Marlon Miller, Director, Workflow Automation Solutions for the Public Sector, Xerox
In a previous article, I wrote about the “how and why” of combining business process automation, enterprise content management (ECM) and document imaging capabilities. With process automation and content management as enterprise layers, organizations can create more efficient workflows, link them to valuable content and offer the solutions in a user interface that increases transparency and productivity.
If you believe, as I do, that a robust workflow, case management, and ECM platform can benefit government organizations, what should you look for when you invest in such a platform?
Look for low-code, configurable solutions
Many government enterprise solutions deployed today are the result of custom-built solutions or complex integrations. They were expensive to build and expensive to maintain if updates are required. Many agencies have to forego the typical application updates required to keep the system current with evolving technology standards and changing business requirements. In today’s technology environment, there are many productized enterprise technology platforms that can be tailored to meet agency technical and business requirements without a lot of customization and integration.
Choosing a rapid application platform to manage content, data, and processes can dramatically reduce the time required to build and deploy a process automation solution. In evaluating potential platforms, it is critical to understand how much functionality is available through configuration rather than coding or scripting. This allows an organization to realistically evaluate the level of effort required to maintain and update a deployed solution as business processes evolve to meet the needs of the organization.
Workflow – what to look for
In researching a workflow-based platform, what features and functions help enable the digital implementation of business processes through configuration as opposed to coding and scripting?
First and foremost, the solution must have a graphical workflow design editor and an automated way to build the documentation for the business process being automated. This makes it easy to understand the target process and modify it as the organizations apply Six Sigma methodologies to continuously improve the process and eliminate non-value added steps.
It is also essential to have a workflow platform that can incorporate documents and data from external systems and departments and leverage them for process logic needed in your business workflow. Being able to electronically move content into a workflow or updating the workflow by consulting another data system maximizes efficiency and avoids extra data entry.
Choosing a rapid application platform to manage content, data, and processes can dramatically reduce the time required to build and deploy a process automation solution
Remembering that many decision-makers are away from their desks or use email as their primary solution means that your workflow should work on mobile devices and be able to embed itself in email clients like Microsoft Outlook. This will translate to faster decisions and provide a better user experience for staff that are on the move or primarily email users.
One key advantage of moving to a digital workflow solution is that abandoning paper offers the potential of more process transparency. The quest to eliminate paper from your process means that your workflow solution must be able to either generate or incorporate electronic, fillable forms, which can be uploaded through a web portal along with digital attachments. Additionally your workflow platform must have a well-defined method to capture and digitize incoming paper documents, which can still make their way into the process.
Reporting and dashboard functionality is an essential capability that provides key metrics such as the status of a transaction or decision, process bottlenecks as well as a broader view of process. It should support the individual work as well as executive and managers with roles-based views of processes. A robust reporting dashboard will provide the analytics necessary to understand the performance of your digital business processes and apply continuous improvement principles.
A true end-to-end digital process needs the ability to integrate with digital signatures so workflow processes can avoid printing to sign moments and realize that final bit of efficiency but applying approvals with an integrated signature tool.
Lastly, the workflow automation platform needs to incorporate records/retention management. The focus on digitizing government records and incorporating compliance with various Federal and Stateelectronic records guidelines is a mandatory requirement.
Integration tools, not custom integrations
The move to a digital workflow environment recognizes that data storage and the work of government staff are accomplished in dozens of solutions across the enterprise. Integration code, like custom code, can be a budget buster.
Business process improvement should mean efficiency gains for staff. To do that, it needs systems that work together to offer external customers convenient access while supporting internal staff with seamless access to the content they need to do their job. Understanding your integration tools and preferably having some options – like code-less integration, pre-built integrations and APIs – with consistent upgrades and updates to these tools will help you drive efficiency and improve process times.
The importance of an integrated case management platform
One struggle is the sheer variety of programs, processes, and data collection tasks going on across government. Each program, funding type, funding agency, rule and regulation contributes to the number of solutions you may support. As organizations move from customer relationship management to customer experience, they have sought to empower staff through better information access and be able to share that information effectively with constituents. Ideally, the workflow automation platform should incorporate case management, which will enable the organization to take the next step in sharing and organizing information related to specific business processes.
To realize these benefits, choose a case management platform that is low-code, built with an easy integration philosophy and (critically!) includes workflow automation tools and content access. More efficiency is possible when workflow is part of the case management platform that you are using and if that workflow includes the tools above.
Consistently delivering solutions is the goal of every IT effort. The roadblocks are plentiful – budget constraints, legislative changes, shifting political initiatives are often out of an organization’s control. Choosing wisely means demanding tools and a platform that can drive today’s process improvement and accommodate tomorrow’s landscape of evolving technology standards, legal requirements and unplanned mandates. Thoughtful investment and consideration of the above can help to put your process improvement on the right track for today and the future.