Many SMBs are hampered by inefficient manual processes, but feel that it would
take too much time, money and effort to automate them. Not so!
If I asked you to list the ways in which time and money are being wasted in
your organization, Im pretty sure you would cite one or more inefficient
processes near the top.
Across the public and private sectors, most organizations are held back by
processes that take too long. The reasons for the inefficiency vary. Maybe a
process is poorly defined, or not defined at all. Maybe it relies on paper forms,
manual data entry and people remembering to put forms in the mail. Maybe the
chain of approvals is unclear, or involves too many people. Often it's a combination
of all these factors.
Every business manager instinctively knows which processes are inefficient,
and probably has a vision of how they ought to work in an ideal world. But there's
also a sense that a lot of effort would be required to make this happen. Three-letter
acronyms such as 'BPM' recall other three-letter acronyms, such as ERP,
conjuring up unappealing thoughts of expensive, months-long implementation projects.
In reality, though, many inefficient processes can be streamlined quickly and
effectively using inexpensive business process and workflow automation tools.
This is particularly true for paper-based processes that involve a lot of human
intervention. A common example is expenses reporting, which is still frequently
carried out on paper forms that must be passed from person to person for approval
and processing. But every industry and organization can cite its own examples
too: insurance underwriting, engineering change requests, return merchandise
authorization for faulty goods, and many more.
The key to making a quick transition from inefficient, paper-based process
to efficient, automated process is selecting the right workflow automation software.
There are many to choose from, ranging from low-cost open source tools to all-encompassing
high-end suites from the large ERP vendors. The bottom line is that you should
choose one that best suits your organization's size, budget and requirements,
but here are six key features you should look out for: