by Mitch Taube | 4/6/15
There is no denying that a document management system capable of workflow automation vastly simplifies a company’s processing, storage and retrieval of data. But it’s not enough in today’s rapidly changing and wildly competitive business landscape.
Integrating workflow automation and enterprise resource planning software is the logical next step for boosting operational efficiency and ultimately growing your bottom line. Although the concept sounds daunting, modern software solutions make such integration easier and more affordable than ever.
Faster and more controlled processes
In the days of paper documents and manual processing, a single process could take days or weeks to complete. And, of equal importance, management would have limited control over – and insight into – the process itself.
Think of a busy order fulfillment group, with stacks of incoming orders on each employee’s desk, waiting to be reviewed, approved and processed. You can imagine each order form going from one desk to the next throughout the manual process, needing additional data to be gathered before an order was approved. This cumbersome and slow process would be difficult for management to track or keep an overview of.
By contrast, integrating workflow automation software with an ERP system automates and streamlines the entire process. You have more time, insight and control, all of which help you to over-deliver and amaze clients with speed and efficiency.
Let’s look at what a typical automated scenario might look like…
When an order comes in via email, fax or paper, document capture software captures the image and strips data – such as customer name, item and dollar amount – and populates the corresponding index fields. This eliminates the need for manual data entry.
Based on these index field values, an automated workflow is kicked off using workflow automation software. The order form (along with the accompanying data) is distributed to the appropriate order specialist, who then verifies that it is complete, and that the captured data is accurate (in rare cases, some missing or incorrect data will need to be re-entered by the order specialist).
At this point, the workflow automation software creates an internal approval form, which is prepopulated with data (e.g. customer account number) through a connector with a document management system or other database (workflow software can connect to many different types of databases, including OBDC compliant databases, SharePoint data stores, CSV flat files and Microsoft SQL server databases). The order specialist then reviews the internal approval form, and manually fills out any fields that were not originally in the database (e.g. ‘regional manager’).
The order form and internal approval form now travel together through the workflow automation software as one file. Data from both forms is sent into an ERP system (such as Oracle) through another connector. Again, this eliminates the need for manual data entry of order details into the ERP system, expedites orders getting into the fulfilment process, and ensures happier customers.
At this point, the ERP software creates an order with the data, and kicks off a workflow through the connector, which sends a message back to the order specialist informing them that an order was created, gives them the order number, and lets them know the order is being processed. The order specialist now manually enters the order number into the index field associated with this order.
The final connection is made between the ERP system and the document management software in which the order form and all affiliated documents are stored for immediate access from within the ERP system. Now accounts receivable staff can access the order form and internal approval form directly when working in Oracle to address any customer questions immediately.
Where there used to be (at best) a host of weakly connected databases riddled with duplicate entries and manual back-and-forth, we now have a fully integrated system that functions on autopilot.
Minimize errors, maximize profits
Workflow automation software, when integrated with an ERP system, allows your company to capture, process, and act upon most data automatically. There is no excessive data entry and no unnecessary duplication to worry about – which means there is as little room as possible for mistakes.
Processes heavily dependent on error-free input, retrieval and routing of data would benefit greatly from this integration. Among others, these include:
● Invoice processing
● Human resource onboarding
● Order fulfillment
● And loan approval
This translates into a happier, more productive workforce, increased operational efficiency, and reduced cost – which ultimately leads to bigger profits and a major competitive advantage for your business. Seizing the opportunity now, rather than later, will set you up for future success and growth.
Mitch Taube is the principal founder of Digiscribe International, formed in 2001 to provide companies of all sizes with cost-effective document scanning, document management software and workflow automation services. In 2010, he co-founded Digiscribe New England, an affiliated company serving the document management and business process automation needs of companies and organizations in New England. Digiscribe transforms the way companies manage and process their documents with document scanning services, document management software and workflow automation services and software.