Workflow Automation Software

When Is Automated Workflow Justified?

There are dozens of processes that every employee must participate in during the typical work week. Review the budget, create the report, enterVia Flickr by Ian Carroll the new contract. When does it make sense to automate that process?

If the process happens every day all day, yes, automate it. If the process is complicated and prone to errors, yes automate that. What if the process only happens once a week or once a month? Let’s look at a few other key reasons to automate.

Having a flexible solution might help grow the company by attracting new business or expanding in a current area of focus. For instance, if a process requires a special skill set but those employees are difficult to hire, having a cloud based workflow might allow you to offer a work from home option.

Some processes have a very high value and might have a strict compliance requirement. For instance, FDA approval for a drug is a very costly process and requires strict security and compliance. Therefore, having a workflow process is important to ensure all steps were taken, reviewed and approved, even if only one drug a year is submitted.

Look at all of your processes and create a matrix of Frequency, Value, Risk, Compliance and Flexibility and weight each process from High to Low in each of these categories. You should be able to quickly spot the low hanging fruit and focus in on processes that deserve a full evaluation. At the end of the day, you will be able to justify some automation.

Compliance, risk, value and flexibility are all good reasons and may have little to do with tangible costs. The intangible cost of litigation or penalty for non-compliance might be very high. Of course, there always needs to be a cost benefit study, including an analysis of the current process and an estimate of the cost of any technology solution. Do some homework, it will pay off.

Millennia Group, LLC, www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 x122, www.collectdocs.com

Do we really need a Secretary of the Future?

Via Flickr by Maurizio PesceThere are plenty of references in our daily lives to the future and yet, somehow, we don’t always spend time to really consider the future. Songs refer to the future, books refer to the future, so do TV shows and movies, the news and much more. Even the Government is now talking about a Secretary of the Future.

In fact, it may be very useful for all of us to spend a little time each week to consider the future. Not the dreamy type future, but the realistic future that is occurring right before our eyes. For instance, will you need a pen ten years from now or will every contract be signed digitally? Amazing how a simple thought like that can set a process of critical thinking in motion.

Try this to start focusing your critical business thinking in the right direction. Don’t ask yourself what the future will bring. Instead, try asking yourself what will be missing. Steering wheels? Laptops? File cabinets? Email? That’s right, if we only want to communicate with people in our network because email creates too much noise, we can use a Chat tool or LinkedIn.

Start thinking about the future and quickly all the possibilities and how they could benefit you and your organization get clearer. We see this future based thinking already in our client base. As our clients grow or move they make decisions about the physical space requirements and already they are eliminating the need for file cabinets. A little forward thinking is saving dollars today and well into the future.

So make sure you carve out some time on a regular basis to look at what is happening around you and what it may look like 5 or ten years from now. It really can be quite fun and produce tangible benefits at the same time.

For information on Millennia Group’s document imaging, workflow and management solutions please visit www.mgdocs.com or contact us at info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577 x122.

Fear of change is okay, if it only lasts 5 minutes

In a past era processes were set in stone. Assembly lines were created and they ran for three shifts a day year after year. Big mainframes were programmed and some of those programs still run today. Change was slow and methodical for both consumers and businesses.

Today, manufacturers and businesses of all types are struggling to meet the new era’s requirements and challenges including personalization and on-demand. The only way to manage in this environment is to have a workforce and applications that embrace and smooth the way for change – in 5 minutes or less.

Unfortunately most employees, even younger ones, fear change. The fear comes not only from having to learn something new, but also from a break in routine or loss of time. With the crazy busy schedules that most employees have today, it’s the potential disruption in their perfectly calculated day that they fear the most.

It’s not news that applications designed with a consumer look and feel are gaining the most traction in the business world. It’s also applications that promise to make life easier and save time, that seem to do well. Consumer apps that can be downloaded and running on your phone in minutes succeed. This means flexible, easy to use applications that are also extremely fast to implement – install it at 9am and be fully utilizing it by 9:30am. That is what is demanded.

