Workflow Automation Software

Millennia Group Blog

Folders and paperclips, the original workflow tools

via Flickr by Michael CoryI don’t think I would like to be in the folder, inter-office envelope, paper clip or staple businesses.  They had a great run.  They served a very good purpose.  But it’s time to move on to new forms of workflow.  Yes, that’s right, paper clips, folders and envelopes were the first workflow tools.

Paper clips and staples separated documents into relevant parts.  Folders and envelopes kept the collection of information together as it moved through the company for decision making purposes.  Plenty of business decisions still rely on a collection of data and documents.  So where have all the folders and paper clips gone? To digital workflow packages, which are the new tools for business process.

Some business processes can be very simple and decisions can easily be made with limited information.  For instance, maybe it’s a…

Why is the mustard in the fruit drawer?

Via Celeste Lindell at FlickrHave you ever found a jar of mustard in the fruit drawer of your refrigerator?  How about the Penske file in the folder labeled Clients D-E?  Let’s face it, there are those of us that are very organized and there are others that aren’t.  This could be at home or at the office and it can be both frustrating and in the case of the office, costly. 

We were recently asked if there is an optimal company size that dictates when it’s time to use an electronic document management system (EDMS) rather than a file storage solution like a network drive?  I would say as soon as you find the mustard in the fruit drawer, it’s time.  However, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration when considering the need for an EDMS…

Technology goggles make work flow

via Flickr - Chief RangerThe first thing that comes to mind when you hear about workflow is most likely order and process.  There is validity in that thought.  Workflow is intended to deliver efficiency and cost saving by using defined order and automated process. 

Defining what the process should be is the tricky but necessary part and it’s the fun part.  Yes, fun.  When you dig in and people realize how many time wasting tasks can be eliminated, you can feel the joy.  So how do you re-connect the dots to create an effective digital workflow and really make work flow?  Put on your technology goggles and look at the process.

The first step is to have the people involved in the process document how the process works.  This will initially result in a small number of simple steps.  The…

Blockchain vs Digital Signatures

via Flickr, Jon PhillipsBitcoin continues to make news and inroads into the world of finance.  Two of the basic technologies that drive Bitcoin include blockchain and peer to peer computing.  These two concepts are relatively understandable.  Blockchain uses a distributed ledger, which is essentially a list that is shared across many computers (peer to peer).  Because many computers contain a time-stamped replica of the data, it is very difficult, and expensive to hack or change the data in a fraudulent way – and its encrypted.

These concepts are moving into other areas such as smart contracts.  However, these contracts are not documents as that term is generally understood.  The smart contract is essentially a perfectly known set of conditions and data, that when met, results in a payment or action.  The contract is essentially data points; house address, meter number…

Active vs Final – Revisited

Via Flickr - Martin HostThe good thing about this blog is that I don’t really need to have answers.  That is especially good since I am re-visiting the discussion about working documents versus final documents.  It comes up in most every discussion about effective document management – how do I have one system that provides the functionality that I need for both working documents and final documents.

Recall from our earlier post about how creators of working documents tend to like fast and simple – a system where the user can create any collection of folders and subfolders to suit their needs and drag and drop files at will.  A user of final documents requires structure and certainty because having quick access to the right documents gets the job done.  However, at some point the documents in that web…

The Next Big Thing

Via Flickr - Christian SchnettelkerI participated in a webinar recently sponsored by Realcomm, an organization devoted to the advancement of technology for the commercial real estate industry.  It was about the future and hype verses reality.  My contribution was squarely on the reality side as I described how our real estate clients gain efficiency by using workflow to automate document oriented business processes. 

You might think, “do we still have documents?”  The answer in my world and the foreseeable world of our Fortune 5000 clients is, Yes.  Documents may not be in paper form any longer, but documents of some type (spreadsheet, PDF contract, etc.), are the support for data and todays decisions.  But to see the future, the next big thing, you need to believe in the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).

There…

Keeping it simple is not always the answer

via FlickrRecently we helped a client convert a small amount of paper documents related to a one time transaction into PDFs.  The PDFs would simply be in a folder and viewed or emailed as needed.  To keep it simple the files could be named in a structured format, ie. “ABCCo-Contract-060116-Brazil-Engine-D-JF.pdf”.  Most of that short hand is clear except the “D” is for diesel engines and that the Sales Rep was John Franklin?  Seemed simple enough and so we proceeded based on the clients requirements. 

In this case, the volume of documents was small, but the documents had a significant amount of descriptive information that could be captured. Each piece of information could be captured in a document management system database and ready for user searches. For example, find all contracts for Brazil or all diesel engine contracts.  So…

Make my day – delete those records

via Jay Gorman from FlickrRecords retention and records management are very important principles in dealing with corporate information.  Records management being the overall guide book for employees on to how to store and classify information.  It is also about proper management of that information including legal holds (don’t destroy if litigation is in process), access to information and records retention.

Records retention is basically an information destruction plan based on business or legal requirements.  A business doesn’t necessarily want the burden of securing confidential, but outdated information for ever – ie. former patient records.  Creating a records management policy and records retention schedule requires a lot of effort and yet the actual deletion of records is a very difficult step to take. Here are some thoughts on how to feel better about pulling the trigger.

First, you need to get comfortable…

Clutter of a different kind

Via Sean MacEntee on FlickrThe existence of duplicate documents and files is commonplace in companies of all sizes.  There is the email with a document attachment that was sent to five people, each of whom downloaded the file.  There is a file on someone’s desktop that they copied from the network.  There is a copy in the cloud.  You get the picture and you probably live this picture daily.

What can prevent this from happening?  Does it really even matter?  Companies seem to be surviving just fine, so what would be the cost benefit for an actual solution?  Unless your company is a company of one, you will likely not find a perfect solution, but a combination of tactics will lower the frustration.  And yes, it does matter and it will be worth it.

Companies can use de-duplication tools, send out…

Think Smaller, Deeper and Wider

Via Ed Uthman at Flickr.comThese words, Better, Faster, Cheaper, are heard often during many corporate sales efforts – “our product will help you do that Better, Faster and Cheaper.”  Everyone especially likes to purchase software that makes a process, Better, Faster and Cheaper.  The key to achieving that promised success is know what the process is – really know and understand it.

There are plenty of examples where very complex software solutions were created that replicated an existing paper or manual process.  The problem was that the process wasn’t fully understood and not very efficient in the first place so you have an application that may not be Faster, Better or Cheaper.  You need to change the way you think when designing a workflow.

Breaking down a process step by step and understanding the rationale for each step is important, but…