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Building a digital foundation for workflow optimisation

In an operating environment of rapid and continuous change, process automation technology can be transformational in helping you maintain operational effectiveness.

In its automation, employment and productivity report, McKinsey states that 60% of all job roles have at least 30% technically automatable activities.

That’s a lot of potential for efficiency and productivity improvements.

By using workflow tools to streamline and standardise your key processes, your teams can: automatically route documents and data to the right people for processing, manage approvals, embed digital signatures and much more.

What is Process Automation?

Workflow or Process Automation is an automated sequence of repeatable business processes designed to complete a specific goal. Be that the task of receiving, allocating, rerouting and processing inbound invoices; collecting, managing and resolving customer support requests; or many other frequently undertaken day-to-day process.

It’s essentially a modern way of simplifying tasks and workloads by using smart technology such as document management software and  information management systems, which in turn increase workforce efficiency, productivity and job satisfaction.

Any team can benefit from process automation tools: marketing, HR, finance, sales, customer service, IT and everyone in-between.

Replacing Paper with Workflow Automation Software

Many organisations find themselves stuck in paper-based workflows, despite often having the tools for automating their processes at their fingertips.

Even if they have attempted to implement a digital workflow, many businesses still have difficulties in eliminating paper. For instance, documents are often printed for signing and then re-scanned or keyed back into the system, negating any positive time, cost or environmental effects yielded by a digital system.

To enact true process automation, organisations must take a good look at the pain points traceable to a paper-based system and find ways to eradicate them without creating new ones — whether they be from employees unaccustomed to managing digital information or a system that is not equipped to handle the data.

Scanning is prevalent in today’s office environment, but the ad-hoc nature of most scanning is counterproductive to true process automation. Often the resulting documents are simply digital images that cannot be manipulated, rather than true digital documents obtained through solutions such as optical character recognition (OCR) software that can be utilised as part of a digital workflow. It is important that those entering information understand the difference.

The influx of digital information can be overwhelming, and it is common to create multiple copies of scanned documents and to store them in numerous locations, whether on the network, or the employee’s own hard drive. While how documents will be digitised is an important part of process automation, so is the flow of those documents through the system to their final repository to ensure easy, actionable access to data.

There are a number of tools available with which to automate processes – an information management system, MFD gateway, digital mailroom software and much more.

Considerations

Are any day-to-day tasks slowing your teams down and creating inefficiencies/bottlenecks?

Have departments raised any issues with regards to their workloads and how they might be improved?

Can you pinpoint regular, repetitive tasks – and map each process to determine whether technology can help streamline activities?

Determine key goals from automating tasks – aim for predefined KPIs to track progress.

Identify a workflow technology solution, such as an information management system.

An Example – Automated Invoice Processing

An Invoice Processing Automation solution automates the scanning, interpreting and filing of invoice data. No matter how invoices enter an organisation – on paper or in any electronic format – the software intelligently extracts the important information and validates it according to a pre-defined set of rules.

The invoice automation process begins with self-learning capture technology that continually increases recognition capabilities. Paper and emailed invoices are intelligently scanned and their data fields captured. The technology recognises each invoice by supplier and collects all of the essential information, regardless of whether the format is regular paper, PDF, xml, Word documents, or otherwise.

During validation, captured invoice information, including barcodes, stamps and other supplier-specific data, is categorised. Information is validated against available purchase order, goods receipt and master data. The solution also includes automated checking of sums, supplier data, dates, tax amounts and more.

When information enters the resolution workflow, discrepancies and missing information are flagged for user verification. Exceptions are routed to a workflow for resolution, while validated invoices continue in the processing workflow.

diagram flow of invoice process automation
1

Receive

Supplier sends you an invoice via physical or electronic mail.
2

Capture

Invoice is scanned and converted into a digital document.
3

Extract

System automatically extracts key document details, such a invoice number, PO number, line items.
4

Match

Invoices are matched against POs or POs & Delivery Receipts and sent for payment.
5

Exceptions

Any new invoices the system has not previously seen, or invoices that do not match the PO or Delivery Note, are handled as an exception and passed to a user to manually process.
6

Approval

Once exceptions are reviewed, they can be sent for manual approval by the person or department that placed the order.
7

Payment

Invoice information is transferred to the accounts system for payment.
8

Archive

Once processed, the invoice is electronically stored, e.g. in an Information Management System, where a retention period of 6 years can be automatically set up.

Benefits of Process Automation

Productivity

Streamline processes and eliminate redundant and time-consuming tasks audit trails.

Accuracy

Eliminate error-prone tasks, oversights and extended training.

Consistency

Guarantee consistent practices among employees.

Compliance

Instantly comply with regulation and best practices.

Standardisation

Gain a single point of access to your information.

Our Technology Partners

As an independent, vendor-agnostic provider, Agilico is uniquely placed to combine elements from a range of workplace technologies to create the perfect solution.

Interested?

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