Enhance business processes with a workflow automation platform

08 February 2021 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read

The working from home trend emerging from the Covid-19 crisis is disrupting the way organisations run their operations, including the execution of processes. Chris Ellis from Nintex explains why organisations need to recalibrate their processes to the new normal and how a process automation platform can help. 

The shift to remote working brought both advantages and disadvantages. Many people have found their productivity has increased and avoiding long commutes gives them time to focus on other activities. For others, however, the new paradigm has caused stress and disruption. Previous work patterns have been disrupted, workflows altered, and lines of communication interrupted. In these cases, more work will have to be done to get operations back to normal.

Back in pre-Covid-19 office life, finding information tended to be as easy as asking a co-worker. However now, with large numbers of staff working remotely, traditional communication opportunities such as the watercooler or coffee shop are suddenly gone.

Enhance business processes with a workflow automation platform

Meanwhile, existing processes have also come under pressure. Already dusty procedure manuals and complex flowcharts are now even less likely to be deciphered, leaving vast numbers of employees with little support for the everyday tasks they’re expected to complete.

This is a situation that can cause many people significant stress. As any new staff member can attest, not knowing where to look for something, from documentation to software access credentials, can be an unsettling experience. 

It’s also unproductive, and employees searching for information on what to do next, or who to hand tasks off to, can lose time and momentum. Often, communication technology can also feel overwhelming, resulting in a situation where staff come up with their own solutions. 

A negative impact on corporate processes

Inevitably, the result is process variation. As staff develop new methodologies to solve the problems they face in isolation, process execution becomes individualised. This introduces significant instability, as steps are short-cut and compliance takes a back seat to convenience. Such unmanaged process evolution results in breakdowns and delays that can cost an organisation time, money, and customer goodwill. 

The best solution to this problem is to make process information available in a way that staff can readily use from whatever location they happen to be working. They need cloud-based process management and automation tools that are both easy to use and powerful to invite engagement and support productivity.

Such an online process platform provides a central source of truth for everyone in an organisation. It makes processes clear and provides information that is easy to find and simple to use. Linking process documentation to information management systems and document libraries ensures that teams have everything at their fingertips, from forms and policies to instructional videos and linked sites. 

Support innovative thinking

While providing clear information about corporate processes to remote-working staff is critical to ensure operations remain smooth, another benefit stems from having a cloud-based location that everyone can turn to when they’re thinking about their processes. Such a platform also supports innovative thinking. 

The tendency for staff to find new approaches to challenges, eliminate steps, and change the way tasks are executed is a good thing. Indeed, as workers adapt to the new work-from-home world, they’re likely to spot places where efficiencies can be gained through new ways of doing things. In all cases, these changes will require good governance.

When remote staff members are provided with a platform through which they can offer suggestions and engage in process conversations, those ideas can be brought to light, evaluated, and approved. Where they offer savings and improvements over the status quo, they can be scaled across the organisation for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

When an organisation takes steps to appoint process champions that encourage and oversee these changes, it can ensure process evolution is managed in a way that welcomes innovation but also protects stability and best practice for everyone.

Embrace new tools

When large numbers of people shifted to working from home during 2020, many discovered technological tools that they’d previously rarely considered using. The adoption of tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet went through the roof. 

Such new ways of thinking can also be turned to how processes are executed. Automation software, like workflow automation and robotic process automation, can accelerate process execution by taking on the task of routine data handling and routing. They can reduce errors in data transfer and speed up the handover points between staff and process steps, freeing employees to focus on value-adding activities that require a human touch. 

It's going to take corporate Australia some time to fully come to terms with the impact of remote working. However, by taking the time to assess its impact on processes and the best ways these can be adapted to the new environment, organisations will be ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

More insights authored by Chris Ellis:

Why effective digital transformation eludes many organisations
Create the right business culture to achieve business agility