by Robert Palmer
Over the past couple months I have been discussing the significant opportunity available to service providers by expanding your practice deeper into managed content services. My point is that there are many commonalities between MPS and MCS, and many of those areas have been exposed in this multi-part series. With this installment, I will look closer at issues those issues important to delivering a comprehensive workflow assessment.
When it comes to process optimization, streamlining paper-based workflow is the most natural place for most organizations to begin. This could involve many different aspects, from digitizing content to automating existing paper-based processes. Most businesses are already involved in paperless strategies and converting from paper to digital, but the transition is not always easy.
Moving from paper to digital likely means implementing a new document management or enterprise content management (ECM) system, which can be troubling for some companies due to the costs and time involved with such a process. Business managers and CEOs are naturally wary of programs that might disrupt the existing work environment or require significant changes to the IT infrastructure.
A comprehensive workflow assessment can help organizations create an implementation plan for process optimization and help ease the transition. The plan should not only identify problem areas in the existing environment, but also set parameters for measuring the effectiveness of new procedures, including those that involve workflow automation. During the initial stages of the workflow assessment, it is critical to secure participation from both management and employees—particularly those who have direct interaction with corporate documents and information.
As is the case with a typical MPS assessment, the workflow assessment can only be successful when there is buy-in from management and staff. Individual employees are likely the most knowledgeable when it comes to defining existing work processes and identifying specific trouble spots. At the same time, gaining employee trust during the earlier stages will help to ease the transition to a new or replacement process.
A comprehensive workflow analysis should look closely at a variety of areas related to document infrastructure and information management, including existing document management systems, content management systems, security requirements, document workflow, review and approval processes, mobile integration, and the need to integrate with legacy business systems.
It is also important to develop a detailed understanding of how information moves throughout the organization. The workflow assessment should help to identify the mix of electronic and paper-based processes; locate disparate document silos and digital repositories; identify problems associated with document storage, retrieval, and distribution; quantify and qualify existing physical constraints; and, identify existing measures surrounding information security and regulatory compliance.
With a detailed understanding of the existing document infrastructure, it is possible to begin mapping out current paper-based processes. Business process mapping is a crucial step in the initial stages of workflow assessment and analysis. By creating a schematic representation of the sequence of events that occur during any given process or task, it is easier to identify workflow bottlenecks and potential areas for optimization.
Process mapping can be done manually, but there are a wide variety of software applications available for process modeling and many are offered as SaaS-based solutions for service providers. As part of the workflow assessment, process mapping serves as a foundational tool for creating a baseline of comparison between prior conditions and the desired result or business outcome. It also serves as a tool to facilitate communication with all those involved in the specific process.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at email@example.com.