Business Process Management and Workflow Benefits
If you are an organization that still does BBP (Business by Paper), you have some great benefits you can glean through the use of digital workflow software. If you are not familiar with workflow software, you can think of it as a digital in and outbox (Broader definition here: Workflow Software: What is it?). You can do things like simple document routing, advanced approvals and even data collection with the workflow tool. Below are 5 quick benefits you can achieve with a digital workflow solutions:
- Insight to your business processes – ever wonder on the status of your vacation request or expense claim? With workflow process software you can immediately check on the status of any process as an end-user. As a manager, you can peer into the workings of any process you manage, and find bottlenecks that can help you improve efficiency.
- Routing of documents – ever lose a document or have it sit on someone’s desk for a week? With workflow software, you have a digital trail that can route documents throughout the organization. Need to route inbound mail? Want to send an email attachment to someone for action? It’s a snap.
- Approvals – Most organizations go through a painful process of emailing documents for approvals. Take a contract that needs to have the input of multiple managers. With process management/workflow, you can set up an approval process that tracks each step, changes and individual input.
- Audit Power – need to audit a financial process that happened 3 months ago? With workflow software, a historical record is logged and maintained. You can always go back and peer into the process and its data.
- Beyond the simple – the above are simple and basic benefits of a workflow solution, but understand, most process engines today can take highly complex processes and automate them. Want to put a capital expenditure process in place that does currency conversions for international offices? Need an HR on boarding process that spans 5 departments and 30 people? No problem.
This was just a short list of the benefits of our workflow solutions. Give us a shout today to learn more.
Buying Software Solutions to Eliminate the Pain
We work with many organizations that initially struggle with spending to eliminate their paper. Many low to mid level managers just see it as a cost of doing business, and they don’t dig deep into the true costs of running paper-based business. In reality, they are not alone. Below are some fantastic stats from the AIIM Paper Wars Study that took a deep, deep look into the problem:
44% of surveyed organizations cited they were only a mere 10% of the way to paper-free process.
23% cited they had made zero progress towards a paper free environment.
17% were chipping away at 5 or more processes per year.
So, why the lack of progress? Below are the top reasons:
- Lack of management initiatives or mandates
- Requirement for physical signatures
- Staff prefers paper
- Lack of understanding of paperless options
- Suppliers still work in paper
- Notion that legally, they still require paper
These are the top reasons, and they were many more.
So, if you are tired of the paper mess, and looking to justify a move to the digital office, what do you do? First off, let’s look at some costs associated with paper-based business, with some stats from AIIM:
- It costs an average of $20 to file a document
- It will cost you $120 in labor to find a misfiled document
- It will cost you $220 to reproduce a lost document
These costs incorporate labor and materials. You can outline many more costs, like mailing, searching for documents, manually entering invoice information, etc. These costs are well documented, and can be the crux of any justification. For specific departments or industry verticals, you can also drill into additional costs that might be associated with service level requirements, fines, and the impact of slow operations. So, take an organization that processes 10,000 documents per month. Let’s make an assumption that 3% are misfiled, and 1% are lost. Below is a tally:
- Filing of these documents will run $200,000
- Misfiled documents will run $36,000
- Lost documents will run $22,000
So, you are running a $250K+ operation just in paper $$ for every month you push pulp. Let’s say you have a rockin’ staff that are immune to paper cuts, and they can do it at a 1/5 of the cost. You are still at $50K per month. Now some may argue those staff need to be paid regardless of paper or not. But the big loss here are opportunity costs. What if those staff members could use that time for other tasks focused on growth, and not paper administration? You can see the true advantage of moving to a more efficient digital workflow and using document capture and scanning to facilitate the paperless office..
So, the next question is where to start? In my next post we will examine success factors, and give some tips on how to ease into the paperless world. Can’t wait? Want to read more? See our frequently asked question pages below for more info:
Build Your Moat and Drawbridge: Document Capture, Digital Forms and Workflow
When you look at the medieval castle, it had all the protective measures to insure the occupants were protected from outside threats. In our modern office, the threat is to efficiency and productivity, especially when examining the flow of paper both in and out. A core strategy is to surround your organization with a virtual moat, that allows no paper to cross. Below outlines the use of 3 technologies to help with the goal of the paperless office.
Document Capture and Scanning – Today, it is almost impossible to forbid inbound paper. Whether it is a small business sending paper invoices, a law firm that sends a FedEx package of contracts or a paper bill of lading for a shipment, paper will still exist for most organizations at some level. The goal here is to create that virtual moat, across which “none shall pass”. This can be your mail room, with a core policy of digitizing any paper for distribution within the organization.