Here are a few tips for businesses looking to implement new software. Chose a flexible application so that users have options for how they configure it to match their work processes. Show them that it cannot be broken or destroyed if they make a mistake. Training will always help reduce the fear of change. And be sure to walk them through the implementation plan and how much it will impact their day. Less is more here. Show how it will immediately help.

We have discovered some of these things in watching as our clients started using our CollectDocs online checklist application. A checklist in CollectDocs can be set up any way the user wants, it’s very flexible. It is also easy to use and a familiar concept; create a checklist, attach documents or check items off. But it is also the fact that it can be setup and actually producing results in 5 minutes that has users giddy.

If you are exploring or investigating new software, keep these thoughts in mind. This is not an easy task for enterprise wide type applications like an ERP or CRM. However, if the user interface is familiar, the impact felt immediately and the time away from doing their job is short, it will succeed.

For more information on Millennia Group or CollectDocs, contact us at info@mgdocs.com, call us at (630) 279-0577 or visit our website – www.mgdocs.com.

Do you need Sherlock Holmes or Martha Stewart?

We have heard it from nearly every company that we have come into contact with over the past 20 years – “the entire office was recently consumed by the search for the Pensky file”. Most likely 15 to 20 years ago they were absolutely referring to a paper file. Now this reference is to a digital file, which in some cases makes it even harder.

If finding documents in your document system (SharePoint, network folders, Box, etc.) is painful and time consuming, you could call Sherlock Holmes or try to reorganize the files with the help of Martha Stewart. Reorganizing is of course the better approach and therefore, you should take some time to learn about Taxonomy.

According to Webster’s, the definition of Taxonomy is “classification; especially: orderly classification of plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships”. This has been adapted by the document management community to refer to the orderly classification of documents according to their presumed functional relationships

As an example, think about a customer order file for a manufacturer. In the order file might be the parts drawing, the initial quote, the actual signed order and maybe some miscellaneous correspondence. The parts drawing was done in the engineering department. The quote was done by sales. The order will go to accounting and eventually to production.

Taxonomy is finding out what descriptions will allow each individual document to work well in the initiating department and also permit the collection of documents to move through the process in an efficient manner? The bottom line is that better classification of documents will make your organization function at a higher level and good Taxonomy is a great place to start.

The topic of Taxonomy is complicated and impossible to cover in a single blog post. You can use the Association for Image and Information Management website www.aiim.org to learn more about Taxonomy. There are also records management consultants available and possibly records managers within your own organization.

Use the knowledge of these professionals to help devise a Taxonomy or classification and filing scheme that will help your company make better decisions from sales to production. Documents, especially digital documents, still contain much of the information that your employees rely on to make decisions. The easier it is for those employees to find the right information, when they need it, the better off your company will be.

If you need help finding a document management professional, please contact us. www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com or (630) 279-0577 x122.

Poor Man’s Business Intelligence

During a recent lunch conversation a comment was made about the great benefits of business intelligence (“BI”) – a tool used to connect lots of information dots to generate useful data. However, that was quickly followed by a second comment about the often failed attainment of those benefits. The culprit seems to be bad or incomplete historical data, ie data stuck in documents or inconsistently entered data.

Another discussion at this lunch centered on co-tenancy, a complicated topic that impacts the commercial real estate industry. As an example, a co-tenancy clause could allow one tenant to reduce its rent if another, typically significant, tenant exits the property. The significant tenant is a draw to the property that benefits other tenants. So how do these two topics relate?

Well as it turns out, there is a great need to connect lots of co-tenancy dots for property owners. When a national retailer goes bankrupt, many property owners scramble to find out which properties had that significant tenant and then what other tenants in those properties had a co-tenancy clause that would allow them to reduce rent.

This type of situation can easily occur in other industries as well. Think about the situation where a drug is now known to have bad side effects. The connection of the drug to all the patients out there is probably only a handwritten note on a piece of paper – not very connectable in the BI world.

