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Improving Operational Efficiency Through Workflow Automation

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At a conceptual level, most organizations are likely already sold on the benefits of workflow automation. The practical aspects of implementation, however, can still seem daunting enough to pose hurdles. ARGO’s ‘Automate Your Workflow” white paper highlights the advantages of workflow automation applicable to any number of businesses, including healthcare and financial services firms. The dual benefits of improved customer experience and employee satisfaction hopefully are enough to overcome any remaining reluctance.

Adding a Personal Touch (Despite the Name)

It’s unfortunate that the term “workflow automation” can carry dehumanizing connotations, given that its effects are largely the opposite. A best-of-breed system reinforces business-level control by sequencing and prioritizing tasks and, importantly, by routing them to the right team member at the most appropriate time. Such intelligent routing and load balancing can eliminate backlogs- and related employee stress- while ensuring that workers are not saddled with tasks for which they are ill-equipped. 

On a related note, a robust system will monitor service level agreements (SLAs) and generate alerts when thresholds are being exceeded- although improved workflow presumably make such instances less common, leaving customers much more satisfied.

Know When to Hold ‘Em

Since no system or process is foolproof, of course, there will be instances where individual items need to be diverted from the standard workflow for exception handling- sometimes including reassignment to a staff member with specialized skills or suspension of SLA clocks pending additional research. A robust workflow automation  system will accommodate such suspense management, while also ensuring it doesn’t become a mere “holding pen” for problem items.

A sound system should automatically document all actions taken with a workflow, providing proof-of-process as well as context for why users took certain actions or made particular decisions. Such “audit logs” are invaluable for both internal and client-facing follow-up, and support the employee’s interests as well as the firm’s. Taken a step further, this info should also feed into a system’s capability to self-diagnose bottlenecks and process weaknesses, creating a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.

Granted, terms like “audit” and “monitoring” often cause unease within a workforce. Transparency is therefore key, and should be leveraged as a two-way street. A clear view into task statuses and SLAs will behoove all involved in the process, and help to alleviate any suspicion of ulterior motives. The goals of reducing costs, providing consistency and meeting critical business needs should be non-controversial and readily embraced across all constituencies.

Although the above benefits can sound like a tall order for a single workflow automation initiative, bear in mind that we’re not talking about turning over the factory keys to a faceless computer algorithm. As with any successful solution, software is merely the enabler supporting a broad process redesign, which includes a significant human element. An organization taking on such an initiative would be remiss not to capitalize on the full array of available benefits. ARGO’s white paper provides a thorough and informative checklist for such efforts.