture all the information needed. Marketing team members for example can pull information from the finance system in order to create projects and budgets, and interact with the workflow software when it comes to costing events, capturing delegate information, and the number and types of leads generated. Follow-ups and next appointments can be scheduled within the software, ensuring no opportunities slip through the net. The marketing manager can view how the team are doing at any time through pre-defined online dashboards configured around KPIs such as cost per lead.
3. Insurance, underwriting, brokerage
The scenario: Brokers are progressing a quote which includes an important message to their underwriters. Right now, your system knows to send the quote to all underwriters who are destined to review the quote. However, the workflow only sends the message containing critical information to Underwriter 1 – all the other records generated from the ‘request quote’ fail to receive it.
• Can you change the system in-house – or do you need to call in the consultants?
• How will you accurately track and capture the information while you wait for the fix?
Using workflow software, a business owner can: step in and alter the process to fix the problem. Because there is no code to worry about, he/she can make the required change without calling IT. When it comes to extending the system – adding functionality to handle a new risk product for example – a components-based system will make this a simple and cost-effective process.
4. Recruitment, employee onboarding
The scenario: The HR department is struggling to deal with the number of CVs coming into the business. Using spreadsheets and manual methods is slowing down the recruitment process for several reasons:
• Information is provided in multiple formats, making it difficult to pre-screen candidates
• Successful candidate data has to be re-keyed into the back-office, increasing errors
Using workflow software, the HR team can: review all potential candidates’ information centrally – whether submitted by your own website or via that of an agency. Alerts tell agencies when a position comes online, reducing wasted time. In-built scoring criteria make light work of pre-screening candidates for the right combination of skills and experience. Automation enables successful candidate information to be updated into the back office system without rekeying, paving the way for a smooth and accurate onboarding process.
Workflow software platform adds value to a back office system by: enabling you to plug your operational gaps very quickly. By gaps – we mean all those processes that you’d love to automate or fix, but didn’t have the time or money to do so.
The bottom line: No system of record can currently compete with the ability of a workflow platform to deliver fast, flexible and tailored process management. Doing so will end up in complex custom workflows, lots of de-bugging and time-consuming work that could be better spent by your developers or outsourced IT team.
On the flip side; a workflow application is not a finance system; nor is it a CRM, ERP or any other transactional management application. It cannot replace these systems, but should sit on top of it, allowing your critical transactions to drive, to flow and to enforce internal governance and increase efficiency.
The key to success is to combine the two in a way that they complement one another. The new breed of workflow software such as LEAP from FLOvate does just that.
Through a combination of Low-code, low cost delivery and a components-based approach, this flexibility can be achieved without compromising your budget or the great IT investments you have already made.