Top 8 Digital Workflow Priorities for 2022Nick Scarff
In this article we identify and discuss some of the most common and simple digital workflow solutions that can be delivered with an intelligent automation platform.
The global events of the last two years have had a profound effect on how businesses operate and have significantly enhanced digital transformation strategies. Huge focus and efforts have been applied to enable workers to conduct business activities digitally and remotely. With these advancements in how technology and digital platforms are served up, there lies additional opportunities to optimise processes, efficiency and system connectivity. The catalyst for opening up these opportunities and accelerating the pace of change is digital workflows and automation.
Whilst many organisations will have discrete processes that are very specific to their industry or how they run their operations, there are a number of easily identifiable processes that can be automated. These are often common across businesses irrespective of industry, are tried and tested, and represent the most obvious to address first due to their ease of deployment and relative potential to ensure early success and ROI (return of investment).
Many of these processes make use of existing knowledgebases for how to process documents and data, allowing organisations to benefit from those that have come before them and take advantage of pre-configured platforms that deliver out of the box capabilities and functionality. This ensures that deployment can be predictable, rapid and ensures success.
Top 8 Digital Workflow Solutions to Deliver with an Intelligent Automation Platform
- Supplier Invoice Processing
- AP Automation
- Automated Cash Allocation
- Digital Mailroom
- Customer Onboarding
- Automated Sales Order Processing
- Employee Onboarding
- Contract Management
1 – Supplier Invoice Processing
Processing supplier invoices often involves manual processes to extract data from physical and digital documents. Data has to be entered into the ERP / Account system in order for downstream processes to take place and for suppliers to be paid. Manual processes are open to error, costly to maintain and lack visibility.
An automated invoice processing solution allows for data to be extracted automatically, validated on the fly for improved accuracy and gives the organisation insight into the process. Advancements in technology mean that automatically extracting data from invoices is not reliant on templates and with cloud invoice processing platforms the logic that is used to collect data is a culmination of all customers using the platform. This ensures that accuracy and straight through processing of invoices is significantly enhanced.
2 – AP Automation
Automating accounts payable processes leverages the data collected from invoice processing and further automates parts of the downstream process. After data is collected from invoices, matching, coding and approval activities need to take place. In a manual process, AP / PL (accounts payable / purchase ledger) teams are often responsible for coding, matching and triggering the approval process. This is a time consuming process, that often requires multiple people in an organisation and can lead to payment delays potentially creating supplier issues as well as chasing approvals due to a lack of visibility.
Through the use of an AP process Digital Workflow Solution organisations can gain control of the AP Process. Automated matching and coding frees up AP staff to focus on more strategic and valuable activities and digital workflows provide control and insight into the process.
3 – Automated Cash Allocation
Reconciling payments received in bank accounts against the sales ledger can be a laborious process. Handling the various permutations around how customers make payments, potentially matching to remittance advices and applying cash to the right accounts is not always straight-forward. At best it can take considerable manual effort to match transactions, at worst it can lead to a high DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) and Suspense Account balance as well as be detrimental to customer relations.
By automating the application of cash, organisations can ensure they are able to allocate faster and more accurately, reduce or remove suspense accounts, and improve customer relations. Automated Cash Allocation Software allows payments, remittances and invoice transactions to be automatically matched, exceptions identified and resolved, as well as ensuring customers are only chased for outstanding debt as opposed to unallocated payments.
4 – Digital Mailroom
Inbound correspondence into an organisation has changed relatively rapidly over the last few years. Physical post has declined significantly as organisations have shifted to digital channels, in the last year alone Royal Mail experienced a more than 12% decline in physical letters (source: Sky News). However, for many organisations this has shifted the problem from physical sorting of post items in mailrooms to electronic sorting of email inboxes. The transition from physical to digital has only really affected the way in which an item is delivered and has had little other effect.
Now, teams within organisations are often confronted with mailboxes of assorted content, embedded in email bodies and as various format attachments that need sorting, prioritising and processing. This can mean forwarding to other teams, attaching to internal systems and liaising with other teams and external contacts.
A Digital Mailroom Workflow helps to handle emails as well as physical documents. It allows items to be automatically classified based on their contents and routed to correct channels for further handling if required. Data can be automatically extracted using Cognitive Capture Technologies and used to populate internal and external systems. Further workflows can be triggered to handle priority items and elements that may need further clarification.
Automating a Digital Mailroom allows organisations to ensure they are better able to respond to customers and other external stakeholders as well as meet SLAs (Service Level Agreements), reduce costs and promote a more competitive service offering.
Find out more about implementing a digital mailroom with our comprehensive guide.
5 – Customer Onboarding
The way in which the process for onboarding new customers operates for many organisations will have a significant effect on other activities. The speed and nature of the process can impact customer perception, drop-out rates, competitiveness, as well as impacting how quickly products and services can be provided and ultimately billed for.
