If your company is similar to the many of the small businesses that I speak to, you likely still have workflow systems that were implemented based on the size of the company back when you were just starting up. The most common methods of communication that I’ve run into include sending internal emails and filling out paper forms.
These manual workflow methods are efficient and cost effective methods of running your business when your company still has a relatively small number of employees. However, as the size of your company grows these methods can cause information to fall through the cracks, causing potentially detrimental results for your business.
The Impact of Manual Workflow Management
Let’s take the common expense form as an example of an internal workflow process.
Kelly Bristow works for Company Inc. and attends conferences throughout the year. She spends about an hour each month filling out her paper expense forms, printing off her emailed hotel and car rental receipts, signing the form and scanning everything together for her records, stapling the receipts to the form and then routing the entire package through inter-office mail to her supervisor, Jane.
Jane then spends about five minutes looking over and signing off on the submitted expense, but another 15 minutes tracking down a member of the executive committee for approval since the expense claim exceeds $1,000 and therefore requires higher approval.
Finally, the form is sent from the executive committee member down to accounting for reimbursement. If this process has since been upgraded from paper forms to excel spreadsheets, scanned receipts and email, many times the form still needs to be printed and then scanned in with the supervisor’s signature for accuracy.
Whether your company uses the manual paper method or the electronic email method, if your business is busy (as we hope that it is), and your employee base is growing, both methods leave room for misplacement of forms, human error, and a drain on resources.
Automating Your Workflow Management
One of my favorite parts of my job is learning about the current systems in place within a business, to discover ways in which they can be streamlined and automated using our intranet software. When our developers enhanced our form building tool last year, adding in the ability to add excel spreadsheet capabilities within online forms, create employee tests and surveys, as well as add multi-stage workflow with optional escalated approval functionality, I was excited (to say the least). I saw a perfect stepping stone to help businesses move away from manual workflow processes such as email and paper forms, to a secured and automated workflow process.
Automated Workflow Management Example
Let’s pick up that expense form example again to see how the process would look different moving from a manual to an automated workflow process.
Kelly’s expense form is now easily available to her through an interactive online form on her intranet, which is accessible right from the homepage of her company intranet when she opens her browser. Kelly attends two conferences each month, on average, and likes to keep on top of her expense submissions so after each conference she adds in her information into the expense form and saves it as a draft.
Kelly’s information is automatically pulled out onto the form based on her secured intranet login and the information contained within her employee profile. Kelly can upload her electronic receipts right onto the form, and if she is not sure of the distance traveled to the conference she can use the embedded GPS mapping tool to calculate her mileage for her.
Kelly uses the spreadsheet capabilities on the form to simply add a new row for each trip she has traveled that month. If the claim total exceeds a specified dollar amount, in this case $1,000, Kelly will be prompted to provide an explanation for her excessive claim prior to being able to submit the form.
Upon submission the form will automatically be emailed to her supervisor, which the software already knows from the information on her employee profile, who can simply approve the submission rather than signing a form, as her intranet login information is secured. Once approved Jane doesn’t have to do anything; using automated workflow triggers the form will automatically be sent to the entire executive committee ONLY IF the total exceeds $1,000. Once one member of the committee approves, the form is then sent to the accounting department and a notification is sent to Kelly of final approval.
Kelly’s form submission and receipts are both stored on the intranet, and Kelly can track her form approval process to determine how far along in the approval process it has gotten.
Time-Cost Savings with Automated Workflow Management
Writing out your current manual processes can bring a whole new light to the potential time-cost savings of automated workflow management. In this example, we’ve saved Kelly and her supervisor hours of time each year just on this one form alone. Think about your company and the number of different forms your employees fill out each day. They really add up!
Employee forms represent just one area of automated workflow. Moving your document management workflow processes online, streamlining your vacation requests with an interactive calendar, or automating intranet content posting approval such as the Employee Recognition Application, are all ways in which you can achieve huge time-cost savings within your organization.
Ways to Improve Workflow Management
What are some ways you automate workflow processes with your intranet? Please leave your suggestions/comments below. If you are interested in how Intranet Connections can help to automate your business workflow and streamline your core business processes I would love to give you a tour of our intranet software – just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.