Workflow for Outsourcing

Outsourcing Sign

There’s no question nowadays that the majority of work is being off-shored overseas, with the largest areas being customer service, bookkeeping and computer support.

Outsourcing is a strategic move that has become more common and favourable for many organisations, in order to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage. It provides the opportunity for organisations to utilise skills and expertise that were not available internally, without having to invest high amounts of money in recruitment or local expertise.

It provides important benefits of being able to outsource back end tasks such as data entry to overseas service providers to save money and resources, and then concentrate on core business activities.

Most organisations deal with a large volume of paperwork every day. With the increasing amount it can become difficult to manage, which often leads to errors and loss of information causing inconvenient delays and re-work. Especially in a large scale organisation this is an inefficient use of time, equipment and staff resources which can result in significant financial loss.

Workflow automation software can assist with this. It provides a structured, centralised system with data storage in the cloud, allowing you to effectively track business processes as they are completed and sent internally and to outsourced vendors.

Workflow software is ideal to assist with outsourcing work such as form processing. An example is a large scale insurance organisation that had implemented workflow software to replace their previous system.

Their previous arrangement involved handling insurance policies which were sent to various staff, brokers and other organisations through email and phone. The tasks involved staff making decisions, transferring documentation, communication and follow ups, all done through multiple communication channels making it difficult to monitor.

After implementing the workflow system, it allowed them to efficiently outsource back end tasks to service providers in Mumbai. The dozens of staff involved in processing the policies could then concentrate on other important issues, and the work was carried out by brokers in India to complete.

Main benefits of workflow for outsourcing:

  • Lower costs – compared to Australia, labour costs are typically less in countries such as Asia and India.
  • Better quality – access to the world’s skilled expertise at a lower cost. You don’t have to invest in finding, training and managing employees.
  • Free up resources – allows you to free up internal resources for core activities, to grow the business instead of wasting energy on back end operations.
  • Time difference – the difference in time means that work can be completed while your business is closed, keeping the productivity continuously flowing.
  • Risk reduction – having an offshore partner means in the event of disaster, recovering their backups means you haven’t lost everything, which will assist getting your business back on track.
  • On demand – temporary booms, seasonal or simply ad-hoc work, you can choose to employ more or less staff depending on your businesses situation.

10 Benefits of Workflow

Toy car

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organisation, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  The most notable example of workflow being the assembly line (as previously presented), helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

The Toyota car company adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

So here are 10 good reasons for how workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing the unnecessary steps/processes.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with appropriate skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do. This is a compromise in quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organisation can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    It answers question like: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces wastage and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end to end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organisation. The ten identified are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organisation become more efficient by helping to save time, remove wastage, cut out unnessecary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organisation to grow and improve.

Workflow for SMEs

In Australia in June 2011, there were 230,638 business with between 5 and 19 employees; and a further 81,006 employers with 20-199 employees; according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Businesses of this size struggle with process – they are large enough to deal with increasing specialisation of work; but the costs of specialised solutions (HRIS systems; Case Managment Solutions; Sales systems) can be prohibitive.  Often, this results in continuing with paper or spreadsheet-based systems well beyond the point at which they are efficient for those businesses.

The economies of scale to build and deploy workflows for an organisation means that it is typically large organisations who have the process knowledge, skills, and time available to undertake a process mapping and development process and to get the full benefit of a workflow automation process.  On the other hand, all organisations use workflow – the nature of work is that any process involving multipe steps or people can benefit from going through review and automation.  In many cases, this means that Small and Medium enterprises don’t get the benefits of workflow… despite being the largest category of employer.

Web and Flo, having worked with large and multinational organisations for over a decade, and an SME ourselves; have decided that enough is enough – and have started developing a library of best practice workflows that we will make available to SMEs for free, or on a subscription-model.  The idea is to consolodate the process information we’ve gathered over many years, and make the available to organisations that until now haven’t been able to benefit from BPM and Workflow Automation.  We’d welcome any input into what processes are the most painful for business as the outgrow their paper and spreadsheet-based systems.  Please feel free to comment in the blog or reach us at the Web and Flo website if you’re interested in learning more, or in registering as a Beta client.

Nice to meet you…

Hi,

It’s been a while between posts here at workflow.wordpress.com, and Craig, who started this blog, has invited some people from Web and Flo to post here.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing some new posts to bring you up-to-date news about the kind of things we’re working on and researching here at Web and Flo.

Feel free to let us know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like to discuss with us!

Say it aint Silo

Much of what we do in the BPM/Workflow space has to due with bridging the gap between business silos within organizations. All businesses of a certain size have them, and in the majority of cases they contribute to inefficiency. However since all businesses have them, are business silos not always a bad thing. Therefore what should you look for to determine when bridging a silo is just, a bridge to far.

Silos come into being for a number of reasons like: companies or generally hierarchical in nature, they may have had mergers and acquisitions, poor planning or just different requirements. Sometimes silos are formed instantly but generally they form over a period of time.

So when is a silo a good thing or at least not all bad?

Well in some cases similar IT systems may be replicated in various degrees within an organization but due to different requirements these may be a requirement. This could be related to the general cultural or geographic requirements of a silo.

Silos provide a level of security. They intrinsically act like firewalls.

Finally there is the possibility of information overload. Putting all the information in one place when the majority of information and features might be visible but inapplicable across the business silos is unwise.

It is important to consider when developing BPM applications what the negative effects will be for technology with respect to silo bridging. It is also important to consider the political effects as well but that is a blog for a different day.