Digital Forms – Forms technology can insure minimal creation of paper, through the use of a “born digital” mindset. Want to request vacation? Fill out a digital form. HR new hire paperwork? Go to the new hire portal and fill out the required electronic forms. This technology can help eliminate new paper creation internally, and can be expanded for external paperwork as well, reducing the need for scanning and document capture.
Workflow Software – workflow provides the ability to fully digitize any work process, and can integrate with both electronic forms and document capture. This provides a powerful multiplier effect, letting you combine the advantages of all technologies, and enhancing your efficiency and productivity to a whole new level. Documents and work can now be digitally routed both internally and externally.
These three technologies can be implemented in stages, one by one to start the improvement process, and begin the elimination of the paper threat. Thoughts?
Make Sure You Are Comparing Apples to Apples
So, we often see confusion in customers looking for scanning and document capture software, and trying to figure out what is the right fit. To give a brief definition, scanning software provides just a means to scan paper to an image. It provides basic features, and is fine for low volume document imaging when you are just looking to archive or send a document via email. Document Capture Software focuses on automation, and making the whole process easy. Below are 6 key features of document capture software, and the power it can provide to any organization:
- Integration with any scanning device – capture software needs to work with any type of device, or anything that can create an image. Copiers, desktop scanners, mobile phones, cameras all need to be supported.
- Document Separation – this feature allows you to “scan the stack”, and let the capture software split the image into individual documents. This is one of the key efficiency features, and prevents scanning documents one by one.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – capture software provides an OCR engine for a wide variety of uses, and can create searchable PDFs, zone a certain area on a page and separate by key terms.
- Document Capture Workflow Steps – scanning documents is a business process, and document capture software supports the division of labor when imaging. Maybe a mailroom clerk scans the documents, a claims processor enters data, and a supervisor performs QA. This is essential to a smooth capture and scanning workflow.
- Complex Extraction – the imaging software should not only be able to extract basic document information, but should also be capable of complex information extraction. One example is the line items on an invoice.
- Line of Business System Integration – in addition to document management systems, like SharePoint and OnBase, document capture software should be able to tap into any type of system, and route documents and data.
This is just a short list of features that separate scanning from capture. You can read more frequently asked document capture questions here: Document Capture FAQ.
Document Automation: Before, During and After
As organizations try to become paperless, there are 3 key stages in digital transformation, and eliminating as much paper as possible. To truly achieve automation from end-to-end, all three stages need to be implemented. Here are some details:
- Capture – the capture stage can mean different things for different processes. If you have a stack of paper invoices, and are looking to automated you AP process, obviously a scanner with document capture software would be key. But take a broader look, and capture can apply to other areas. Maybe you have an AS400 that prints POs? Implementing a spool to pdf solution would create digital files rather than paper. Another area might be inbound fax, or perhaps email with attachments. The overall goal of capture is to set a virtual perimeter around your organization that captures inbound documents and data, and passes them to a line of business system or a workflow process.
- Workflow – a business process management suite or workflow tool can provide a means to move documents and data throughout your organization. It can be fed information from any capture process, and provides the ability to avoid “efficiency killers” like the email inbox or file share. Take for example a hospital that has referrals faxed to a number, they are captured and passed to a queue for processing by staff. This digital process provides maximum efficiency, prevents lost or overlooked items, and with reporting tools, management can have great insight into the process.
- Archive – So what happens when it’s all over? In today’s environment, documents and data need to be readily available for review, audit purposes and legal needs. Both workflow and capture can provide an integration to repositories for storage of document and information. Take the fax process outlined above. The final step could be an archive of the inbound fax and metadata into a specific SharePoint library, or perhaps an OnBase document repository. The archive provides easy search for processed information, and create a digital file cabinet for your organization.
As you evaluate your internal processes, and look to automate, make sure you approach all 3 stages of the document automation chain.
Accounting, AP and Finance Automation
Accounting and Finance departments serve a critical function in any organization, and inefficiency not only impacts them, but can have broader downstream impact on other business units and departments. Today, speed, accuracy and efficiency are paramount to a smooth running flow of work.
So why speed, accuracy and efficiency? To understand, below is an outline of the top concerns for financial leaders (info from a K2 Finance Infographic):
- Improving Margins and Earnings Performance – Optimizing resources and the ability to better manage costs is a top concern.
- Cyber Security Risks – Managing and protesting financial data and controlling access to the ERP/Financial Systems.
