Workflow – the flow of work
BPM – Business Process Management
Tasks performed by employees are the result of a specific code of conduct. An organisation’s most important processes are carried out according to a fixed number of scenarios.
The foundation of these tasks is information flow. The first information provided is about an existing task to be carried out, and the second is necessary to enable its implementation.
In most organisations, information is provided via e-mail, verbally or by phone. Unfortunately, with rapidly progressing automation, classic methods are failing increasingly and proving to be quite inefficient. Tasks notified in this way cannot be tracked, constantly monitored, or counted. With a large number of tasks and employees to whom these tasks have been assigned, it’s also impossible to monitor all deadlines and deliveries. In this way, employee load estimates are based on feelings, not figures.
The answer is to narrow every repetitive process into a sequence of electronic forms designed according to a specific path. As a result, each user will receive access to all tasks that are in progress and will be able to see all the necessary information in one system. A task delegation sequence designed in this way is workflow. A platform that enables information flows to be designed freely is called a workflow management system or BPM platform.
Usually, the first processes implemented on BPM platforms are acceptance of purchase invoices, correspondence flow, as well as settlement and debt collection.
When choosing the workflow/BPM system, be mindful that the organisation is constantly evolving and, therefore, even the best-designed processes will eventually become obsolete. Therefore, one of the key elements when choosing a BPM system is the ease of designing and editing processes.
The answer is cost, although workflow systems are definitely more expensive than ready standard solutions. For example – a standard system to support the process of accepting purchase invoices. Such a system is, of course, cheaper, but it doesn’t have the same integration capabilities or the possibility of extending it with additional functions and processes. Therefore, after a short financial analysis, most companies quickly see where the real costs of implementing IT systems are, and that this isn’t necessarily the price of the system.
Find out how the problem in your company could be solved using the workflow system.
If you look at developing companies that don’t use efficient BPM/ECM systems to manage the enterprise, you’ll notice recurring problems and errors in the processes being carried out. This is the result of an excessive number of events and accumulated tasks that result in a poor quality of information processing. Shortcomings in the company’s automation then start to be felt in its financial results.
There’s a need for change if one or more of these problems is identified. After an analysis, the natural process is to start searching for the fastest and cheapest way to solve them. You try to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of someone who has already faced a similar phenomenon many times. So, you end up finding a ready solution dedicated to the given problem. Analysing all pros and cons is actually the most effective way to solve the problem, provided that your analysis is short-term. So, ask yourself, can it be so?
The only case where the purchase of a dedicated solution instead of a workflow system would be justified is if a given process has no connection and thus no impact on other processes in the company. However, it’s difficult to imagine that such exists. Since it initiated a search for systemic solutions, it must be one of the key processes of the organisation. Consequently, it must draw information from other processes and pass it on to further ones.
If you decide to implement a standard solution, you’ll need to analyse the market and systems. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do the same thing every time there’s a need to transfer another process to the IT system.
But this isn’t the end. The real costs arise when you realise that you have well-functioning systems in the company in terms of specific processes. However, information exchange between them is non-existent, and employees are still forced to manually rewrite data from one system to another. They often need to involve other employees, e.g. rewriting information from the system into e-mails that are sent between employees and re-entered into other systems.
And you then return to the problem that you originally wanted to eliminate. Each of these systems is a significant investment for the company, and at this stage, it would be unreasonable to replace them with one system, such as a workflow one. So, you end up with a need to integrate the systems you’re using, and this results in more costs, showing you how much the maintenance of various IT systems actually burdens the company.
The whole process shows the importance of an in-depth analysis of processes in the organisation once the need for digitalisation appears. Purchasing a workflow system at such an early stage is ultimately the cheapest solution possible, because:
• It provides the ability to reproduce any process that occurs or will occur in the organisation.
• It requires no integration, allowing you to draw on the process data of every part of the enterprise.
• It allows full reporting without having to combine data exports from different systems
Three main aspects will tell you if the system is worth analysing deeper.
This aspect seems obvious; however, in this case, the analysed functionality should focus on making it possible to develop the system with the company’s own resources. That’s not to say that this is the most advantageous option, but it should be. What’s more, the more process design activities you can do without programming skills, the lower the system maintenance costs. First, from the perspective of your resources, and second, also in the context of the valuation of work by the system provider.
