With the rise of Document Capture as a Platform (CaaP), there is an enormous opportunity for organizations to leverage the power of capture as an intelligent document automation component to any business process or workflow solution. Here are the core use areas of document capture and automation with any Business Process Management System (BPMS):
The “Pre” – The logical fit is to use document capture software to “feed the beast”, or in other terms, as a front-end processor for inbound documents destined for workflows. You might ask, “Why? My BPM/Workflow solution has the capability to import documents.” Modern capture platforms add another dimension of automation through the use of several features like separation, document classification and automatic data extraction. Imagine a mortgage banking process where a PDF document is sent inbound that houses 12 different document types in a single PDF file. The power of capture is to auto-split the PDF, classify each document, extract information and then pass all of that in a neatly formatted packages to the workflow engine. Now, the workflow has a second dimension of intelligence, and it can use that to branch, route and execute. Platforms like Ephesoft Enterprise have the ability to ingest documents from email, folders, legacy document management systems, fax and also legacy capture (like Kofax and Captiva).
2. Mid-stream – What about activities during the workflow? Ones that are necessary mid-process? This is where the true power of a “platform” comes into play, and it requires a web services API (See other requirements of a Capture Platform in this article: 6 Key Components of a Document Capture Platform). Some examples of activities that can be accomplished through a capture platform API in workflow:
Value Extraction – pass the engine a document and return extracted information.
Read Barcodes – pass the engine an image, and read and return the value of a barcode.
Classify a Document – pass a document and identify what it is
Create OCR – pass a non-searchable PDF and return a searchable file.
As you can imagine, this can provide extreme customization in any process that requires document automation, and can reduce end-user input, create added efficiency, and once again add that second dimension of intelligence after the workflow has begun. You can see an extensive list of API operations here: Document Capture API Guide
3.The “Post” – Depending on the process and requirements, a “post-process” capture may be in order. Most capture platforms have extensive integrations with 3rd party ECM systems like SharePoint, Filebound and Onbase, and can be leveraged as an integration point to these systems. In addition, there is a new wave in the big data and analytics world, with a focus on data contained within documents. Routing documents and data to analytics repositories can help organizations glean important insight into their operations. If you choose a capture platform with a tied-in document analytics component, this can be accomplished automatically.
Well, just a few thoughts on integrating capture with workflow/BPM. Thoughts? Did I miss anything?
As companies grow and look to attract and retain top talent, automating the people side of the business becomes top priority. Improving your critical HR processes can help you drive digital initiatives and help transform your organization. The right technology can drive efficiency, and allow more time for critical activities.
In world-class organizations, technology spend per HR FTE is higher (nearly 80%) due to greater use of process automation. These organizations are able to service 59% more employees per FTE and allow HR staff to devote more time to talent and business performance-related activities.
Unfortunately, HR leaders are faced with a broad set of challenges, as outlined below:
Inability to integrate and adapt – The average HR system is 5 years old, and can create challenges when looking to expand or integrate with other line of business systems.
Prioritization – manual, inefficient paper-based processes have become a massive time sump, and pull attention away from more critical HR functions.
Lack of knowledgeable resources – with IT project backlog, many departments are forced to take on more and more administrative responsibilities for their systems. Keeping resources trained can be a key challenge.
Difficulty in justifying new spend – HR departments have often found it difficult to justify new systems or additional IT spend.
Adjusting for improvement – building business and tech requirements to drive excellence.
So, what are the key processes for HR to automate? See the list below:
Employee on-boarding and off-boarding – these processes are complex and cross-departmental. Forms, IT accounts, payroll, facilities and more all need to be involved, and getting employees operation in short order is critical.
Performance reviews – managing the performance review process can be difficult, and creating a standardized workflow and framework can lead to enhanced records management, timely promotions and a more productive workforce.
Payroll processing – automating everything from expense reimburse to time tracking and management, digital process can insure minimal errors and timely payment.
Recruiting and new hires – creating a digital workflow for interviewing and recruiting can lead to shorter approval times, and the timely on-boarding of top recruits.
Policy management – reviewing and revising policies can be a pain, and the update process can be daunting. Digital workflow can manage versions and changes, and make the process flow smoothly.
One of our partners, Protiviti, conducted a fantastic survey on “2016 Finance Priorities”. The report is laden with some great information on what CEOs and CFOs deem important within the finance function. Here is one of the key action items that came out of the study:
Action Item for Finance Leaders: Look for improvements and investments in people, process and technology that can result in greater speed, accuracy and efficiency within financial consolidation and close activities.
So why speed, accuracy and efficiency? To understand, below is an outline of the top concerns for financial leaders:
Improving Margins and Earnings Performance – Optimizing resources and the ability to better manage costs is a top concern.
Cyber Security Risks – Managing and protesting financial data and controlling access to the ERP/Financial Systems.
Strategic Planning – Creating streamlined predictable, standardized processes for planning.
Periodic Forecasting – The ability to surface data from all systems of record.
Budgeting – Using data for improved budgeting and decisions.
In these key concern areas, the demand for speed and accuracy continues to mount, and expectations grow without the increases in staff and budget. So, implementing technology solutions to help is key for success, and helps to alleviate concerns. So what are the top finance processes ripe for automation? Here are the top 5 processes:
Expense processing – providing an automated, rules-based process for submitting and approving expenses can provide a standardized, repeatable reporting mechanism for projections.
Invoice Processing – with the majority of invoices still in paper form, automating AP is a key to faster payment (read early pay discounts), reduction in data errors and reduction in processing time. Using an AP Automation tool like Ephesoft Transact for Invoice Scan and Capture can feed any BPM process.
Capex Approvals – moving away from emailed spreadsheets in the CapEx process, and utilizing a managed digital workflow can provide insight, improved transparency and reporting capabilities.
Budgeting – providing a collaborative, social environment for budgeting can lead to enhanced accuracy, and reduce departmental shortfalls.
Internal Audits – simplified reporting and “visual” report tools can help smooth out the audit process, and reduce staff time required to comply with demands.
Financial Services and Banking Automation Through BPM
We released a great case study on First West Credit Union, and the customer achieved some amazing results through automation and smartforms.
“With K2, we can take the member process from hours – and multiple sessions – down to less than 40 minutes,” explained Arrowsmith. “It’s a much simpler and better experience for the member, and made it easier for member service representatives to get involved with new business banking opportunities.”
What Companies Look For As A Next Step In Their BPM Journey
As I continue to work with customers and prospects, I find some common ground in those looking to expand beyond SharePoint Workflow and Forms (And those products that rely on the underlying engine) . There is definitely a BPM journey that organizations seem to take, regardless of whether they realize they have embarked. This journey almost always leads to expanding beyond the confines of SharePoint, as well as a deepening need for more complex capabilities. Here are some of the common trends I see in organizations looking to take their business process management to the next step:
The Requirement for Complex Workflow Patterns (With No Code) – simple serial workflows can only take you so far, and organizations quickly realize that rework steps, and moving to previous steps in any process is an absolute necessity in common business flow. Having a BPM platform that integrates with SharePoint lists and libraries, and provides support for all types of workflow patterns can provide immense value, and eliminate the need for complex custom code and management of state.
Wanting Reusable, Shared Data Layer and Simple LOB Data Access – Accessing external data in SharePoint can be challenging, and I find many companies are looking to simplify the integration with external business systems. The tiresome process of setting up Business Connectivity Services/External Lists in SharePoint, and maintaining them can be problematic. A reusable model, as seen in K2’s smartobjects, can provide agility and reduce the overall time required to configure forms, workflow and reports. The “create once” and reuse theme provides power and flexibility.
The Need to Surface Forms and Workflows Outside of SharePoint – SharePoint is a great tool, but should every form and workflow live within its UI? More and more, I am seeing organizations that want to have business apps (forms, workflow, data and reports) that live outside of SharePoint and can stand alone. This is especially true when it comes to mobility, and the need to support various device types with web-based forms.
The Need for A Broad Set of Design Tools – BPM in any organization is a broad undertaking, and usually involves a wide variety of individuals, with varying skill sets. With Business Process Design, one size does not fit all, and organizations are looking to support power users, business analysts and developers. See my post: BPA, BPM and Design.
So, in summary, if you are looking to step outside of the SharePoint workflow engine and its forms capabilities, take some time to evaluate your next step in the journey and focus on at least these 4 points. For some additional considerations, see the below post:
All too often accounting and finance work is accomplished either through the movement of paper through the organization, or the sharing of spreadsheets and files through email. Add a complex, business rule-based process like Capital Expenditure workflow, and now you have an error prone process with reduced efficiency, a lack of transparency and one plagued with constant delays. The traditional CapEx process has a number of core challenges:
Lack of Standardization – implementing a process without a guiding framework can lead to a non-standardized workflow. The process can routinely breakdown, and result in a non-repeatable and non-transparent business process.
Inaccurate Request Routing – manual routing of requests can lead to unplanned delays, and can impact project timelines, as well as core business operations.
