Xeroxby Andy Jones, Xerox

Today’s workforce is inundated with technology, yet many offices are full of complex, complicated, niche apps and solutions aiming to improve office operations. These solutions are often very different from the simple, consumer-focused technology that users are familiar with in their everyday lives. Employees are used to mobile apps and tools that are intuitive and user-friendly, and are now demanding that same experience from their office applications.    

With this, the question for businesses now becomes: how can businesses help simplify work for knowledge workers? Start by viewing employees as your company’s most valuable asset and then focus on the tools they need to do their job better. By making this a priority, the entire organization will reap the benefits of increased productivity and overall job satisfaction will improve for employees. 

In my opinion, the key to making knowledge workers more productive is developing a personal and office productivity strategy that includes tools to help departments and individuals become more effective. Personal productivity tools and apps let today’s knowledge workers initiate simple tasks and ad-hoc workflows easily. They consider the needs of the end user, and the consumerization of IT, because users now demand an intuitive user experience — or they won’t adopt a tool. Today’s workers manage many projects that often span multiple teams, and need tools that boost collaboration and work across tablets and mobile devices. These tools simply improve everyday tasks by digitizing and also tracking them.  

It’s also important to integrate ad hoc or personal work processes and practices — such as working on a document that needs editing or a one-off approval request from your own mobile or desktop app ­­­— with structured business processes in an organization. This integration ensures that all employees are aware of and following the same protocol, ultimately working toward the same larger business goal. 

Process-centric platforms such as enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) allow organizations to target structured business processes vertically for a specific industry, or horizontally in an area of the business. Automating these high-frequency processes helps drive greater efficiencies across the organization and meet employee and company needs from day one. 

Automating workflows through structured tools such as ECM supports an organization's need for increased security, control and insight. Content remains in a central repository, yet accessible to mobile workers. Users may be managed centrally, and rules for how and when content is accessed may be applied. These tools give businesses the ability to garner powerful business intelligence, addressing areas of focus such as work throughput, team collaboration, and content history. 

 A number of solutions on the market today are designed to integrate personal workflows and tools with these more structured office workflows, integrating and using them together with a complementary effect. These solutions help employees collaborate and easily access business-critical information, share feedback and ideas with colleagues, and track tasks as they move through business processes. Workers benefit through simpler ways to complete their day-to-day tasks, additional techniques to connect and collaborate, and more intelligent means to manage their workflows. By arming workers with integrated solutions, businesses can reduce redundant tasks and employees can do their jobs better, leading to better customer service and a stronger bottom line. 

 By taking an approach which addresses both the needs of the knowledge worker and the needs of the organization, companies can benefit from higher productivity, greater collaboration, and increased security and control. The integration of personal and office productivity solutions with structured business processes supports workers’ needs for mobility, ease of use and collaboration, in addition to meeting the organization’s need for security, control, and information analytics. 

Human capital is the strongest asset in any organization, so it’s critical to help the workforce overcome bottlenecks that make routine tasks cumbersome and redundant. But even the best designed technology is useless without proper integration across an organization. Integration of a user’s personal tools and ad hoc workflows with existing automated processes is key to giving employees a way to simplify day-to-day tasks, connect and collaborate with team members, and manage both their personal and business workflows.   

Andy Jones is vice president, Workflow Automation, Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Workflow.