In recent years, since the Japanese government has advocated work-style reform, many domestic companies have been working on improving the efficiencies of their operations. Moreover, due to COVID-19 more companies and organizations have been forced to introduce a flexible work style such as telecommuting as a countermeasure against new virus infections.

Under these circumstances, the term workflow is often used as it is the key to solving problems associated with a flexible work style. Also, by digitizing the workflow it will promote business improvement activities, such as making operations efficient and cost control, more smoothly.

In this article, we will explain the meaning of workflow and the benefits of digitizing it in an understandable way.

What is the workflow?

Workflow is a business term for the sequence of operations or a visual representation of it.

Now, a computer system for managing workflow is also sometimes referred to as a workflow. We’ll discuss this in the later section, but first, let’s first talk about the basics of a workflow.

For example, in an office, there are many processes such as “order → produce → delivery” or “apply → approve”. A workflow is a visual diagram and table of the sequence of tasks.

Benefits of defining a workflow

A workflow is defined by the team in charge of the task according to rules and customs.

This is the process of stylizing and standardizing a series of tasks and procedures into patterns and manuals. One of the great advantages of defining a workflow is that it will make it easier to notice problems, mistakes, and oversights by following a certain pattern of work. Defining a workflow will clarify the start and the goal of your work, helping reduce delays.

In addition, visualizing workflows in diagrams and tables can make it easier for a team to share how to proceed with a task and prevent work from being assigned to one person. If your team can visualize the sequence of operations and how to proceed with it, you can hand over tasks smoothly and there will be less reliance on a specific team member. That consequently will help new members proceed with the task more easily.

Differences between workflow systems and paper document processes

What is a workflow system?

Now, let’s take a look at the other meaning of workflow described in the previous section (“What is the workflow?”).

The computer system for managing workflow depicted above is actually called a workflow system. However, recently such computer systems and the software that builds the systems have often been referred to as a workflow. In other words, digitizing a workflow means the management of the sequence of tasks itself by a computer system via a workflow system.

For example, with the workflow system, it helps you create a visual diagram of the flow of work on a computer and create a mechanism to proceed along with the diagram easily.

Advantages and disadvantages of the paper process

On the other hand, it is true that many Japanese companies still adopt a paper process. This has something to do with the fact that the companies and organizations have regarded stamps and seals as an important part of contracts or other events.

For example, any business people can easily handle, create, manage, and search paper documents without expertise in IT. Moreover, paper documents are regarded as reliable materials because they have substance.

However, the paper process has a cost of managing and storing paper documents. This means that the more paper documents that are used in the process, the more storage space is needed. Therefore, it becomes harder to manage and retrieve past information. In addition to that, paper processes hinder the smooth operation of telework, as employees must go to the office to obtain the seal of approval from their supervisor.

What are the benefits of digitizing workflows?

Allows the operation to flow more smoothly

With the workflow system, tasks such as handover of work, application/approval, and “circulating” that used to be performed with paper documents or e-mail, can be performed automatically according to the system. By visualizing the processes you can see the person in charge of the current task at a glance, and you can handle operations more smoothly. Therefore, once the digitized workflow starts to operate properly, processes such as application and approval that used to require signatures and seals for paper documents will be accelerated.

Data can be stored in the system, reducing management and storage costs

One of the great advantages of a workflow system is that it can store various business cases as data.

For example, with paper documents, as the volume increases it becomes harder to find materials, and past cases are often left in cabinets. However, with the archived cases accumulated in the system as data, new members can easily access the data including business communication, know-how, etc. These workflow system’s functions will help you not only significantly reduce the amount of time spent searching for information but greatly contribute to your team’s knowledge management.

Incidentally, digitized workflows also reduce the cost of printing, storing, and managing paper documents, which will make your office more organized. In addition, by utilizing functions of the workflow system such as automatic aggregation and notification, it is possible to avoid calculation errors and input and reporting oversights.

Efficient telecommuting

Digitized workflows enable you to work in the same way as in your office wherever you are, as long as you can keep access to the systems of your business. This is an essential element for working at home, while using public transportation or in satellite offices.

Integration and optimization with other tools in an easy way

If you integrate the workflow system with an RPA tool you can proceed with business processes while adding automation points into the processes. One of the advantages of a workflow system is that it can expand the system and optimize processes while reducing waste to increase efficiency.

Strengthen internal control

Workflow systems are attracting attention in respect of enhancing internal controls as well. This is because they allow you to see the progress of the operation, the person in charge, and the current state of the operation at a glance. Moreover, the data is clearly stored and recorded. Enhancing internal controls can avoid problems such as improper accounting, fraudulently tampering with data, neglect of manuals, and can protect companies from scandals.

References

Questetra BPM Suite that includes a workflow system

Questetra BPM Suite , a cloud-based BPM tool, is software that includes a workflow system.

The difference between BPM tools (BPMS) and workflow systems is ambiguous in some respects, but BPMS is software that centers automatic integration and synchronization as well as a workflow system.

Many BPM tools require a lot of preparation before use, such as setting up the server, while Questetra BPM Suite is available as a cloud service so you can use it as soon as you sign up. This lowers the cost of installation, one of the challenges when digitizing workflow.

The cloud-based workflow system makes it easy to access and work on the same system as in your office wherever you are, as long as you can connect to the Internet. This will be a big advantage for companies to promote telecommuting.

Questetra BPM Suite where you can start for free, enables you to experience the benefits of digitizing workflows.
Please take this opportunity to try it.

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