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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Improving business efficiency & productivity with workflow

By James Roberts
Flow Chart: Field
Adjustments to work flow process can improve efficiency

Whatever your business, be it in the public or private sector, the chances are your company produces a lot of information. In the early days storing this data on a computer hard-drive is sufficient, but as new documents and revisions to existing documents begin to mount up, keeping your business data secure, with the right version of each document to hand, and catalogued becomes an ever-increasing problem.

Similarly, if you send out a lot of information to your customers or workforce, printing the data, making sure it is sent to the right people, that the addresses are correct and that responses are tracked, also becomes a major issue and a major use of your time. Solutions, however, are out there and this article will touch on some of the most useful.

Understanding workflow

As with any management and control system, documents have a linear life-cycle. Understanding and then describing this life-cycle is known as workflow. Tom Baeyens in his article "The State of Workflow" says:

"A [Workflow Management System] takes a description of a business process as input and manages the executions of the process instances. That makes it much more flexible then (sic) dedicated applications but you have to do the effort to create a formal description of the business process."

The CIO (Chief Information Officer) Publication refers to Workflow as:

"... a term used to describe the tasks, procedural steps, organizations or people involved, required input and output information, and tools needed for each step in a business process."

On their website, the Workflow Management Coalition says:

"Workflow management systems are being deployed in enterprises as a new kind of information infrastructure, helping to streamline and automate office work processes. A key feature of these systems is that they automate the workflow itself."

Workflow solutions

So how does this affect your business? Time, money and effort are the key savings found when implementing a workflow management system. Receiving accurate results from surveys that you know are timely and tracked properly is another.

There are many solutions to document management and workflow in the market today, but finding the right solution depends on answering some key questions including:
  • How are your documents produced?
  • Do you need to track faxed information or data that has been scanned into your system?
  • Does scanned text need to be read and collated into a functioning catalogue?
  • Do you need to advise users of changes and new additions to the knoweldge-base?
  • Are responses and comments to your documents important and do these need to be tracked collated and presented in a clear and concise way?
When you have the answer to these questions, then you can look for the right solution for your Workflow system. Ideally you need to find a business partner who can describe your workflow process and then automate the steps of the process seamlessly. One such business partner is Document Options Ltd.

As a specialist in document management and digital printing, we are experts in managing, describing and automating workflow in a wide range of businesses from utilities like EDF and southern Water, through local authorities such as Southwark Council and Croydon Council to government departments like the Environment Agency and HM Revenue and Customs.

Our solutions range from simply notifying users when new documents become available or to dynamically generating and distributing new documents or emails and then tracking and collating the results.

Whatever your workflow scenario, Document Operations Ltd. has the right solution for you.

About the author: James Roberts is a blogger for www.dol.co.uk a brighton printing scanning company that document management services in crawley. When James isn’t going for walks on the South Downs, he enjoys technical drawing and graphic design. Like dol here on Facebook.

 * Image attribution: Joe Page; CC BY-ND 2.0