Digital Workflow Processes for Onboarding Customers allow engagement with the customer through their channel of choice and provide the ability to engage across multiple channels in a single process. Customers are provided the flexibility of accessing parts of the process on different devices and methods to provide ultimate convenience. These different channels all feed into a single platform to ensure consistency. For example, a customer applying for a mortgage or loan, could complete a web application form on a PC, take a photo of ID documents on their phone, and submit payslips by uploading to a portal or via a chatbot, before being able to electronically sign a contract on a tablet.
In this way, customers receive an optimal service, manual processes and chances for inaccuracies are reduced and the organisation is positioned favourable against competitors.
6 – Automated Sales Order Processing
Customer orders received into an organisation require data to be extracted and input into internal systems that will trigger additional processes that culminate in delivery and billing. Purchase orders and other contractual documents may not necessarily match formats required by internal systems, so data needs sorting and translating in order to ensure things like product codes, delivery and payment details can be collected accurately. Processes are often reliant on heuristic knowledge of workers and are subject to delays during peak volume periods or due to absence of critical staff. Manual handling of sales orders increases transactional costs and can lead to delays in processing, inaccuracies and reduced customer satisfaction.
Automated Digital Workflows for Sales Orders assist to extract content from sales orders, validate and match data against internal data sets and surface-up exceptions at the earliest opportunity. Process steps can help to keep customers informed and allow monitoring of types of exception for continual improvement of automation effectiveness. By automating order processing, organisations can improve the systems and processes for customers as well as internal staff, reduce cost, and maximise the opportunity to deliver and ultimately bill for products and services.
Read more about sales order processing here
7 – Employee Onboarding
Onboarding of new employees for many organisations is a time-consuming and confusing process for both parties involved in the process. It often leads to a poor experience for a new member of staff where they are asked for the same information multiple times, steps are missed which later need to be rectified and systems / equipment are not available or accessible in time for when they start. In all, a poor process can reduce employee engagement, be slow to administer and costly to maintain.
Using a Digital Workflow Solution to control the Employee Onboarding process can help to ensure that mandatory steps are performed in the order required, activities and actions required are routed to the correct people and flagged if not completed within a timely manner, as well as employer and employee are kept informed of the process status at all times. In this way, it helps to ensure a positive new employee process as well as a slick and cost effective activity.
Further reading on successful employee onboarding can be found here.
8 – Contract Management
Contracts are often managed in different ways in organisations. Some are managed centrally by procurement departments, others may exist in isolated silos at department level. Some will be stored in ERP systems, others in core line of business systems or centralised repositories (e.g. SharePoint). Managing contracts in this way often leads to access and control issues leading to problems associated with triggering renewal processes, ensuring supplier adherence to contract terms, active performance management and negotiating new terms.
Storing contracts centrally in a readily accessible platform ensures those who need access can perform these tasks in a more controlled way. Privileges control who can access what and their degree of access to change and modify data. Setting standard fields and controls ensures that contracts are stored in a standard way with prompts to notify individuals when service levels are not being met or a renewal is imminent. Through use of a Digital Workflow Solution for Contract Management, organisations can gain control of their processes, ensure compliance and leverage opportunities for intervention when contracts are not being fulfilled correctly or at the time of re-negotiation.
Key Considerations for Effective Delivery of Digital Workflow Solutions
- Be mindful that technology itself won’t solve the problem. Effective implementation of Digital Workflow Solutions is reliant on a combination of People, Process and Technology
- Consider a Digital Adoption Solution (DAS). With a focus on effective delivery of training in bite-size on demand help and tips, they can accelerate the onboarding of staff with a new process or technology deployment
- Point Solution or Multi-Solution Platform. Pre-built point solutions often offer the fastest way to address some of the processes above. If speed is the key, then this may be the way to solve a problem in the short-term. However, it is worth considering the impact of too many point solutions across the enterprise. This can lead to multiple subscriptions for multiple offerings from different suppliers, with data stored and duplicated in separate locations and extensive training and management across the different technologies. Long-term this can lead to technical debt and an inability to keep pace with technology advancements. Where an organisation wants to consider implementing multiple workflow solutions, a single platform with pre-built layers for multiple use cases, can offer the most sustainable and efficient method of deployment over the medium to long term. Read more about the Kofax TotalAgility® Solution here.
- Ensure that a process is well understood before embarking on an automation project. Too often, organisations embark on a project without fully understanding steps in the process. Process Intelligence tools, help to identify existing processes, exception paths and dark processes. The use of these tools can help to generate benchmarks of the process as-is, can act as the means to measure process improvements through automation and be the difference between success and failure.
Further reading on successfully implementing a Digital Workflow Solution can be found here.
If your organisation is considering implementing digital workflows and you would like to discuss this further, please contact us and one of our experts will be in touch.