People Before Technology: Setting the Foundation of a Successful Workflow

Andrew GaidarDataBankby Andrew Gaidar | 6/14/16

I was listening to someone the other day sending a text message using the speech recognition tool on their phone. What struck me as funny was that they were using what sounded more like a computer generated voice than one they’d use in a normal human conversation. Watching this made me ask myself the age old question, “Is technology working for us, or are we conforming to work for the technology?”

The same holds true when implementing technology to support a workflow process. Should the workflow work for you and your business process, or should you conform your process to fit within a workflow?

With the proper planning and foundation you can actually do both. All too often the process of implementing workflow is driven by technology rather than what the users need. There is always an organization’s vision on what workflow will provide in terms of savings and efficiencies, but unless it helps the end users perform their tasks, there will be little buy in and support for the technology.

There is a perception that workflow is primarily implemented to reduce the number of employees that work within a specific process. But the genuine goal should be to make those users’ tasks simpler and more efficient while providing an easier, faster method for internal and external communication.

You can be sure to set the proper foundation for a successful workflow implementation by getting the end users involved early and often and by learning how they currently perform their tasks. Once you’ve done this, the sky is the limit on what workflow can help you do.

While listening to end users speak about their processes is a good way to gauge where improvements can be made, the best way to really learn is from watching them work. It’s like learning a new golf swing or wanting to correct your awful batting average. You can only gain so much insight from hearing someone tell you how to swing your golf club differently or change your stance when batting, but it’s much more effective when you watch the pro’s do it.

By watching end users perform their daily tasks, you’ll gain an understanding of undiscovered workarounds to issues they’re challenged with. You’ll be able to ask why they put some paper here instead of there, or why they call Mary for one situation and Tom for another situation. All these things that you’ve learned are then incorporated into the design of the workflow solution that will simplify the users’ tasks and provide more efficiencies as a result. Now that you’ve set your foundation and understand the requirements, you can really take advantage of what workflow can offer.

Although the same process may have been in place for the last 10 years, an explosion of technology in recent years means users are having to process information that comes in a variety of formats. It’s no longer just arriving in paper form, but through emails, web sites, video files, audio files, and a plethora of other unknown electronic files as well.

This is where workflow shines – by consolidating this information and automatically presenting it to the right users at the appropriate time. Mary will no longer need to call Tom for help, because they’ll both have the data they need, and be notified upon its arrival. Employees will be able to access information away from their desk as well. For example, instead of manually filling out a form, a field inspector can complete an electronic form on their mobile device and instantly submit it into a workflow process. By the time the inspector returns to the office, that data will already be in the hands of the person who needs it.

Now that all this information is contained within a workflow, you’ll gain analytics on process bottlenecks and be able to identify areas of improvement – and all the meanwhile the end user is happier and more efficient. So don’t forget about the importance of people when designing and implementing a workflow process. It’s not all about the technology.

Andrew Gaidar is the Director of Solution Architects at DataBank IMX, an organization dedicated to simplifying business processes. Andrew has a degree in Engineering and Computer Science and has been in the business process automation industry since 1988, experienced in crafting solutions, re-engineering business processes, and providing technical and implementation support.