Monday, April 20, 2009

Workflow, Efficiency and Content Management (ECM)

My cluttered desk challenges me. It holds information I need, but not always where I can find it. It delays decisions I should make, letting me push documents onto its far corners. My desk is my accomplice in inefficiency. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that anything that lands on my desk is guaranteed a slower passage to its destination.

Why is this so? I think its because I work in two very different, yet related environments. My desk resides in the physical world offering me a location to work and occasionally store items. However, most of what I do these days takes place in a virtual environment dominated by email, web collaboration and electronic documents.

This virtual environment has grown stronger over the years and today it is very difficult to ignore. It is constantly changing and demanding more of my attention. I enjoy this environment because it allows me to respond swiftly to requests and it rewards me with rapid feedback of its own. Best of all it can go places my “old” desk cannot.

Important documents, such as things that I need to sign still arrive on my “old” desk, but I tend to leave them until last. Worse, they sometimes get mixed up with all of that unimportant stuff, like physical mail, which I rarely open any longer. We’ve migrated expense submission and approvals online, so there are just a few business processes left to land on my desk that really matter to me.

This is my challenge. These last document centric processes need to migrate online so that I can become un-tethered once and for all from my “old” desk. I will become instantly more efficient, once I can review, edit and approve these final documents and files on my laptop or, what ever other web-enabled device I choose. (Yes, I reviewed ad copy on my iPhone just last Friday!)

The truth is, I’ve already become somewhat of a remote contributor, not visiting my desk for days at a time. Getting these last few processes online will make me a more honest telecommuter. I’ll be able to stop trying to hide from the folks who put forms and invoices in my “old” mailbox. I’ll stop pointing to piles of folders on my desk suggesting that their presence on it marked progress.

I’ll begin with one process at a time. I’ll develop simple routing and approval workflows for our marketing invoices for example. The first step will include scanning and classification, at least until our vendors adopt their own electronic bill presentment solutions. That should accelerate the review process and possibly even allow our AP team to consider early payment discounts.

A few more steps like that and I’ll be off of my “old” desk for good and ready to become a true digital nomad.

Now, I meant to keep this post simple and personal just to show how quickly basic ECM features can help me, and possibly you as well.

I also wanted to let you know that some of our own business process experts will be reviewing the subject of workflow in more detail during this week’s Virtual Coffee Break web seminar “Using workflow to accelerate business processes and save money.” It only lasts 30 minutes. So, it might be a good way to help you get started towards a cleaner desk too!

If you can’t make the live seminar, don’t worry. It will be recorded and available for you to view from a virtual desktop of your choice anytime afterwards. (You just won’t be able to get live answers to the questions you may have…) just visit after this Wednesday.

OK, time for me to finish cleaning off the rest of that desk. Jim

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