What is Document Workflow: The Ultimate Guide

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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Before we get into our topic of document workflow, we would like you to take a moment to consider all of the document-centric workflows that you deal within your organization daily operations. Invoices, leave requests, purchase orders, claims, payroll, proposals, and other document-heavy procedures can all generate a succession of delays in business operations if left inefficient.

Document workflow is the process of completely regulating the circulation of documents within an organization for a certain business process. It addresses the generation, tracking, editing, storage, and management of documents relevant to a business process.

Digital document workflow can assist in increasing productivity and transitioning to leaner, less paper-intensive work procedures. The majority of organizations rely heavily on papers, and how they handle those documents has an impact on productivity, profitability, and operational expenses.

Managing the electronic flow of documents across departments or geographical regions for approvals, signatures, and changes will have a significant influence on your company’s success.

In this post, we will define document workflow, explain why it is important, and provide top recommendations for streamlining your company operations.

What is Document Workflow?

Document workflow is the process of creating, tracking, editing, storing, and managing documents related to a business process. It refers to the digitization of processes within a business using technology and automation to increase the efficiency of corporate operations.

Document workflow management systems have been created to handle electronic documents at every stage of their lifespan, from generation to disposal.

Document management and digitization are two of the most important components or prerequisites for a successful digital document workflow adoption and to become a paperless office.

The majority of businesses rely on hundreds, if not thousands, of documents to complete their business activities. These documents are typically sent across departments, workers, patients, and suppliers for approvals, signatures, and modifications.

The conversion of manual paper processes to digital workflows is a huge trend currently, especially following the COVID19 pandemic, because it helps enterprises to execute business activities quicker and more correctly even in the face of disruptive occurrences.

Why Document Workflow Is Important?

Paper documents and manual processing can lead to human errors, delays, decreased productivity, and increased cost.

Organizations may reap significant financial and operational benefits by modernizing document-centric processes and document approval flow.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of document workflow management.

1- Lower Costs

Manual document processes are too expensive to operate and maintain. They necessitate a greater number of personnel, resulting in increased labor expenses, higher mistake rates, costs of printing and distributing documents, and so on.

Automating this process with digitized documents would undoubtedly save your operating costs, storage costs, printing and filing costs, and make it easier to follow the procedure’s status.

You can rely on e-signings to complete the entire cycle online for document approval workflow and signatures. I published an article about wet signatures and why we should all switch to digital signatures to keep up with our ever-expanding digital world.

Why I Hate Wet Signature? – The Number One IM Blog (theecmconsultant.com)

2- Increase Productivity By Accelerating Processes

Removing repetitive document-centric chores, administration, physical storage, and manual distribution of paper documents in favor of digital document workflow would save employees time, remove bureaucracy, and allow them to complete their job on time.

Employees may use the time saved by reducing tedious duties to acquire new skills, innovate, and grow both personally and professionally.

3- Improves Collaboration

Organizations that relied on manual document procedures were unable to function during the COVID19 epidemic. Organizations that were already on their digital transformation path were able to do business while working from home.

Digital document workflow enhances collaboration between employees inside the same firm or from outside sources by allowing real-time collaboration on documents such as updates, approvals, rejections, and so on.

4- Increase Transparency and Compliance

For all document processes, organizations may monitor and track each phase or stage of the process.

This promotes transparency among employees and management, helps to detect bottlenecks, and may aid in the improvement or optimization of the process.

Furthermore, automating the whole lifecycle of documents, digital documents and automated procedures may keep your firm compliant with various standards and regulations.

What Are The Steps To Document Workflow?

To manage document workflow within organizations, there are 8 key steps to take: re-examine currently available processes, set goals and KPIs, ensure stakeholder buy-in, plan for delays and bottlenecks, model the new process, document each step of the workflow, use modern practices, and track performance.

There are 8 steps to document workflow:

1- Re-examine Processes

It is not enough to transform the process as is from manual to automated. By critically examining existing workflows, you may uncover methods to improve their effectiveness and efficiency while minimizing the amount of effort required.

A lot of the time, “simply asking why do we need this step” leads to the discovery of solutions to eliminate processes, reducing the time it takes to complete the process.

2- Set Goals and Develop Key Metrics

It is critical to define the purpose of each digital document workflow and to create metrics and key performance indicators that will be used to determine if the planned process has accomplished what it is supposed to do.

Workflow in a document management setting refers to the movement of documents between individuals or groups of individuals. Typically, business procedures entail such delegation, with multiple people in charge of drafting, updating, evaluating, and approving papers.

3- Ensure Stakeholders Buy-In

In any automation project, whether document-centric or another complicated workflow, you need to ensure that all participants of the process understand the additional benefit of document workflow automation.

This is a critical stage in reducing the risk of unsuccessful digital transformation in your firm.

Examine how they interact with the systems. Collect their suggestions for possible enhancements. Create a flowchart that they can all agree on, and then test the new design.

4- Plan for Failures, Delays, and Bottlenecks

 Any process, whether manual or automated, is slowed by bottlenecks. It is vital to detect bottlenecks if they exist, such as an overburdened employee or a service that takes a long time, and to try to circumvent them.

The efficiency of your internal procedures is what keeps your operations running smoothly. It is vital to identify process failures and what is generating delays in order to enhance and aid to speed up operations.

5- Model The New Process

When you identified the steps of a document workflow, it is time now to model the process visually and carefully revise it among different participants in order to ensure that the output of this process is accepted by all members.

This should outline what will occur at each stage of the workflow, including where documents will be routed, what documentation must be completed, and who must approve or sign.

Typically, business procedures entail such delegation, with multiple people in charge of drafting, updating, evaluating, and approving papers.

6- Document The Document Workflow

After modeling the process, it is also important to generate documentation detailing each step of the process and the output of each step.

Also, it is of best practice to detail the below

  • Who are the participants
  • Who should the document(s) be distributed to
  • What should be done in the event of a delay? Notifications, escalation, and so forth.
  • What are the approvals, and how many approval cycles are needed?
  • Where to keep the documents
  • Who has access to the records once they have been preserved
  • With which systems should this workflow be integrated?
  • etc.

7- Utilize Modern Practices

Various techniques, such as business process re-engineering, lean practices, and Six Sigma, have been shown to create significant improvements in workflows.

Make use of these approaches to improve your talents.

Document workflow performance

8- Track Performance

In order to evolve, the process must be analyzed and scrutinized in order to obtain the ideal condition.

Tracking the entire process’s performance, such as how long it took to finish vs how long it used to take in manual mode, the time it took for each step to be finalized, and so on, might yield substantial benefits.

Document Workflow Example

There are a lot of workflows that include documents to be passed to different parties for approvals, review, or analysis.

Manual documentation methods hinder your team’s productivity. Instead of focusing on their primary responsibilities, your employees must do administrative activities.

Let’s examine examples where you can automate document workflows within your workspace.

1- Salary or Employment Certificates

The majority of your workers will ask for salary or employment certificates to be utilized at banks, embassies, rentals, school or university admissions, and so on.

Manually processing these certifications requires a significant amount of time and effort. The process might be as follows:

1- The employee will complete a form seeking a salary certificate, indicating the reason for the request.

2- The form is given to the human resources administrator.

3- To proceed, the HR administrator must have the HR manager’s consent.

4- Once accepted, the HR administrator must access a system to obtain all employee information such as full name, passport number, nationality, salary information, and marital status, among other things, and fill out the established template in order to produce the request.

5- Once the certificate has been created, it must be manually set to the HR director for wet signing.

6- The director will sign it and return it to the HR administrator to be handed over to the employee.

A document workflow of this type may be readily automated by allowing the employee to enter a portal and submit the request using an electronic form. The HR administrator will receive the request and determine if it should be handled; if so, it will be sent to the manager for a digital signature before being emailed to the employee.

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