To implement workflow management, together with an associated workflow management system, a structured approach is recommended. In this way you will find the best solution and integrate it effectively in your business and IT infrastructure. More often, these are cloud solutions. Cloud solutions can be integrated faster and grow easily with the company.
Step 1: Find the right workflows
A cloud-based workflow management system is ideal if it is used together with a document management system:
- Combined, process automation is particularly effective since teams are freed from manual tasks in document-intensive processes.
- If the documents are already digitised in the document management system, workflows can be created much faster and at the same time increase the benefit of the document management system through interaction with the workflow management system.
- Simultaneously, users gain an optimised productivity level as the document flow is regulated by the workflow management system.
In order to introduce a workflow management system, the most important workflows should be identified, whose digitalisation and automation bring the most benefits.
Workflows that are suitable to begin with often contain numerous, recurring tasks and work steps that are of benefit to the entire company because they are of central importance. Such workflows are mainly found in the head office and company departments such as human resources, accounting, legal and purchasing. Of course, it depends on the individual company which workflows benefit most from digitisation and automation.
The focus of processes that are to be automated and digitised by workflows is often documents and their distribution, editing and control. The documents are in turn stored in the document management system, which is linked to the workflow management system.
Especially invoice processing or contract management are typical areas that are mapped in a workflow management system. Such workflows are also suitable for getting started, as their automation is expected to result in high productivity increases.
Step 2: Identify interfaces for integration
In most cases, workflow management systems are not used in isolation, but are used together with other systems such as a document management system, and other business applications benefitting from being connected to a workflow management system.
The stronger the connection between the workflow management system and existing IT solutions, the more effectively it can work. It is important to identify the necessary programs and their interfaces, and to determine how these can be linked to the workflow management system.
Examples for the integration of enterprise applications to workflow management systems:
- The integration with the accounting or ERP system makes sense, because here information and data from invoices and other documents must match the accounting data.
- In the HR department, a workflow management system integrated with HR applications can check whether documents, such as contracts or other important documents, have been correctly forwarded, signed, completed and saved.
- If Microsoft Word or other word processors are connected to the workflow management system, Office documents can be included in workflows and security specifications can be made at the same time. Version management is also possible in this way.
A good document management and workflow management system must have a high degree of interoperability. For this purpose, industry standards should also be integrated, for example REST-based APIs with which other systems can be connected to the workflow management system. If the workflow management system is a cloud-based concept, it should work well with other cloud-based hosting and version controlling.
Self-developed interfaces in an enterprise application are not recommended under any circumstances, as this can lead to problems with interoperability, access and further development in the long term. This also applies to workflow management systems. Solutions that rely on industry standards are best.
Step 3: Find the right provider and the right solution
If the requirements for the workflow management system are clearly defined and it has been determined with which enterprise applications the workflow management system should work, the right provider must be found. The integration of a document management system with a workflow management system offers added value and more effective workflows.
Ideally, the provider of the workflow management system should also have expertise in cloud services. Workflow management systems and document management systems are ideal as a cloud solution, as such systems benefit greatly from the advantages of the cloud. In addition, the provider should be able to prove its track record.
“What were once manual tasks are now handled by fully automated workflows thanks to the DMS. New employees can now be onboarded within a few hours – instead of weeks. Without process automation, we would not be able to meet the new legal requirements for onboarding."
IT Director, B&M Retail, Liverpool (UK)
Consider mature cloud solutions
The workflow management system should have a sufficient range of functions and provide the cloud services that are needed.
- Consider vendors that provide complete packages, preferably together with a document management system.
- Preconfigured workflows should still be adaptable to the corresponding requirements in the company.
- Ideally, the system should have a secure archiving function, customisable access control and be extremely stable.
- Cloud systems offer advantages with growing data volumes, as they are faster scalable and can easily provide storage space even with rapidly growing data volumes.
- Cloud-based systems are easier to plan in terms of costs and licensing. Users only pay for the storage they need. The costs can therefore be planned and controlled optimally.
- Cloud-based systems use end-to-end encryption to ensure that no unauthorised person can access the data.
- The systems are operated in secure data centres that have extensive security measures in place.
- The security of the system is taken into account during planning and should also be part of the implementation. Here it can be determined which person or people may access the data.
- Compliance requirements can also be ideally planned and introduced in this way. Human resources departments, for example, work with very sensitive data, whose access must also be particularly well protected in the workflow management system.
Preconfigured workflows offer tangible advantages
Before introducing the workflow management system, verify whether the system offers preconfigured workflows or whether all processes must be set up manually:
- Preconfigured workflows use the provider's experience for similar processes, as well as commonly successful use cases from other companies.
- Preconfigured processes can be quickly introduced and individually adapted to your own requirements.
- Due to the fast introduction, companies immediately benefit from the possibilities of workflow management.