Outcome-Driven Workflows Meet the Unique Needs of Vertical Markets

Workflows are only as successful as the data being managed to them. If the large quantity of data going in isn’t organized effectively, every downstream activity or action will experience delays, errors, and risk for non-compliance. Those are risks organizations cannot afford to take — especially not today, as rigorous security and compliance are increasingly vital across all vertical markets, from healthcare and finance to government and legal.

Business process and workflow automation with flowchart. Hand holding wooden cube block arranging processing management on yellow background

Today’s most successful workflow solutions are outcome-driven. Effective workflows consider the specific and nuanced compliance needs of each particular customer and build structured, customized solutions around those needs. They do not modify or alter a generalized solution around a specific certification or requirement to fit into a box they were not designed for.

When exploring workflows to solve for challenges or create new opportunities, it’s important to remember that no two vertical markets require the same type of workflow. 

Consider the intricacies of each vertical market

Growth has been steady across many vertical markets, either due to expanding business, new ways of working in hybrid and remote office environments, or fluctuating market needs. Consider and address the distinctions specific to each vertical to successfully meet customer needs as this growth occurs. 

Healthcare: Healthcare institutions have been on a very methodical path toward digital transformation that was accelerated during the pandemic. In the past, a lot of time was spent turning paper documents into digital information; now it’s about turning processes into digital workflows using software and offsite capabilities to support these needs. Today, patient information management solutions better manage patients’ experiences and information from intake through insurance payment and all the steps in between. And, since healthcare can take place anywhere now — the doctor’s office, the emergency room, via telehealth, even from one’s home on a remote monitoring device — information must flow effectively and securely to enable the right people to access it in real time. Print MIS workflow software driven around accounting, purchasing, CRM, inventory management, scheduling, and more governs the influx of information through the patient’s entire engagement process — from intake and monitoring to referrals and billing — to improve the overall patient experience. 

Retail: The retail market requires automated workflow processes to keep physical and digital locations connected and physical and virtual shelves stocked. It relies on sophisticated workflows to manage vendors, accounts receivable, warehouses/shipping centers, and inventory in an automated way. And today, retailers must be even further ahead than their normal lead time to gain better predictive analytics to anticipate inventory fluctuation due to ongoing global supply chain issues. With so many disparate data points, devices and systems, organizations that use data to drive workflow and processes effectively will be a step ahead in the competitive retail environment. This is most often achieved by using a consolidated dashboard that converts data into insights. 

Banking/financial: Historically, people in finance and banking markets worked onsite in corporate offices where data security is paramount. With the onset of the pandemic, work shifted to remote and hybrid office environments, making automated workflow solutions essential to enable workers to access information and systems from anywhere. Data security is also critical in the banking and financial market, and workflows must keep data complaint with audit and certification policies, as well as identify potential gaps or misaligned security and address those gaps before they become problematic.

Insurance: Claims management processing requires highly sophisticated, automated workflows to manage data from myriad input sources, validate that the right data is attached to the right requirements, protect secured data, identify gaps and audit missing data. And, similar to banking and financial markets, work in the insurance market is shifting to hybrid and remote office environments, making access from any location or device imperative.

Legal: The same shift is occurring in the legal field. Thanks to automated workflows, in today’s law “offices,” collaboration and communication are possible from any location, overhauling the way legal information is viewed and managed, as well as the way legal work gets done. Solutions like eDiscovery offer increased information governance, insight, and control to help legal organizations make more informed business decisions, glean critical information from their data, proactively manage costs and mitigate risk. This capability provides law firms with improved operational efficiency and the security required to help ensure client data and other sensitive information stays confidential no matter where work is taking place, drastically changing the culture of the legal field.

Government: Emerging workflow technologies are also advancing the way government agencies manage data and accomplish work. The distinction is that workflows must intake data from multiple sources, funnel it into one place for organization and management, and redistribute it to various audiences via multiple channels to reach the constituents that must receive it – responsibly and securely.

Education: Workflows enable students to be part of an educational community from any location. The challenge is delivering a learning experience and environment that is consistent, collaborative and interactive, wherever it is taking place. Through an end-to-end focus on the student experience, a wide portfolio of products, services and technology solutions, delivered both on-site and remotely, have enabled K-12 and higher education customers to pivot in how they deliver the educational experience. 

