(Almost) Paperless – How Workflow Automation is Transforming Work

A recent report by international digital services firm Xerox shows that 80 percent of businesses want to streamline their paper-based workflows. Assura software MD Hamish Howard uses this as another excuse to quote business systems guru, Homer Simpson. 

Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents confirmed they are wasting time each day on traditional paper-intensive processes, and 60 percent view this as having a major impact on their bottom line. This means cutting paper out of the way they invoice, report financials, manage legal and human resource forms and other time-consuming processes.

As I read the report I thought, you can keep throwing statistics at me all day long, but as Homer Simpson put it; “…Oh people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.”

The above percentages are obvious.  If you ask most people in business if they want to be more efficient and streamline paper processes to save time they’ll say yes.  Well, the honest ones who want to improve will and the rest are either perfect, delusional, or both.

So if the above is self-evident and we all agree we could do it better, why don’t we?  (Careful here, we’re descending into a whole field of psychology and podcasts built around this mystery about the irrational and self-defeating behaviours we take on consciously and unconsciously to stymie ourselves!)

I believe at the core of the issue is that we’re just too busy and, although we know this and many other facts, there’s always something more immediate to do.

We’re busy being busy, when we could choose to be busy being productive (there’s another blog in here!).

So the rest of this blog is for those who want to give up being busy and aim to be productive.  If that’s you then the following covers one of the ways Assura can help, with some real world examples and as few statistics as possible.

There are many companies in New Zealand that still heavily rely on hard copy or paper systems.  We have many examples of how Assura is meeting the demands from agile businesses to streamline and automate their workflows leading to a transformation in the way they operate.  Please allow me a shameless plug by asking you to take a look at some of these.

A major reason for the increasing demand for automated workflow platforms is actually true, our clients tell us – It’s because such systems deliver increased productivity and save money through:

  • Improved collaboration between people and departments.
  • Streamlined processes.
  • Fewer errors.
  • Shorter response times.
  • Less manual intervention.

This is not just ‘the vibe’, it’s actually measurable!  But no more statistics…please!

Breaking down barriers

It’s because automated workflow systems facilitate the rapid flow of information through a business.  This breaks down barriers between people and processes – leaving more time to focus on higher value tasks. For example, leading organisations and government authorities have implemented Assura’s Workflow software. Here’s an example of why:

The Ministry of Education was able to combine data from more than 2,000 schools into one interactive database; a centralised call centre now makes it possible for clients, especially younger people, to easily access Family Planning services; and MainPower’s new event management system allows for live tracking, consistent management and escalation of incidents. Detail can be found here.

Mobility and transparency

Mobility is a key factor for businesses looking to digitise. Twenty three percent (sorry, another statistic to question) of businesses surveyed in the Xerox report believe mobile devices will be completely integrated with their workflow processes by the end of 2017.

The main drivers being increased productivity, meeting customer needs for remote information, and improved service.

The added advantage of mobility is that it provides a global overview of your organisation and what is happening at any one time. Our clients have the tools at hand to quickly respond to customer needs and industry conditions, along with instant access to relevant policy, guidelines and advice.

Essentially the right information can be accessed by the right people, at the right time.  This is how it should be.

Configurability

In an earlier blog we talked about the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of software – implementing an easy-to-configure platform that both solves problems and implements solutions.

This is because workflow software needs to reflect the everyday operational requirements and applications of your business.  It also needs to have the flexibility to handle any future procedural changes.

We see too many businesses purchasing ‘one-size-fits-all’ products that offer a narrow solution to meet only one of their priorities.  These also don’t play well with existing processes and devices.  Cue grumpy staff and more time wasting while they complain to you and each other about the issue.

Running a successful business today is more challenging than ever, and, after people, the most valuable asset for any organisation is time.

Digitising your existing paper-based systems will free up hours of productivity that were previously spent on wading through disconnected and static paper and processes.

Yes, the above examples all took someone to challenge the way it had always been done and possibly put in a few extra hours to save exponentially more in the medium to long term.

If this is something you’re prepared to do we’re happy to be there helping along the way and once again it’s important to remember the fountain of wisdom that is Homer Simpson –

 “Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it.  Now quiet!  They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”

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