So what is the answer beyond an extremely costly process of reading every document and putting all of that data into a database? Although not perfect, the use of full text search in conjunction with digital documents associated with good data can help. Scan a document and associate that document with the patient’s social security number. If the document has the drug name in a typed format, you could do a search for the drug name within all digital patient files. If the documents are associated with the SSN, the search results will contain the names of all those patients.

For the commercial real estate industry, the search could be for “co-tenancy” and “significant tenant name”. The results are all documents with a co-tenancy clause for “significant tenant name” and if the documents are associated with the right data, the results will be very useful. Note that there are some limitations to this approach, but with the right prep work, the results will generate big benefits.

This poor man’s BI is available in all of Millennia Group’s document management systems, because our implementation process always includes associating documents to key lists of data like tenants, patients or customers. If you would like to learn more about our solutions, please contact us at info@mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 or visit www.mgdocs.com.

Document Sharing – Why Overcomplicate it?

Courtesy of FlikrDocuments used to be shared by photocopying and FedEx. That progressed to PDF and email, which has been replaced by free file sharing websites. There are also highly secure deal sites available for Wall Street transactions. The reality is that all of these methods are in use because each one meets somebody’s unique need for security, simplicity or both.

In today’s world of massive amounts of information being available and demanded, many times the need is to share hundreds or thousands of documents. To share that quantity of documents is not practical with email or FedEx. Some type of organized, online access is required. But how do you make it both simple and secure?

What a great idea to use an online file storage system. Lots of companies use FTP sites or file sharing sites to quickly create a folder structure and then upload files. In this scenario, the user needs to assemble exactly what is needed (maybe download from an existing system), upload all of the files to the secure site, then contact the user and hope they get in and can find what they need.

But now you have the same files in at least two places, probably three, and that can create compliance and security problems. It also means that a username and password will be required to access the files. If you frequently use these types of systems, your head spins from all the usernames and passwords. There is also an issue of keeping track of what has and hasn’t been posted to these external sites or downloaded from the source system. Where is the simplicity?

For companies that have migrated their documents to a document management system (DMS) the files are presumably well organized and secure. So wouldn’t it be simple to just provide the user with access to your system? We all have the same thought – SECURITY. How is this managed, who manages this, are the files organized in such a way that it is even possible to manage?

A better solution might be a method of providing a view into your DMS for a selected set of files (files subject to the security rights of the user who is sharing the files), but only to a registered computer and email address – think banking. No username or password to remember. No need to reorganize or track what version the user has access to. Good user tracking. This method seems to provide reasonable security plus simplicity for provider and user.

Millennia Group’s FileStar document management system is working on a release that will provide some great options for document sharing and it will have the security nailed too. Watch for an announcement.

www.mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577 x122, info@mgdocs.com

Workflow Metrics, the Extra Benefit

via FlickrAll of our clients that have implemented our workflow solution have done so to improve their efficiency and profitability. However, it has become very apparent that there are significant added benefits derived from the process metrics reports that are generated. 

A quick definition of process metrics is the number and duration of activities throughout each workflow process, ie. how many completed and how long did it take. Additional measurements are possible depending on other data available within the system, such as completions by region, by person, by amount, etc.

At first glance, gathering the data and measuring the metrics seems like a big brother approach. However, when you look closely, this is a win win situation for the company and the employees and here are a few reasons why:

A win for the company:

• These metrics can be used to evaluate productivity by employee
• Metrics provide the ability to manage bottlenecks and achieve better overall results
• The metrics can help to spot trends in sales, costs or resources before the trends are visible elsewhere.

A win for the employees:

• Clearly defined goals and benchmarks to work towards relieves stress on employees
• Having metrics creates a game type atmosphere to achieve top honors for productivity, speed or error free days
• Workload is properly balanced by management so all associates are on a level playing field

There are certainly other benefits to both the company and the employees. The key is to get those old email and paper based processes converted to a digital workflow and start reaping all of the benefits.

Millennia Group provides document imaging, workflow and management solutions. www.mgdocs.com, (630) 279-0577, info@mgdocs.com