Manufacturing: It’s also an exciting time in manufacturing, as managing enhanced workflows for incoming data and augmenting that with 3D printing is starting to take off. Effective workflows supporting manufacturing, supply chain, shipping, inventory and the like will always be imperative as we will always be making “stuff,” no matter how digitally advanced we become. Those that utilize workflows and effectively manage information and infrastructure will excel with improved operational efficiency and the security required to keep customer data and other sensitive information confidential.

All vertical markets are fairly complex when looking at them holistically as the pace of digital transformation continues to accelerate. The key to making the complicated manageable is to focus on the specific needs of the individuals within each customer and understanding who their customer is and what is required to serve them properly. Each vertical provides its own challenges that can only be met through a focused dedication to understanding the customer needs — or the customer’s customers’ needs — and delivering solutions that support them.  

Specific market nuances aside, there are some general things to consider when supporting customers in vertical markets that can help drive business success across the board:

Connect the physical and digital dots

With hybrid, home and remote workplaces on the rise and likely here to stay, there are more points of entry and exit in the workflow process than ever before. Organizations across all vertical markets need workflow solutions that keep people productive (and keep data secured) no matter where they are physically located, and no matter what type of device they are using for work. With multiple data points feeding into multiple information management systems and exiting via myriad channels, organizations that manage and use data effectively to drive workflow and processes are better equipped to survive and infinitely more likely to thrive in today’s competitive business environment.

Partner up with subject matter experts

Seek out and invest in established subject matter experts who combine industry experience with focused vertical expertise for developing sales, marketing and portfolio plans that can meet the specific needs of each vertical. Look for alliances that offer industry experience and very focused vertical expertise that enable you to meet customer needs in each vertical. Apply this focus both to the industry leaders within each vertical and to the smaller, developing organizations looking for consultative expertise in developing their business. This partnership approach is equally beneficial for manufacturers, dealers and customers who engage in non-selling, thought leadership forums to exchange ideas and develop new offerings. 

Identify what you can accomplish horizontally

While it’s true that some needs are unique to specific vertical markets, there is also a strong opportunity for horizontal selling — implementing solutions that work well across multiple verticals. It’s vastly more efficient to identify what needs are the same among your vertical customers and how they can be met in similar ways, than to create differences where they don’t need to exist. For example, the AP departments of business services, manufacturing and retail customers share similar needs, but their business focuses are drastically different. You can save a lot of time and money by meeting AP needs across verticals in the same way — where and when it makes sense to do so. Cloud fax, which was initially developed to support the specific needs of the healthcare market, is a great example of this horizontal approach, as today it is also used by customers in manufacturing, insurance and banking. While these markets serve different customers with their own unique challenges, identifying the consistent thread between their common needs allows you to meet customer requirements effectively and efficiently with value-added solutions.

 Move beyond standard business

Sales opportunities evolve based on industry dynamics, so it is critical to fully immerse yourself within your customers’ environments to witness challenges first-hand, experience common trends as they occur in real time, and grasp the main thread of their day-to-day hurdles. This consultative approach enables you to become a trusted partner offering valuable expertise, thereby potentially opening the door to opportunities that expand sales into new areas beyond standard business. Once you familiarize yourself with specific market needs and become a trusted resource with valuable expertise, you will also begin to anticipate future market trends and potential industry changes, such as regulations, technological shifts or new business models. This allows you to be better positioned to offer solutions that meet both your vertical market customers’ current and future needs.

Lean into learning

All vertical selling activities should begin with an obsession around the customer’s evolving needs. That translates into how best to approach the market and assist your partners in meeting their customers’ needs, as well. There are myriad opportunities to learn — regular training, customer engagement surveys and panels, thought leadership sessions with industry leaders and experts, conversations with dedicated vertical industry strategists, and constantly engaging customers to truly understand their needs. These types of educational exchanges help ensure you have products, services and processes to meet customer needs both now and into the future. 

Bottom line

Workflows don’t exist in a vacuum. How effectively information is managed upstream directly influences downstream results, and the most successful workflows are custom-built for the outcome they are designed to support. Information management, security and compliance, and a thorough understanding of target outcomes are critical to address challenges, pursue opportunities, and support customers in today’s evolving vertical markets.  

Scott Dabice is Vice President, Portfolio Management and Pricing & Programs, Ricoh USA, Inc.