How smart Document Workflow System Management can Benefit your Company Success
As print, electronic and web distribution of information becomes ever more integrated, this article raises issues of engagement that will be new to many. Print is no longer an island or remote silo of dark arts and expertise, but part of a much wider, more open world.
We aim through this article to break down this into more manageable points, highlighting where opportunities exist and also where you should take extra care as the decisions made at some points may place you on another road or heading into a cul-de-sac.
These points represented what would be the significant stages in the document and print workflow of a business looking to do just that. As a strategy it is a sound and clear high-level approach, however, the devil is in the detail and with a little pre-planning, some “low-hanging fruit” can be ‘picked’ during this potential larger undertaking.
These “low-hanging fruit” can allow you to better define the product. They are initial cost savings you can use to justify the project or, help you build your case. These opportunities should not be overlooked as there could be a significant investment in time and cost to simply identify step 1.
However, as we have seen with businesses globally, there are tricks, and tips you can employ to both start the ball rolling, but also provide you with a significant sign-off from the business owner.
Quantify the Cost Savings
In some businesses this may be an easy equation, by adding digital processes to existing working practices, you could remove an entire workflow from your business chain. For many clients, this may be more difficult, and the project may stall at step 1 simply because a projected saving or cost reduction cannot be measured, quantified, or even estimated.
Most business workflows have grown organically and as such may not have the inspection points and raw data to allow you to analyze the correct level. You may be asked to demonstrate the potential savings and provide data that could be reviewed once the project has been concluded.
Therefore, it’s very valuable to accurately establish your current costs and workflow. If you currently work on a project, we suggest you use the same tools that will also help in your transition phase, to firstly measure your current state and put in place metrics, costs, and inspection points to compare against any proposed and then installed revision. Doing it this way ensures your compare data correctly. It is also helpful if the tools that you use to measure the current state, can also help you achieve the goals and aims, in effect a ‘Swiss Army Knife’.
Understanding the current workflow, gathering full data, and then looking to identify costs within the current operation and you can then decide going forward if these are then removed, changed, or perhaps even increased.
Ensure Stakeholders understand the opportunities
Ensure that new opportunities are not viewed solely within the confines of the new project. For instance, don’t buy a calculator that only has the numbers 0 and 1 just because you work in binary, your colleague may want to total an invoice. Be prepared to ‘share’ software and technologies across the business enterprise.
Sometimes it may be difficult to qualify the impact to associated opportunities, you may be able to save 50% of your time with the new 0,1 calculator, but you have no idea how much this could help the other person, although you may not be able to list a $ amount, you should note the potential application for your change, you never know you may be helping the other person justify their project.
Be clear in what your objectives as, what your findings show and what your measurements,
conclusions are, endeavor to remain factual and avoid emotive reasons.
Also, if you do list associated tasks that may be helped by your changes, check that the
system/service can be used in that manner. We have seen many clients purchase software believing it can be used over the whole business find that they must purchase additional licenses or an upgrade that supports multiple users.
What is the cost of not doing the changes?
Another section you should look to include when you talk to Stakeholders is the ‘cost’ of not doing the project. Whilst staying as you are may seem ‘free’, everything has a cost and a value, using the same measurement system to qualify the potential costs, use that to determine the current, current +1 and current +5 costs in staying where you are.
Explain the ‘Why’ to the team
This part considers your employees and perhaps that they may have a resistance to change, or at least are wary around the motives, scale and reach of the project. RPA/DPA and other changes to workflow, behaviors and systems work best when the people carrying out the work are engaged, supportive of the changes and understand why the changes are being made.
The flip side is also true in that you may have some employees who may have been stifled by the current working practices and will embrace the change and perhaps bring key ideas and thoughts to your review. The key here is communication and engagement. Allow them not only to give feedback on the proposed path but also get their input and thoughts on the current workflow/system before you create the solution.
In the years that we have been performing audits, reviews and checks on workflow and systems, we have found that although the Manager tells you the process is A, B, C, the people performing the role will know minutely how it currently works, and sometimes they may have workarounds to solve a problem you didn’t know existed, or they have to do extra work to get an item correct before the process starts.
Common amongst these in digital printing is when a file is requested to be printed contains extra layers or pictures at the wrong resolution. We have seen Print Rooms simply correct the problem and allow the job to continue, whilst this is proactive of the Print Room, it would cause a problem with any solution you are preparing, does your new solution cater for this variance?
Even in the current workflow, a better solution would be to move up the chain to resolve the problem at the start, rather than take extra time fixing something which shouldn’t be there in the first place.
