Tim Nissen | Workflow Automation Reducing Business Process Costs.
When operated manually, business process costs are considerable. While companies realize these exists throughout their organization, it takes focus to discover actual amounts among employee hours involved.
Adding automation where costs can be quantified is a trend based on an understated reality – workflow automation reducing business process costs. Accounts Payable is an area with telling industry averages: manual, paper-based AP environments need 14.6 days to process a supplier’s invoice, at a cost of $16.91 each. AP workflow automation brings processing time down to 2.9 days and the cost to $3.47.
From a broader organizational prospective, Deloitte states workflow automation reducing business process costs by 30%. This figure factures staff time savings and accuracy improvements, with documentation remaining contiguous, accessible and trackable throughout process lifecycles.
Workflow automation is powered by enterprise content management (ECM), software that enables automated lifecycle management of project and transaction documentation. It encompasses capturing paper and electronic documents in all forms and from all sources, identifying key information and populating integrated ERP and business system fields (providing straight through processing; decreasing/eliminating data keying while assuring database validity). Once documentation is captured and organized, workflow is mapped according to a company’s specific processes, and automated to add desktop and mobile accessibility for collaborative input and approvals.
When is ideal for a company to move from manual to automated?
PwC indicates that automating workflow of business process makes sense when ECM is utilized in areas of high-frequency, where automating each consecutive process becomes faster and cheaper with time, creating economies of scale. This particularly resonates with large organizations where after a few departmental implementations it becomes economically feasible to optimize processes throughout – the ‘enterprise’ in ECM, expanding the system throughout the company, achieving higher ROI per expanded department and function.
Also indicative of ECM’s automation’s success is with legacy IT systems integration. Processes can be automated while still using a variety of existing front-office and back-office systems, overcoming the need for complex infrastructure transformation. With this, ECM shows quick results – implementation is done in small steps, converting process into automated workflow with business rules defined per departmental functional need.
Considerations for success in automating workflow:
- Ensure the selected ECM vendor’s system functionalities and business use expertise meet company-wide requirements
- Consider processing capabilities for high volumes of data interdepartmentally
- Verify that the business case is solid; work with the ECM provider’s staff consultants who have the system capability and company/department business process knowledge
- Engage your vendor to assist with Change Management; establishing and implementing a plan to assist staff function productively in their new environment.
ECM is best suited for organizations needing to cut cost to be more competitive and have geographically flexible processes. They’ll reach a superior level of operational excellence in terms of processing speed, costs and adaptability.