Article 1 in 4-part series
Every business owner or manager wants to see growth in revenue and profits, and sustaining a high level of performance requires that the business operate smoothly and without breakage or imbalance. When workers know their jobs and do them well, and when workload performance is regular and timely, the business operation glides.
Yet few organizations fully understand how all of their processes weave together to form the operation, or how changes in workloads and task performance will impact the bottom line. Growing or shrinking workloads, supply chain interruptions and other conditions influence the flow of work in the business, which is why a clear understanding of the workflows and the dynamics of the processes they connect is so essential.
It really comes down to a “degrees of success” question: how much better could the business be?
It is said that the only constant is change, and businesses must find a way to effectively and cost-efficiently meet changing demands and conditions in order to survive. What frustrates many business owners is that change is generally disruptive to the business, representing a significant challenge when it comes to the development of internal processes, procedures and the workflows which bind them. At issue is the understanding that proven, structured and repeatable processes help to improve efficiency, yet changing conditions often require changes to these processes.
Creating agility and sustainable value in the organization suggests that guidance for workers, processes and controls, business and system policies, activities and agents and resources all be brought together to form a complete picture of the business and operation. With this in hand, the business is better able to communicate to each member what is expected of them and when, and to make adjustment or enhancements to how the work flows in order keep moving toward the stated goal.
Informed workflows guide smarter processes, and smarter businesses are more resilient.
Smarter business is built from knowledge and understanding not just of the systems and actors in the enterprise, but of the higher level goals motivating the activity. In a global economy, where competitive pressures are increasing every day for even the smallest of businesses, making process improvements and creating sustainability become as much a focus for the business as growth once was.
Developing strategies for retaining profit margins, improving cash flows, solidifying supply chains and streamlining operational processes is essential when designing the business to handle the stresses of a changing economy. The foundations of such strategies are the people, processes and knowledge in the business, and the workflows which tie them together into a cohesive, high performance enterprise.
What comes as a surprise to many businesses is that their efforts to structure the work – defining the activities which string together to form the process, or connecting the processes in a workflow – often reveals why certain things are done the way they are. Where process and workflow modeling most frequently addresses the “what” and “how” of the business, less often is the “why” question directly approached. The discovery of “why” is sometimes a revelation which comes unexpectedly, providing insight into areas of the business where change could be made, leading to improved process performance and moving the operation closer reaching its goals.
With the popularity and proliferation of online applications and cloud computing, many businesses have transformed how they manage activities, people and resources.
The adoption of individual apps to support specific business activities and processes is increasing, where solutions are often loosely connected, integrating or syncing only selected data used for a particular purpose. The Internet-connected marketplace has introduced both opportunity and challenge for businesses of all sizes, and much of the focus has been placed on the management and control of digital documents and data.
Centralized electronic document management has been commonly used in business for many years, yet has not always been viewed as an essential technology to apply in the context of organizing and structuring the workflows in the business.
Particularly in situations where apps and activities are not always directly connected to their dependent or resultant processes, electronic document management and integration of external data elements become critical to structuring the flow of work.
In structuring workflows and documents systems which support the various business processes, the organization will find that it has developed the means to collect and memorialize the business and operational knowledge owned only by individuals in the business.
Gathering together the “tribal knowledge” from users in the business – investing the learning and experience of individuals into the DNA of the business processes and organization of work– is an essential element in crafting meaningful workflows which capture the human-based considerations that are often overlooked.
When individual knowledge becomes business knowledge and is turned into documents, systems and structured processes which guide the operation, results are able to be reproduced more consistently and reliance upon individuals is reduced significantly.
Business processes are now considered to be corporate assets which require consistent and ongoing management and review.
Because business is not stagnant, processes and workflows will necessarily evolve as conditions change. Managing these processes and the workflows which attach them is an iterative process that must be actively pursued in order to ensure that evolving approaches don’t fail to support higher level business objectives.
While an electronic document management solution may address many of the challenges involved in working with large volumes and varieties of documents and data, there are few DM products on the market which can approach the full realm of business workflows and how they are impacted by business or data-driven events or by the availability of people or resources to facilitate the process.
Businesses must not only structure their documents and data, but also their workflows necessary to support the various processes and should seek to normalize those workflows as much as possible. Through a standards-based approach to workflow development, businesses are able to develop a consistent and methodical approach to the work which results in more predictable and consistent outcomes.
The workflow “engine” is truly the workhorse in the business, connecting the people, activities and information required to fulfill each required task.
Fueled by stored documents, data and business policy, workflows inform the organization on the effectiveness of applied resources, events and agents. Not only providing a basis for measuring process effectiveness, structuring all workflows in the business often reveals why certain previously unrecognized processes occur.
Sometimes referred to as “process mining”, activity monitoring and regular workflow and process evaluation allows the business to develop greater understanding of the rationale it must apply to detect or diagnose processes which deviate from the desired path and cause the business to track away from its strategic goals.
The business fundamental framework of Synergy allows organizations to structure the entire realm of business activities and provide digital workflows and automation to enhance productivity and ensure accuracy at every step. The core of Synergy connects and tracks the entities, transactions and documents associated with every aspect of the business.
Recognizing that business happens with people, systems and processes, Synergy is the tool organizations use to describe the various entities, actions and requests involved in performing the business, guiding process performance with meaningful workflows which clearly communicate to each participant what is expected from them, when it is expected, and even how to perform.
While essential business needs are met with the initial installation, Synergy is extensively configurable and customizable, considering all areas of the enterprise and offering functionality to support a vast array of requirements. A business may use the solution in a limited capacity, guiding certain HR and other back-office functions, or it can be applied to the entire business and operation, spanning departments and locations, joining processes and acquiring data which might otherwise remain unmanaged and disconnected.
Synergy helps businesses keep actions and decisions aligned, sharpening the competitive edge.
Synergy’s framework combines entity management, process governance and strict security and data controls with a presentation which allows for everyone in the business to view and manage their workloads quickly and directly. Synergy provides each user with the information they need to get their job done without complication or interference, providing the views and access to increase process effectiveness and supporting the most efficient flow of work through the business.
If actions and decisions inside a company aren’t aligned, processes are disrupted and the competitive edge gets lost. With a more intelligent approach to enabling and managing the work flowing through the enterprise, businesses can be smarter and introduce new value for those involved with them.