- Strategic Planning – Creating streamlined predictable, standardized processes for planning.
- Periodic Forecasting – The ability to surface data from all systems of record.
- Budgeting – Using data for improved budgeting and decisions.
In these key concern areas, the demand for speed and accuracy continues to mount, and expectations grow without the increases in staff and budget. So, implementing technology solutions to help is key for success, and helps to alleviate concerns. So what are the top finance processes ripe for automation? Here are the top 5 processes:
- Expense processing – providing an automated, rules-based process for submitting and approving expenses can provide a standardized, repeatable reporting mechanism for projections.
- Invoice Processing – with the majority of invoices still in paper form, automating AP is a key to faster payment (read early pay discounts), reduction in data errors and reduction in processing time.
- CapEx Approvals – moving away from emailed spreadsheets in the CapEx process, and utilizing a managed digital workflow can provide insight, improved transparency and reporting capabilities.
- Budgeting – providing a collaborative, social environment for budgeting can lead to enhanced accuracy, and reduce departmental shortfalls.
- Internal Audits – simplified reporting and “visual” report tools can help smooth out the audit process, and reduce staff time required to comply with demands.
Want to read more? Contact us to talk to a specialist, and see how inForm Decisions can help you with our workflow software offerings.
Invoice Processing Options: AP Automation Advancement
In any accounting department, there are a number of ways to automate invoice processing and provide efficiency and improve productivity of staff members. The choice is really based on management’s desire to improve the overall invoice process, and is based on: volume of invoices, number of staff, and complexity of invoices. Below are the options available, and the benefits/drawbacks:
- Stick with paper (No automation) – many accounting departments opt for this option, and in certain circumstances, it can be a wise choice. Typically, if the organization has a very low number of invoices being processed per week, and minimal staff are required to process them, this can be a wise choice. The disadvantages can be the lack of digital archives for audit and legal purposes, and over time a requirement for space and file cabinets. Access can also be an issue, especially if remote personnel need invoice lookups.
- Scan Invoices Upon Receipt (Low Level Automation) – In this scenario, as invoices are received, they are scanned with basic scanning software, routed to AP staff, and indexed with basic invoice header information. Usually this will also entail a dual monitor setup, where staff will have the scanned invoice on one monitor, and the accounting software up on another. This removes paper from the process, provides some efficiency/productivity gains, and speeds up data entry and approvals. Usually email is used for basic approvals. Invoices are also archived automatically to provide access through a document management system.
- Advanced Capture & Extraction (Medium Level Automation) – In this type of processing, advanced document capture software is leveraged to auto-extract the invoice header and line item information during the AP process. The accounting staff sees the invoices and extracted data in a quality assurance step, and once the info is validated, it is then automatically routed to the ERP/Accounting System, as well as archived to the document repository. This provides a high level of automation, and minimizes processing time.
- Advanced Capture + Workflow (Highest Level Automation) – This type of solution includes not only document capture automation of all invoice processes, but also adds workflow software to aid in the routing of documents, kickback of invoices to vendors and solving any issues. The addition of digital workflow adds the ability to track and report extensively on the AP process.
So, why not just go with the top level? Depending on your staff, the move to digital can be a big step, and can also be expensive. So for any project success, you need full management and staff support. Purchasing software that support all enhanced levels of invoice processing can be key. Questions? Contact us today for a demo.
The New Way to Crunch Numbers
Walk into any accounting department today and you are sure to see piles of paper and file cabinets. Most of the paper is bound to the AP, or accounts payable process. Throughout the month, invoices flood in from a variety of vendors seeking payment, and the paper plague never ends. Adding to the problem is that the AP process doesn’t just deal with paper. Some will send invoices as email attachments, others may fax them in. Managing all these inputs, and processing/extracting information is painful at best. So here are the core problems:
- Multi-channel Input – invoices as paper, email and fax.
- Conversion – the need to convert all inputs to a single document format
- Invoice Data Extraction – the need to automatically extract information
- Approvals – the requirement to route invoices for approvals
- Integration – pushing and pulling data to/from accounting systems
So what is required to accomplish all this? Utilizing iCapture and iWorkflow combined can drive great efficiency and automation from start to finish of your AP invoice processing. Here are the benefits:
- Scan and capture invoices from desktop scanners, copiers and import from folders
- Automatically split and extract invoice header and line item data
- Send data and invoices to your accounting system, document management system or iWorkflow
- Route invoices for approvals
- Build business rules for approval routing
- Easy to use forms and mobile enabled
Want to learn more and see a demo? Contact us today.