Missing Data and Errors – Enforcement of required data and calculation errors are common in most environments, leading to further delays and accounting issues.
Lack of Productivity – utilizing email as the primary means of communication can cause additional delays, and lead to a total lack of visibility into the process. This can result in hours of lost time tracking down a process, or researching issues.
Implementing a Capital Expenditure process within the confines of a Business Process Management (BPM) suite can produce many benefits:
Standardization – standardizing the CapEx request workflow across company departments and divisions can lead to a predictable and timely outcome. BPM tools can provide visual aids, like K2’s ViewFlow, to always provide a status on the standardized process.
Automation – automating the entry of data, as well as its validation, minimizes errors and ensures the accuracy of any request. BPM forms can provides the ability to perform automatic calculations, summarize information, and check all the entered data for accuracy.
Improved Collaboration – with any Business Process Automation (BPA) tool, communications are automated to keep key personnel informed throughout the process. A centralized location for comments, as well as a communication log for each request, can help involved stakeholders make quick adjustments and minimize any delays.
Reduction in Approval Time – the standardization and centralized communication leads to reduced processing time. In addition, automated escalation can be put in place that enforce approvals and ensure process flow.
Transparency – BPM systems provide fantastic reporting to give full visibility and transparency to any process. Management can view the process in real-time, identify bottlenecks and make incremental improvements to improve efficiency and increase overall productivity.
These are just a few of the benefits from automating your finance processes with a BPM tool. Want to see a CapEx process in action? See the video below:
We have passed the end of life of SharePoint 2010, and it will no longer be supported through standard support as of 10/13/2015. This will force the hand of customers that have been lagging behind in migration to SharePoint 2013/SharePoint Online, and it will be quite interesting to see how customers will transition. Many of the prospects and customers I see in the field are slowly moving their content in phased projects from 2010 to 2013.
If you haven’s evaluated your forms and workflow options, it is a great time to examine your future platform for both forms (Move away from InfoPath), and workflow. K2 is a great option for an overall BPM/BPA platform, and can help bridge the gap during migration, as we support SharePoint 2010, 2013/Online.
I thought I would share a video demo I built out for an organization that wanted a single, unified interface for their field sales organization using CRM. This leverages digital forms, workflow and dashboards, and integrates with Salesforce/Dynamics CRM to provide great efficiency and sales automation. Video below:
For more information on augmenting and improving any CRM system (Salesforce, Microsoft Dyanmics CRM, SugarCRM), go to k2.com.
Digital Forms and Workflow Can Give You a Key Advantage
For the longest time, the Business Process Management tool set has been out of reach for the Small Business. Digital Forms, Workflow and Reporting on Process were way too expensive, and business settled for “poor man’s” workflow: spreadsheets and email. The landscape has changed, and there are now a broad variety of cloud-based tools available and at a price point that just makes sense from a Return on Investment (ROI) perspective. For $500 to $1000 per month, a 100 person business can now glean all the advantages or process automation and digital transformation (read paperless 😉 ). Below are some core areas where small businesses are driving efficiency and improvement:
Digital Transformation – Most businesses see document scanning as a path to the paperless office. But with digital forms and workflow, you never create paper, and your documents and processes are “born digital.” Preventing paper provides powerful efficiency, and makes insight and reporting to your business process a snap. Whether it is automating your sales order process or managing customer service, digital business process can transform any small business.
Customer Service – Providing top-notch customer service can be difficult for small companies that just don’t have enough staff to handle the ebb and flow of the business cycle. Using technology to automate customer communication and interaction makes sure that customers are served promptly, and all interactions are tracked.
Foundation for Growth – Growth can be a blessing and a curse, and adding headcount is not always an option. The process automation that business process management software brings to the table can keep costs low, maximize efficiency and productivity, and let you add employees where needed.
Business Applications – Have you ever just wanted a quick little application to solve a business issue? Say you want to manage product returns, manage time off for employees, or just build a structured way to gather new ideas from employees. With BPM software, it’s like having your own custom software development team in-house. Drag and drop to build anything, only limited by your imagination.
Workflow and Forms in Healthcare, Hospitals and Medical Clinics
Building Your Own Apps
I wanted to share a quick proof of concept I built for a healthcare organization that was struggling with automating their process in their telephone nurse advice center. This video shows using K2 Workflow, Forms and Data to build out a quick app for managing calls, and the new tele-patient process. This process was built using K2 blackpearl, the no-code Business Process Applications (BPA) platform.