How easy are your business processes?

Whether it’s signing a new client, accepting an application for parental leave or submitting an internal request for data, the chances are that like many other businesses, these workflows involve a ‘document’ of some description being batted around internally, before being printed, posted, signed, returned, logged and filed. That’s a lot of gates to get through before the basic objective is achieved.
Why are we still in the habit of doing this? Well, the examples above all involve a signature or form of approval being captured on the documentation as a means of validation. But as highlighted in one of our previous blog posts, there are often digital alternatives to this (unless there is a legal/compliance imperative driving the need for a written signature), which means the whole procedure becomes a lot more time (and resource) efficient.

Even before the documentation gets shared with the final intended recipient, how many approval paths does it go through before it finally reaches a client?

For many professionals, a large proportion of the working day gets absorbed by the constant rally of emails that fly back and forth in order to keep core business documentation moving with momentum. Did you get into your current line of work to spend the day emailing? Unlikely I’ll warrant, yet most of us have experience of those days when we look back and struggle to identify what else we did with our time!
I suspect that asking if you’ve experienced a key initiative stalling, because it gets stuck on someone’s desk when they’re out of the office for a week, is opening a can worms too: the inevitable panic that sets in when a client calls in for a status update. Cue shuffling of papers on your colleague’s desk, searching through shared drives on the network, while the key person responsible is on holiday and no one else is quite sure where the latest information is…
Digitisation and collaborative working can make this process more streamlined, efficient and give visibility to the rest of the business. Should a client call in the status can be quickly known and your client updated.

A good electronic document management solution is one way to put this into practice for example:

  • It serves as an automated filing system, so you no longer need to spend time correctly filing documents where they need to be. Plus, having all documents stored electronically, means you no longer spend time trawling through irrelevant paperwork trying to find what you’re looking for.
  • It will automate the whole approvals process for you: from sharing the necessary documents to hosting them in an intelligent portal, accessible to invited parties only, where documents can be electronically signed off and approved. This speeds up the whole process significantly, especially if there are several approvers who need to sign off a document and busy schedules don’t allow everyone to be in the same place at the same time.
  • An easy to use, comprehensive search facility means that you can find what you need, no matter who in the office is on holiday! And even if you only know fragments of the document name, or a keyword such as a client name or address that is used in the document, a good search function can return relevant results much faster than searching through desk drawers and filing cabinets.
  • Important tasks and information isn’t just restricted to documents: as touched upon above, the amount of information we share via email is astounding. Most of the time we discard the necessity of saving this information or else duplicate it where necessary in order to save it into a more pertinent file. But a good document management system will automatically save emails into the relevant client file for you.

When there are lots of alternatives to the slow-stop-start processes we’ve all been following for years, it’s foolish not to look around and see what can be applied. Workflow doesn’t need to be a costly add on. You may already have technology in place that can ease the pain, without having to adopt something new.

The next time you find yourself wondering why you’re still signing off hard copy holiday request forms or filing a signed client contract away, question why you’re still doing spending time doing it. If the answer is, ‘because that’s how it’s always been done’, it’s time to adopt a more innovative outlook and find a simpler solution.