Workflow Management

One of our favorite stories about the power of Hyland Software’s OnBase workflow management software solution comes from Johns Hopkins University. In 2010, a powerful blizzard shut down much of the Northeast of the United States, stranding most of Johns Hopkins University’s admissions staff at home during its busiest admissions season in the school’s history with a “decision” deadline fast approaching.

Potentially bad news because, in the world of higher education, the sooner you can accept university applicants in the admissions cycle, the better chance the student will select your university to attend. It’s also important because universities want to identify and offer admission to the best-fit students (those that will excel and graduate) faster than the competition.

Before the storm, however, Johns Hopkins implemented a document management solution that included workflow management. So instead of hauling files to and from work, hand delivering “decisioned” paper files to the operations staff, and having that information manually inputted into a computer, the university’s admissions staff electronically "decisioned" files and had those files posted directly to the enterprise database.

The solution made life easier for everyone. Oh, and the staff recorded the most productive reading week ever.

Not surprising to Paul Lloyd, senior developer at Hyland Software. It’s the perfect example of workflow allowing “high value workers to concentrate on high-value tasks. For the business this means a greater throughput, which means happier customers.”

Go with the workflow

“Workflow management automates business processes allowing work to be shared efficiently between workers,” explains Lloyd. “It matches work tasks with the workers that can best do them.”

In a higher education admissions setting, this would mean that, after a university application was electronically inputted into the solution, it would be electronically routed to the appropriate staff person. That might be based on workload, specialisation or any other factor the university decided.

Supporting material – transcripts, essays and so forth –in electronic form would follow along and be easily retrievable, freeing the staffer from the low-value task of hunting for the loose paper documentation.

“Once they’re done with their work, the work task is automatically routed to the next worker,” says Lloyd.

The end benefit, regardless of the industry, is higher efficiency and speed to resolution.

“Employees at every level work more efficiently because they spend more time on tasks best suited to their individual skill. They do what they were hired to do,” says Lloyd. “Employees won’t waste work time searching for documents or supporting material. It helps put an end to the low-value task.”

How do I know if I need workflow?

Do any of these problems eat at your efficiency? If so, they you need a workflow solution:

  • Employees are spending too much time doing low-value tasks (searching for documents, waiting for or manually transferring paper files, losing critical documents, duplicating work)
  • Some employees are swamped with work, while others are idle
  • Busy decision makers are causing bottlenecks in the process because they must be involved but are regularly unavailable
  • Employees are cherry-picking work (most interesting, most valuable to them, and so forth) to the detriment of corporate goals

Not all pain points are solved with workflow, however. So when you consider the problems above, make sure you measure them against business processes that can be broken down into a sequence of well-defined steps; multiple steps completed by different people or groups.

And don’t overwhelm the organisation with an enterprise-wide solution right off the bat, suggests Lloyd. Great enterprise content management solutions rarely – if ever – start enterprise-wide.

“A departmental solution is a good place to start,” says Lloyd. “Consider starting small, using workflow to automate a well-defined process such as accounts payable or human resources. Solutions there can raise productivity almost immediately.”

OnBase workflows are easy to configure: no programming knowledge is required. “Even the most complex solutions require very little programming; it’s mostly point-and-click configurable. But it’s extremely powerful,” says Lloyd.

And you don’t need a huge investment in training or in support staff, adds Lloyd. Many workflow solutions are administered by the business users themselves. “It’s a quick return on investment.”

“As other departments discover the benefits of workflow, they’ll soon sign up,” says Lloyd.

And then, happily, your solution is enterprise-wide.