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Outperform With Superior Service

20 Apr, 2009 By: Laurel B Sanders imageSource

Outperform With Superior Service

The first quarter of 2009 is already behind us, yet the media continues largely to focus on the struggling economy. It’s easy to whine about our troubles, but far better to work toward making business prosperity return as quickly as possible. Business literature suggests
companies are focusing on four major initiatives to address current challenges:

1.         Implementing broad cost-cutting measures

2.         Restructuring staff and business operations

3.         Seeking effective ways to comply with regulations

4.         Improving customer service

Paradoxically, service helps businesses most to emerge on top when downturns end, yet it often gets shorted in tough times. How can you help your customers to stay focused?  Offer your services in business process design. Enable clients to streamline their businesses and
improve service through effective automation and concentrate their human resources on business growth.

Process Design:  why it matters

A detailed analysis of business processes (such as invoicing or reviewing job applications) typically exposes longstanding procedural customs that are ripe for improvement. Automating time-consuming, mundane tasks improves consistency, ensures fair treatment, accelerates and
improves services, and facilitates data tracking and compliance. Good process design enables accurate, complete information transfer from the beginning of a transaction (when data is captured) through its end. 

Ask your client:

  1. What steps are involved in the process? In which order do they take place?
  2. Which steps must occur sequentially? Which can take place simultaneously?
  3. Who is involved in each step?
  4. Should tasks be assigned to a specific person, a department, to persons with the least work, or distributed by other criteria?
  5. What are the tasks involved in each step?
  6. What documents must be accessed?
  7. Must specific conditions be satisfied for a job to move onward? 
  8. Are reviews, approvals, or signatures required at any point?
  9. How much time do regulations or internal policies permit for task completion? Should someone be notified when deadlines aren’t met?
  10. If work isn’t completed promptly, should it be redistributed?  If so, what are the rules for reallocation?
  11. Do any steps require access to data stored in other software applications?  Do calculations or executables in other applications need to be run at any point?

Process automation that follows pre-established business rules lets clients maximize efficiency, letting them process more work using fewer resources.  Encourage clients to consider ways they can repurpose staff meaningfully rather than using newfound efficiencies to eliminate
staff.  Employees who previously worked on manually-intensive processes often can be repurposed to build personalized services that give their companies a favorable edge over competitors.

Data Capture:  good design starts here

Smart process design begins with effective data capture.  Correspondence, applications, order forms, purchase orders, invoices, and other documents must be distributed, reviewed, and acted upon punctually.  Electronic capture at the point of creation streamlines efficiency at
the start. 

Viable options for electronic capture include online forms on a company website; barcodes with customer information affixed to outgoing forms that must be completed and returned; and mailroom, scan station, or desktop scanning.  If you can avoid creating paper unnecessarily,
it’s often the best and most cost-effective choice. 

Intelligent Process Design: maximize your resources

Digital document creation is growing significantly each year, and increasing regulations ensure this trend will continue.  How can clients reallocate staff when there are more documents to manage, and more reports to generate for information-thirsty auditors and compliance
officers?  By marrying optimized process design with electronic document management and process automation.

Automation of a well-conceived business process, when tied to a centralized electronic document management system, eliminates the tedium of searching for and distributing information.  It also prioritizes work, determines who should receive documents to review, and handles
time-sensitive documents when someone is ill or on vacation.  Everything follows pre-set business rules.

Consider a loan or employment application that is reviewed by multiple parties, involving background checks and sign-offs.  A good process design might include electronic form capture, packaging the application with supporting documentation, and sending it simultaneously to
all reviewers.  Pre-set rules could govern distribution when someone is absent or work is behind schedule.  Drop-down menus would ensure required tasks are executed consistently.  Pre-configured reports would allow detailed business and productivity analyses in real time.  Files
and data would be delivered to the desktops of everyone who is granted access; work would be distributed logically, consistently, and immediately; and you could track the application’s status and progress at any point.  Reports would be delivered on the fly in real time, helping
management adjust procedures, reallocate work, and make other decisions based on updated information.

Rethink, Reallocate, Redesign

It’s tempting to take advantage of streamlined processes by eliminating staff.  Don’t let customers succumb unless you must.  Streamlining business – improving consistency as well as the speed and accuracy of information delivery – presents an opportunity to repurpose their
workforce and get ahead. 

By standardizing mundane tasks (such as searching for information) and prioritizing tasks or producing reports, a company receives a valuable gift:  time.  Time to rebuild customer relationships.  Time to discover what customers value most and build on it.    Time to learn
what services customers would like to see next and to offer them before the competition does.  Time to redesign a company’s image in the marketplace and prove it can – and will – deliver.

Time equals opportunity.  Intelligent process design leads to greater efficiency and more time.  Encourage your clients to use the latter wisely. 

Facilitate compliance

HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm Leach Bliley, and right-to-know laws carry a palette of mandates regarding what can be accessed, by whom, and under which conditions.  Many rules dictate how quickly information must be disclosed. Fines for non-compliance can threaten business

An integrated document management and BPM or workflow solution centralizes information about documents and business transactions.  Pre-established rules govern file access and ensure policy enforcement.  Business becomes transparent, revealing who accessed, reviewed, approved,
or signed documents, and when.  Internal audits are more comprehensive, yet easier, helping companies march forward with confidence when real audits occur. 

Give customers what they want and deserve

All customers want to experience personal, prompt service. Automation through intelligent process design ensures accurate information is available quickly, but it doesn’t substitute for personal service.  Automated efficiency and personal service don’t have to be mutually
exclusive, however.  With your help, customers can achieve both. Smart automation gives employees the time and information they need to provide faster, better services their managers always dreamed of offering.

Using the right tools

When choosing a process automation software solution, ask yourself:

  • Are process design, execution, and optimization integrated within the product?
  • Can you back up and migrate files and data, manage records retention schedules, and purge documents when they reach the end of the business lifecycle?
  • Is the system centrally configurable?  A unified approach makes it easier for you to install and support.
  • Is the software functionality underwritten in web services to allow integration with diverse business applications?
  • Now is the time to take a bold step forward with automation by orchestrating your clients’ success using clever process design.  By asking the right questions and planning accordingly, you’re on your way to success.

Laurel Sanders is the director of public relations and communications for Optical Image Technology, makers of the DocFinity® suite of document imaging, workflow, and document management products

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