Before reading any further, please consider the two questions below:

  1. Do you use, or considering to use, an electronic document or content management system (often known as EDM, DMS or ECM)?
  2. Do you use, or considering to use, any form of workflow or business process management (BPM) software?

If you have answered ‘No’ to both questions then you are potentially missing out on some great opportunities to improve efficiency.

The cost and ease of implementation of ECM and workflow products have come right down, and the benefits to any business that needs to move documents (paper or electronic) can be quite impressive.

If you have been put off by all the hype about paperless offices then you are not alone. This has been the promise since the advent of desktop computing, but most of us see more and more paper being generated in our businesses. However, with the proliferation of mobile devices, high speed internet and cloud computing, the tide is turning. Whilst the totally paperless office is still a dream for many it is certainly possible to have a less-paper office through careful investment in technology. Payback times for investments in ECM and BPM can often be less than twelve months and savings in efficiency of around 40% are not unusual.

Technology vendors have not been slow to pick up on these trends. Many database packages and sector specific ERP/practice management systems now come bundled with workflow functionality and integrated document management. This can seem very attractive, but be aware because some may lack functionality seen in dedicated systems and are unlikely to integrate with your other systems.

I am currently working with several vendors; some specialising in practice management for professional services industries and others in the ECM space. All of these vendors offer some form of BPM or workflow functionality so it can be quite daunting to know where to start. The workflow software may be free to use but the cost to implement can be high. It is therefore important to pick which processes to automate first and ensure you use external resources wisely.

My advice is that rarely does one size fit all, and using a combination of systems and processes may be best. For example if automating a ‘document centric’ workflow, where a document comes into the organisation and needs to go through several departments before filing, then it would make sense to use the BPM solution within the ECM system. However, if you are automating a billing process that is almost entirely within the practice management system it is probably going to be best to use their inbuilt workflow solution.

Workflow can give you that all important edge over your competitors and help to improve the experience for your customers. I am still amazed at the number of business I come across with highly manual processes and too much reliance on paper based files. Don’t get left behind because there are a lot of businesses that are taking advantage of new technology.

If you would like to discuss how workflow and / or document management can help to drive efficiencies in your business then do get in touch. I have several case studies that I can share as well as the experience of working with a number of different vendors over the past few years.