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Before You Optimize Workflow Processes, Get Employees On Board

optimize your workflow processesDocument management systems are often used to improve workflow processes that involve multiple departments.

The most popular uses, for example, include processes for invoicing and for archiving commercial documents needed for tax audits. While these administrative or supporting processes often aren’t directly productive, they are great opportunities to make an organization more transparent and efficient.

A purchase-to-pay process offers a good example. When someone in your company wants to purchase an item, they need to find the right supplier, negotiate the price and then make the purchase. This workflow process is likely to involve a variety of different people and departments, such as accounting, procurement, shipping and possibly IT.

When the goods arrive at your warehouse, someone has to check the delivery against the order, then notify the person who placed the order. They also have to pass the invoice through accounting, where another employee checks the invoice against the order and resolves any disparities before releasing the funds. All of the paperwork produced by this simple order must also be assembled and archived for tax purposes.

By using document management systems to continuously optimize and improve these workflow processes, you make these routine tasks faster, easier and less likely to produce errors.

While these advantages may be obvious with important, strategic tasks, don’t underestimate the benefits of streamlining smaller tasks. Ordering office supplies or small components may not serve a crucial business function, but someone has to do it, and the ordering and invoice approval could take up a lot of time. Any time you’re able to save money and effort, you’re making your company more efficient by reducing costs and freeing up time to improve your customer service.

But before you start improving your workflow processes, it’s important to get employees on board for a variety of reasons:

  1. They are the ones who must follow the new process: If employees aren’t on board, they won’t use a new process, even if it’s clearly the better way to go. Nobody wants to add to their workload, so people tend to resist the additional work of learning a new process or new tools. If you want to improve the tools or the process, you have to sell it to your people. Employees must understand why the company is making the change and (if possible) how they stand to benefit by investing extra time to learn a new process.

  2. Front-line employees may understand the processes best: If you’re going to change your process, you need to understand what you’re doing today. A description is one thing, but the day-to-day reality is often another, and management may not understand this. It’s important to get employees involved with the new process. Getting employees on board helps ensure that you’re making meaningful improvements in the real process, not just your idea of that process.

  3. Show employees how they personally benefit from changes: Workers aren’t robots — if you want them to embrace a new workflow process, show them how they benefit. Many employees have learned to equate “efficiency” with layoffs and work that isn’t as fun as it once was. Before you start improving workflows and processes, show people how the changes reduce the tedious, frustrating parts of their jobs.

    While no one enjoys having to search for a missing document, an employee might enjoy their daily trip to the file cabinet, because they see it as a chance to chat with people along the way. Before you begin changing the process, help that person understand how the new process is going to work and improve their workday.

Document management systems offer many ways to improve workflow processes, making your organization more transparent, efficient and profitable. But before you introduce sweeping changes, it just makes sense to get your team on board.

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