by John Tomesco

Death by a thousand cuts -- paper cuts that is. Paper-based processes are slowing organizations down, and businesses that can effectively manage the analog to digital transformation will be more successful in today’s changing marketplace.
 

Have you ever been in the market for a car? Buying a car is a process – a sometimes cumbersome process – with many steps, from researching the car you want, to understanding pricing, financing, and options, all the way through making the deal and signing on the dotted line. But there are tools available to help make this process easier, such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds, which provide useful information and insights into cars on the market. Most financial institutions also have payment estimators that allow you to estimate your monthly payments down to the penny.

Workflow solutions act in the same way, simplifying processes to make them more effective, efficient, and essentially, faster. The way an organization manages its information will be the difference between rising above and falling behind in an increasingly competitive market. Success hinges upon the organization’s commitment to optimizing, managing and improving workflows to drive increased growth and productivity.

But improving workflow is more than just about growth and productivity. It’s about making sure your organization is not tethered to outdated paper-based processes and workflows.

Consider the potential cost savings, allowing your business to reinvest in other core areas. Consider the environmental savings, decreasing your environmental footprint and wasted resources. Consider the improvements to security and compliance, protecting your business from costly data breaches or potential litigation.  

Today, I believe improving workflow is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, as mobile device usage in the office continues to explode. With 53 percent of information users utilizing their personal devices for work, paper-based processes will no longer suffice. Couple that with the fact that by 2015, 1 trillion pages will be digitized, and it’s easy to understand the urgency. More and more businesses are scanning paper documents to the cloud, and understanding the many benefits of improving your processes is critical.

Ready to start improving your workflow? Not so fast! Before implementing any changes, it is imperative to go through an assessment and analysis of your current processes. Seize the opportunity to maximize return-on-investment (ROI) by following these three steps to workflow discovery:

1.  Start with an assessment
The first – and often most important step – to truly improving workflows and fully recognizing the potential is finding a technology partner that can be more than just a partner, but also a trusted advisor. You want a partner to help you transform your business. You want a partner who is a workflow expert working with you throughout the entire process. You want a partner that understands your goals, your industry and the personality of your company. I meet with hundreds of customers around the world, and I can assure you, a good partner is invaluable.  

Start with an assessment of your current paper and document-intensive processes. Workflows involving paper are still extremely prevalent for many reasons, including costs, regulatory compliance, signature requirements and offline usage. However, just because a workflow requires paper doesn’t mean it cannot be digitized, automated and streamlined. As I like to say, it’s not just about the paper; it’s about the content and putting that information to work for you.

Take a look at the row of filing cabinets lining the back of your office. Those filing cabinets are not only taking up valuable square feet in the office, but they are also likely full of documents that you don’t reference often. In fact, studies show that more than 85 percent of what is filed is never looked at again. What’s more, some of your filed documents may be duplicated information that you have stored somewhere else.

Today’s multifunction printers (MFPs) are more powerful and capable than the printing devices you might have used in the past. Acting as on- and off- ramps to the cloud, they are much smarter, enabling that analog to digital transformation I mentioned earlier, while allowing your organization to capture, connect and communicate information through your devices. MFPs are redefining how workflow gets done. They act as a platform for growth by enabling workflow solutions that can make your organizational goals possible, such as improving compliance and security, while supporting mobility and cost cutting initiatives.  

The workflow assessment stage is your company’s opportunity to look for areas to streamline analog processes into digital processes, providing a 360-degree view of the status quo and uncovering potential areas for improvement. Then, it’s time to analyze and improve.  

2.  Analyze the Results
After a thorough assessment, dive into the results to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, opportunities to accelerate or eliminate processes, and areas for growth. Accomplished in concert with a technology partner that has the expertise and knowledge of best practices and industry benchmarks, the analysis stage is critical. It’s all about creating value for the customers. I cannot understate the importance of showcasing real life benefits in my customer engagements. Customers want to see how process improvements will lead to ¬¬¬cost reductions, improved business outcomes, and enhanced end-user customer satisfaction. Chances are, unless the value of a particular process is quantifiable, it is not worth executing.  

Let’s look at a real-world example. Loan processing can be cumbersome and time consuming. When dealing with a paper-based loan application, it is not uncommon for the process to take 30 days, requiring many steps and leaving numerous, unsecured copies of information. But you will find that if you digitize this unwieldy process, it becomes much simpler, taking just 14 days and eliminating the unnecessary extra steps and copies. Not only will the loan process be faster and less labor intensive, but it will be more secure. At the end of the day, the customer experience will be better, leading to an increase in revenue for your business.  

There’s no way to know what solutions are right for your business without taking the time to evaluate and analyze your current processes and your options for improvement. Every organization has key business objectives – whether that is to reduce costs, improve productivity, mitigate risks, conserve resources, increase customer satisfaction or manage capital assets – and your workflow solutions should map back to these strategic goals.

After the analysis, you will find that not all processes will need major improvements; however, this detailed analysis of the current state of affairs is the only way to recognize those big opportunities for growth through digitization.  Remember, it is not necessarily about the process, but the paper in the process that needs improvement.

3.  Driving Results
After you have assessed and analyzed the results, it is time for the real fun: the implementation and improvement stage. With a clear-cut understanding of your current processes, you are now free to start implementing new solutions that will help you increase the efficiency of your business, while meeting key business objectives that seemed unreachable before.

Let’s take a look at the financial services example from before. With workflow improvements, the loan process is now more secure and takes just 14 days and 3 steps to complete, as opposed to 30 days over many steps. I have seen similar results across different industry segments, including:

•    A decrease of 40 percent or more in invoice processing costs in the manufacturing sector
•    A 30 percent reduction in contract processing time for public sector organizations
•    Forty-two percent lower per-patient admissions costs in the healthcare sector
•    Insurance claims processing costs reduced by 45 percent for financial services organizations

Workflow solutions can have a substantial impact on an organization’s success. Now are you ready to get started? An easy way to begin is through a Managed Print Services contract. This will help you extend outside of just workflow solutions and business processes, offering you the tools to also transform your print environment. An MPS contract can help you address organizational pain points – such as security, mobility and productivity – through workflow improvements. But MPS goes a step further, handling device allocation, fleet management and infrastructure improvements that address and solve those same pain points.

Overall, MPS can help your organization kill two birds with one stone by not only handling workflows, but also eliminating the need to spend valuable IT staff time on managing your printer fleet. Not convinced yet? According to Gartner, organizations that actively manage their printer fleets can save up to 30 percent in print costs.

But don’t stop looking for ways to streamline your document processes after the first round of improvements. In most organizations, there are hundreds – sometimes thousands – of processes that are paper based. I guarantee, the ability to shave hours or days off of these processes and continue delivering strong return on investment will help you meet the needs of your organization.

Now what are you waiting for? Start your path to improvement today!

John Tomesco is the Vice President of Enterprise Business Development for the Managed Service business for HP.  He is an expert in business workflow improvements and has helped many of the world’s top enterprise customers utilize technology to formulate and execute strategic processes and policies to drive optimum business results. John has been with HP since 2006.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Workflow