Digital Workflow Automation: The Engine That Drives True Digital Transformation
While digitizing your paper content is the obvious—and necessary—first step, gaining the full value of a digital transformation requires more than turning paper records into digital content and calling it done. When you identify where paper content is necessitating inefficient manual processes, digital content opens the door to workflow automation. Workflow automation is the engine for successful digital transformation.
Identifying Opportunities to Automate Workflows for Efficiency Gains and Cost Savings
For years, government agencies and private organizations have been under increasing pressure to move toward digital transformation for time and cost efficiencies. If there were any doubts about the need to hasten the move, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have eliminated them. Working from home and conducting most personal business online have become our reality—no longer mere lifestyle choices.
Not only are paper records inaccessible in remote working environments, but with paper-based records adnd information, your staff spends excessive amounts of time searching for content, managing it, moving it, and archiving it. Manual searching, faxing, photocopying, and hand distribution is costly and time-consuming. Capturing the content (via imaging) or data (via electronic forms and files) allows for faster, more efficient, and far less costly workflows. It also means improved service delivery.
By integrating Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) imaging, content management, and workflow automation organizations can reduce—or even eliminate—manual, paper-based processes and the costly errors, exposures, and delays associated with them.
Areas in which workflows can be automated and improved include:
- Document editing, review and approvals
- Application processing
- New employee on-boarding
- Accounts payable processing
- Records retention and storage
- Vendor contract management
Here’s one specific example of a well-automated workflow:
A request is made for an official government document as part of a Freedom of Information Act filing. The responding individual inputs a request, assigns a case number, then routes the request to the appropriate offices for necessary approvals. The approved digital documents are securely stored in a centralized archive, retrievable for printing and redaction as needed. Processing and routing are managed by the workflow automation platform, eliminating error-prone manual tasks like batching, splitting, filing, and indexing.
By automating workflows like this with digital content, not paper-based files, you’ll see:
- Increased productivity
- Improved customer experience
- Time savings
- Greater, and easier, collaboration
- Better security and stronger compliance
- Fewer errors
Developing a Plan for Workflow Automation
When determining which processes to automate, think about your organizational goals. What do you want to achieve? A shorter process for sharing information internally? Speedier responses? Operational cost savings? This is when you should carefully consider how your documents are used and how much paper-based workflow processes are costing you in terms of time inefficiencies and expense.
Next, get more specific. Begin with if/then scenarios. For example, if existing manual processes were eliminated for specific workflows, what savings would result and what other efficiencies would be gained? Are there repeatable and predictable actions and processes that can be automated? Are there actions and processes that are frequently delayed if no one acts upon them, creating inefficient bottlenecks affecting service delivery, operational effectiveness and cost?
Once you’ve identified and prioritized the existing manual workflows and the greatest benefits of automation, you’ll need to determine how to make the changes.
How Software and Services Can Help
Where do you need help simplifying complex paper-based, manual processes?
Digitizing content and managing business processes such as membership and enrollment or benefits eligibility processing can be a challenge for any organization, especially when volumes fluctuate frequently and processes are manual and time-intensive. Smart technology, especially cloud-based SaaS, and professional business services can alleviate the burden of digitizing content, as well as tasks like mail intake or payment processing.
These technology platforms and services not only save money, but also improve accuracy, speed, and consistency of service delivery.
Cloud-based imaging and content management technology help reduce the limitations of paper and paper-based processes through features that enable workflow automations, such as:
- Real-time task notifications
- Configurable workflows
- Role-based security
- Digital signatures
- Digital distribution and fulfillment
- Scheduled content retention management, based on record purge policies or compliance mandates
A key decision in your workflow automation plan is whether to manage it internally or bring on the expertise of a technology and services partner. Base your decision on factors such as internal resources, budget, timeline, goals, and size of the project. Also be clear about the long-term benefits and of the investment and return on that investment in automation and digital transformation.
Most organizations lack the equipment, software, and staff expertise to execute a major content digitization and workflow automation project. Expert vendors provide digitization services, technical advice, and sometimes even long-term platform maintenance and support.
Experienced partners like Image API offer business process optimization (BPO) services, including digital mailrooms, document and payment processing, as well as off-site data capture, scanning, and imaging.
Workflow Automation in Action: A Use Case
Image API has helped hundreds of organizations successfully digitize content and automate workflows. For the Florida Bar, we implemented a business process solution for annual membership enrollment and renewals.
Attorneys renew their membership to the Florida Bar annually. The renewal process had been completely paper-based and manual, often with wait times in excess of a week. Annual renewal deadlines meant volume spikes and forced the Bar to hire and train seasonal employees to handle processing. Employees and temporary staff would manually enter data and payments, which was time-consuming and error-prone.
Image API implemented a solution to digitize and streamline the processing of renewals, applications, and payments. Incoming mail and payments are now digitized by our BPO professionals. Using Image API technology, files are automatically organized with data extracted from the application form. The digital files are loaded into the Bar’s business application, and staff now has immediate access to review all incoming mail and payments.
For the Florida Bar, investing in a cost-effective business process solution has delivered consistent, same-day renewal processing, with greater accuracy, even during peak volume periods. Now, members receive faster service and the Bar saves time by eliminating paper-based, inefficient manual processing, as well as the cost of seasonal, temporary employees and their training and on-boarding.
With cloud expertise and 25 years of experience, Image API’s intelligent content management technology and business services help reduce the burden of paper to automate workflows and enable digital transformation. No matter where you are on your digital journey, we’re ready to help move your paper and processes to digital, fundamentally changing the way you work—for the better.
We’d love to share our experience, results and technology with you.