Don’t Fall for the Digital Workflow Delusion
Are digital workflows smart by design? Does digitizing your paper-based business processes guarantee smooth operations?
What is Digital Workflow?
Digital workflow is a sequential, predictable combination of data, guidelines, and tasks that make up everyday processes at a business. By defining workflows digitally, business users can look up crucial data instantly, keep track of processes and tasks, streamline them for optimal productivity, and even automate them.
Just because you digitized your workflows doesn’t necessarily mean that your processes will run smoothly. Many businesses that take pride in making their processes digital are still under the heavy burden of manual work without realizing it. They are under the assumption that a digital workflow is smart by design.
Here’s an illustration to showcase this.
The Digital Workflow Fallacy
Sheryl handles supply chain management for a large hotel chain. A year ago, she got rid of all paper forms and now handles all her regular processes over spreadsheets and email.
For example, if a hotel needs new supplies for the kitchen, someone from the team fills out a Google form. Sheryl gets notified by email. She checks it, copies the cells into an email, and sends it to the finance team for processing. After the payment is ready, the request is emailed back to Sheryl who sends another email notification to the vendor.
It might look like their process is faster than a traditional paper route. However, if you draw parallels between the two, there’s actually not much difference.
Here are a few obstacles that Sheryl’s team faces when they carry out workflows through emails:
- The team still fills out items manually, just like the paper form. Depending on the kind of form she uses, there may or may not be validation parameters.
- Tasks on emails can get lost in someone’s inbox and aren’t resurrected until someone remembers to follow up.
Deadlines are hard to track and enforce.
- All notifications must be sent manually. If someone forgets to send an email or sends it to the wrong person, that item dies a long, slow death.
- There is no place for process owners to overview the workflow or track status.
- It promotes finger pointing and disrupts team harmony.
You can find additional inconsistencies with this workflow if you look deeper. Digital workflows that run on emails are not much different than manual workflows that travel on paper. This leaves Sheryl with a key decision:
Should You Ditch All Digital Workflows?
Sheryl had the delusion that digital workflows were by default fast and efficient processes. But digitizing your workflows doesn’t magically improve things.
What digital workflows do is provide a solid foundation to carry out the value of automation that is crucial to business processes in today’s fast-paced economy.
Consider this – Sheryl has a smartphone which is far better than an old rotary phone. Her smartphone offers a lot of one-touch features, such as calling a person by just tapping their name on the contact list.
But what if she used the smartphone dialer the same way she used the rotary phone? Imagine the amount of time she wastes remembering a person’s number and keying it in one digit at a time?
Digital workflows offer a lot of possibilities, but only if you compound their benefits with automation. When you automate a business process, a software tool takes over repetitive, recurring processes. It then makes sure they all run efficiently and accurately, and deliver consistent results.
Workflows streamline your processes, and automation helps you take advantage of this. This brings us to the next question.
Digital Workflow Automation: How Can You Automate a Digital Workflow?
You can automate a digital workflow using a business process management (BPM) tool. If your workflow is already digital and running efficiently but has scope for improvement, then a BPM tool can be an invaluable addition. Automation is just one aspect of what a well-built BPM tool can do; it usually comes packed with a gamut of powerful features that you can use to your advantage.
Some of the major features include easy user navigation, pre-integration with major software platforms, greater visibility of items, reports, and data analytics.
Back to the smartphone example, when designed properly, even a five-year-old knows how to use it, but a power user knows how to get a lot more out of it.
When Sheryl’s team automates their workflow, they can reduce errors, increase processing times, and clear out their inbox at the same time. Automated workflows are not only fast but more transparent, accountable, and thus, more productive for your teams in the long run. It’s for reasons like these why businesses are flocking to automation technology, especially when it comes to handling their core processes.
If you’ve been disappointed by the speed of your digital workflows, you need to consider automation. With Kissflow Workflow, you can easily try your hand at automating a digital workflow. There are a ton of benefits to doing so, and automation is only one of them!