Five considerations when planning for workflow and BPM

Written by Alan Ingram on Thursday, 08 October 2015. Posted in Workflow automation

We get to work with some really innovative and interesting companies. But before we talk at any level of detail with a potential customer, we do a significant amount of research to learn more about their business, industry, organisational structure and where they have had successes and challenges. It is sometimes lengthy work, but is always incredibly helpful, as it gives us a foundation to understand that organisation and to identify both needs - and wants.

The full truth about a company and its culture, however, does not usually come out until we have also had a chance to meet with the people who will be implementing and using the workflows and organising their business processes to work in this new way.

Below are five things we have heard that our customers do when planning for workflow implementation. We feel that they comprise a wise and judicious way of moving forward.

Establish lines of communication

Before positive outcomes can result from changing your business processes, the beneficiaries of this change need to know they have a voice - and will be a part of the decision and design process. While all companies have tools for communication (eMail, meetings, wikis, instant messaging etc.), only those who use them to seek and encourage contribution from all process participants will have a smooth ride. Allowing people to have a voice and giving them the proper channels to express that voice is pivotal to successfully implementing any new concept, methodology or product.

Distinguish between business and technology requirements

Ideally, there is an alignment between technical and business goals. In implementing workflow automation, however, there may be differences in what each group identifies as “what’s needed” and who has the expertise to provide it. The business side needs to be very clear and detailed about who will touch the workflow activity and what results should come from it. That needs to be articulated to the tech team who needs to ensure integration with existing apps and the roll out of a usable interface. By identifying, up front, where the responsibilities reside and what expectations there are in terms of deliverables, these groups can better support one another to achieve their common goal. In many cases, having the chance to discuss each parties requirements will influence the way the others’ can be achieved.

Seek failure

Most smart companies do not truly seek to fail, but they do encourage innovation - and that sometimes results in failure... at least, until they get it right. That is smart. If everything goes according to plan the first time, we may not be fully prepared for when there is a glitch in the workflow software, or a document type is not allowed, or our reports miss an important metric. During planning and implementation, kick the tires and push the boundaries. You will not bring down your entire business with even a dramatic mistake. More importantly, you will learn more how your stakeholders will use their new business processes. That is valuable information!

Eliminate inefficiencies

The whole point of doing this is to make your business more efficient. With that in mind, it makes sense for you to give serious thought as to where bottlenecks have occurred previously and seek to eliminate them through “smarter” workflows. Take the time to think through not just the “how” but the “why” you do things; you don’t want to reproduce a method of doing something simply because it fits in with an obsolete legacy system which is no longer in use! Building a more efficient communication, approval and routing model into your workflow provides users with a more efficient way to operate - and a more agile way to conduct business.

Prepare for phase two

You will not know what you cannot do until you begin doing what you can. Smart organisations plan with the future in mind - and are inclined to leave their process management to grow and change with them. Sometimes the success of picking the low hanging fruit can generate feedback and enthusiasm to improve the process further; always allow for this additional round of improvement.

If you become a victim of success with one project, you will likely get requests to adopt similar processes and workflow to other projects in other parts of the company. That opens the door to new processes, activities and decisions - and that can be exciting and exhilarating.

Each organisation’s needs are unique - paying attention to these five things will help form a mindset that prepares you for success and adaptability.

If you want to find out more about BPM or workflow automation, or wish to book a demonstration, please contact us.

About the Author

Alan Ingram

Alan Ingram

Alan is responsible for the strategic direction of ePC’s technical services and managing relationships with key client accounts.