Eight reasons why process automation should be part of your 'new normal’ post COVID-19

Eight reasons why process automation should be part of your 'new normal’ post COVID-19

Written by Richard Adams on Thursday, 25 June 2020. Posted in Business process management

‘New normal’.

It’s a phase that has entered our vocabulary in recent weeks as the Government try to re-open the UK economy despite the ever-present threat of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Consequently, new office layouts to meet the social distancing rules, staggered start/finish times, more home working and increased cleaning are some of the measures likely to be adopted when we do return to office and embark on the ‘new normal’.

As we prepare to make changes, the need for process automation to support critical business operations has never been clearer.

In the current climate, with collaboration limited by social distancing and paper-based approvals difficult while working remotely, process automation is crucial as it allows organisations to limit human interaction by automating manual processes (e.g. employee on/off-boarding, accounts payable, CapEx approval).

With this in mind, here are eight reasons why workflow software is perfect for the ‘new normal’.

Cost reduction

The UK economy has already contracted significantly. And many economists now expect the country to fall into recession.

In such circumstances, organisations will be looking to reduce cost more than ever.

Organisations can achieve cost reductions by automating manual processes with workflow software. Sounds counter-intuitive right? However, the long-term cost savings far outweigh the initial expenditure. For example, business rules reduce human errors, notifications/reminders accelerate approvals and management dashboards improve decision making, all offering potential for cost savings.

Additionally, automation reduces the amount of paperwork circulating in an organisation which can lead to cost savings in printing, postage, storage and labour.

Yet the real savings are found in the hidden costs of dealing with:

  • Consequences of late or delayed actions
  • Lost paperwork
  • Repercussions of non-compliance
  • User training on un-intuitive and dispersed systems and processes

Depending on your organisation and regulatory environment, these costs can vary from a few thousand to millions!

When taken together, the enhancements a workflow solution can provide will result in significant cost savings to forward-looking organisations.

Collaborate with dispersed teams

One of the legacies of the pandemic may be greater flexibility to work from home. Some companies including Twitter and OpenText have said employees can work from home in the future. In Finland, meanwhile, the Working Hours Act 2020 allows employees to decide their working hours and their place of work.

In the short-term at least, it is likely teams will be more apart than ever. Yet, they will still need to work together to achieve business objectives.

Step forward workflow automation.

Most workflow software platforms, including BP Logix Process Director include content management capabilities to enhance collaboration and manage, distribute, locate and review documents. For example, in Process Director, users can simultaneously:

  • Annotate documents, PDF’s, spreadsheets, and presentations in parallel and without leaving the app
  • Store annotations and source documents separately for easier review
  • Roll back to previous versions
  • Review change history and attribution

Eliminate paper

Paper forms, such as site inspection, holiday requests and capital expenditure approval can be digitalised with workflow software.

In the coming months, passing paper around for approval is likely to become even more laborious with social distancing and home working in place. By replacing paper, you ensure contactless delivery as an electronic form is sent, with eMail notifications, to recipients to open and submit in a web browser.

Crucially, removing paper is the only guaranteed way of eliminating the potential of viral transference.

Paper is not only slow to move around but it is also easy to fill in incorrectly, with omissions and mistakes only being spotted hours or days later. Electronic forms can be configured to prompt users if data is missing or incorrect, meaning that small mistakes do not lead to extended approval times.

Moreover, paper is also inherently hard to back-up and impossible to make accessible to multiple distributed users working from home.

Automate manual processes

COVID-19 has forced organisations to make handbrake turns in their day-to-day operations. Key back-office functions like IT, finance and HR have been working hard to facilitate home working and administer personnel changes including furlough payments.

Post COVID-19, organisations whose back-office functions remain paper-based may struggle to remain competitive.

With workflow automation, you can reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks (e.g. manual data entry, chasing approvals and querying submissions) and focus on more productive tasks.

Improve agility

The ability to adapt to changing market conditions will be crucial if organisations are to stay ahead of their competition in the post-pandemic period. Businesses cannot be in the situation where they are having to make decisions on how to move forward because they are shackled with out-of-date, manual and paper driven processes.

Low-code/no-code workflow software includes drag-and-drop form design, point-and-click workflow builders, configurable business rules and open API’s to deploy digital applications at pace.

This enables organisations to react quickly and model new workflows or alter in-flight processes (e.g. office risk assessment, employee off boarding) in weeks, not months.

Less resistance to change

Adopting workflow software means letting go of ‘old habits and behaviours’ and relying on something new and not as familiar. In the past, it may have been comforting to stick with what you knew and how you worked.

That desire to maintain the ‘status quo’ was understandable, but lockdown has seen many people embrace digital tools like Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends. In the ‘new normal’, you may find employees more open to new approaches and less resistant to technological change, so this is the time to bring your processes up-to-date.

Eliminate human error

Workflow automation reduces errors and problems due to lost, inaccurate or mishandled requests. For example, electronic forms will be validated on input or submission. This reduces the prospect of the form being rejected or being passed back to the originator for clarification. Meanwhile, attachments are appended to the form submission avoiding the possibility of lost paperwork.

Ultimately, workflow automation reduces human error and expedites the processing of electronic forms which results in faster approvals and a better user experience.

Cloud hosting

Cloud-based workflow automation platforms, such as Process Director, inherently enable teams to work remotely as they are accessed from any modern browser, operating system, tablet or mobile device with all major platforms (including Chrome OS, iOS and Android) supported.

In addition, cloud-based deployments offer reduced initial expenditure and predictable ongoing costs whilst removing demand upon your already stretched IT department, making the path to entry easier and cheaper.

Is automated data capture a better fit for your business?

Workflow automation software comes fully featured with electronic forms, business rules, workflow, reporting dashboards, content management, web portals and application integration. It’s perfect for all organisations seeking to automate manual processes.

However, in many organisations, paper is still an integral part of daily life but the manual transcription of data into Excel or SPSS is time-consuming and error-prone. In a post COVID-19 environment, these organisations may need a more efficient method of extracting data from paper forms to reduce manual data entry, improve accuracy and save time.

Organisations can achieve this aim with automated data capture software such as OpenText TeleForm.

With TeleForm, you scan the paper form (e.g. timesheet, case report forms etc.) on-site using a high-speed scanner rather than key-in data manually.

As documents are scanned, TeleForm reads the information and extracts the data using OMR, OCR, ICR, barcode and signature recognition technology. If TeleForm is unsure about any character or fields, it is held in a verification system for you to confirm or correct the data.

Once verified, the data is exported to common file formats (e.g. Excel, CSV, SQL, and SPSS etc.) or passed on to your workflow platform for automated handling.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward challenges for most organisations.

While many will reduce spending as a result of COVID-19, others are seizing the opportunity to change their normal ways of working and investing in workflow and forms automation. Those companies that embrace digital transformation initiatives in the coming months are more likely to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

If you are building the business case for post-pandemic automation in your organisation, read our blog to get practical advice on how to plan a BPM implementation.

Let ePC help you navigate the ‘new normal’. Talk to us today on 03300 100 000 or fill in this form.

About the Author

Richard Adams

Richard Adams

Richard is the Marketing Manager at ePC where he is responsible for marketing, PR and ISO 9001.