So early clear engagement of the team, get them to ratify the scenario you’re looking to upgrade, engage and make them part of the process, perhaps run early examples with them to gain initial feedback, make it their process, not managements.
Collaborate with Employees to Alleviate Pain Points
Whilst we have covered some of this in the previous sections, be aware that whilst you’re fixing your workflows; you’re directly affecting workflows before and after yours. This may be better titled, collaborate with all employees to alleviate pain points. Other teams and workers may have to change their workflows just because you have changed yours, so always consider your customers (internal and external) and suppliers (internal/external).
Imagine if your supplier currently sends you bags of sugar, and you look at your workflow to make the sugar into sugar cubes, you streamline it and make it more efficient and produce more sugar cubes of a uniform shape/size.
Did you consider that the supplier of the sugar may find a pain point in your workflow that they wished you could take pallets of sugar, as they currently must dispense the large sacks of sugar into smaller bags because you preferred the old solution?
Validate your assumptions and confirm your input/outputs, do the decisions you are making impact other departments and how so? For the better or worse? Whilst you may not be able to address everything and create a process that solves them, you need to collaborate with the other parties to ensure you’re not creating new pain points in the workflow.
Beware of trying to “drain the ocean” especially with your first project, if digital and process automation is new to you or your company, starting a large impactful solution may not be the way to start. Take time to consider the project and consider breaking it into smaller chunks and if you can use intermediary solutions don’t be afraid to use those as a stepping-stone to the ultimate goal.
For instance, a client of ours wanted to automate their invoicing and while the Skyline platform produced all the data they needed they were unsure if they should add extra parts from associated workflows to fully represent what they wanted. We could have jumped to fully automated the solution and allow the data to flow from point A to point B quickly and effortlessly, however, the client project team would not be able to review, validate and otherwise check the data in the early stages of the transition. So, we utilised another system which allowed any user to open the dataset, view the raw data and the fully composed Invoices, and assure themselves that the data/output met their requirements, that it covered all aspects they wanted to report on, and the Invoices also matched their expectations.
This is one example, but it is possible that the small step could become the finished result rather than a steppingstone. These steps/stages no matter how small or simple it gives your User, Clients and Management the confidence that the project is achievable and that the proposed new workflow will deliver. If the results are not as expected, the project can be adjusted at this early stage.
An unseen benefit of smaller steps especially at the start is that you can almost ‘prototype’ the workflow, creating and testing the parts which will form the end solution. We have seen projects start with goal A in mind, but instead of checking and validation at each stage of development the systems used took them in a different direction and it wasn’t until near the project delivery, did they find that the solution would not achieve the primary goal.
Also, when reviewing a solution and looking at the stages it is the small steps that can be significant. For example, if you were intending to take information from system A and push it into System B, the first check is that you can retrieve information to be pushed. There would be little point in spending time and money on developing screens, fancy buttons and icons, and other collaterals on both systems first, if the basic premise of moving the information from A to B could not be accomplished.
Taking small steps is a good way to validate and check, but don’t lose sight of the end goal.
Focus On Driving Value Beyond Digital Transformation
Value can be defined in many ways, the value to the organisation of the project, in respect of money spent on the project (time, software, licenses, training, etc) and money saved once the solution goes live. There are also value propositions that are more intangible, the value the project may bring to your brand, your employees, new clients and time.
You may have a great understanding of what your customers want, but don’t be blinkered to the fact that these are your current customers, what about new ones, why would they move to you from another vendor? Ensure that you understand your value proposition at the start, why do your existing clients use you and your products and that, anything you do doesn’t reduce your current clients’ expectations.
Consider multistrand approaches, channels, and other targeted marketing. If you are providing holidays and your clients are mainly 18–25-year-olds, adding historic castle hotels will not necessarily attract the same market segment, but well marketed and executed it may bring new customers and add value to your brand. If done badly, you may see your existing clients view your business in a different light and run the risk of losing existing value. Be thoughtful, agile and ready to respond, but avoid knee jerk reactions, they may just be short-term ‘fads’, digital transformation projects can open a myriad of options for you, be careful not to drown in the data.
How can we help?
Here at Skyline, we have worked on many projects, we use tools, systems, and data to help a client understand their current state and help them measure and apply the appropriate changes to help them to their desired goals. Our Swiss Army toolkit is also backup by real experience in many industry verticals.
For more information about workflow modernisation, and how Skyline can help, contact our team of experts