This is one of the most important points and is directly related to the previous one. It comes down to the question, is all the knowledge about the system contained within the company that produced the system? Is it the only one implementing this specific solution? Can the system be implemented by distributors, thus giving independence from the manufacturer’s ability and willingness to cooperate in modifying or expanding the system? As the workflow system itself initiates changes, providing knowledge about the effectiveness of processes, its basic premise is continuous development. Competition on a given system’s implementation market gives the buyer the security of self-regulation of “day” rates.
Defined by the number of implementations and system uptime in all organisations that use it. The size of the companies in which the system has been implemented is less important than the level of sophistication of the processes that the system includes. System performance is increasingly recognised as a derivative of the hardware. On the other hand, the level of advancement of the implementation, and so the client’s requirements, increases the number of situations in which the system provider must show great flexibility in matching the system and its functions. The more such advanced implementations there are, the statistically greater the number of problems and challenges that the manufacturer has to face. Thus, its business experience is greater, which translates into the right choice of tools and system maturity.
If the analysed workflow system isn’t particularly convincing in any of these three points, you should skip its further analysis. Many solutions on the market will meet these basic features.
There are still many aspects that should be analysed and in which individual workflow systems will differ. However, a compromise in any of these three points can be very costly in the long run.
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The main characteristic of every business process is its breakdown into individual phases. Unfortunately, it’s not what most people think – that once a process is designed and implemented, it will solve the problem forever. As the organisation grows, such processes often have to be expanded, and above all monitored. If you use a workflow system, this becomes remarkably simple.
Thus, the business process life cycle is divided into individual stages:
In the first stage, the process is designed so that it successfully performs the given task. The design shows the process flow, its procedures and the factors affecting its course and duration. Although the processes in different companies often look similar and you could use a ready template for a given process, you should keep in mind that processes differ due to the flow of information between given employees and systems. Legal regulations as well as market or competition changes also have a huge impact on the design of a given process. Modelling follows project completion, and this involves creating a formal description of the process.
The second phase of the business process is its implementation. In today’s technology era, most processes are at least partially automated to their execution, reduce their execution time and decrease the risk of making a mistake. If possible, the entire process should be automated to maximise its efficiency. This stage is the last moment to implement the appropriate software. By choosing the right system, such as the workflow system, this step can be skipped in the future. One workflow system can cover many business processes in all departments of the company.
In the next stage, the process is carried out regularly.
The fourth phase of the process involves collecting information about its progress. The collected data will reflect only one selected process, e.g. by describing the number of processes carried out in a given time, or problems arising in it. Ongoing monitoring is extremely important, as it allows you to quickly detect errors and spot elements that could be improved in the future.
The last stage is the analysis of collected data, which you can use to identify bottlenecks that require optimisation or notice opportunities for reducing process costs. The results of the analysis can then be used during the first phase of the next process, i.e. design and modelling.
Observation, analysis and drawing conclusions from each of the given stages will increase work efficiency and development of the organisation. Unfortunately, if the process is left alone, it’ll quickly become obsolete and expose the company to losses. The right system will avoid such situations and allow easy control over all phases of the process’s life cycle.
Digitisation is business automation that can be achieved through the implementation of a workflow system. The first step in digitising your business is choosing the right IT tools. However, don’t forget that choosing a standard solution that’ll solve a given problem at an affordable price isn’t necessarily a step forward in the automation process. This means that in a situation where subsequent processes requiring automation appear in the company, you may end up needing to buy another specialised system, and then another one. It’s possible that given systems won’t be able to integrate, and so you’ll return to the starting point and have to invest in the nth system that will integrate all processes or departments of the organisation. You could have just opted for this solution at the very beginning. That’s why it’s so important to decide on a system that has the potential to grow, is a learning system and has the potential to encompass the most unusual processes.
JobRouter is one of the leading and renowned workflow systems implemented throughout Europe. The system was created by JobRouter A.G., a German company founded in 1994 and headquartered in Mannheim, with branches in Casablanca, Istanbul, and Warsaw. e-MSI is a partner of JobRouter A.G. and has been successfully implementing workflow systems in Poland for many years. You can read about completed projects and companies that use the JobRouter system in our portfolio.