Electronic document workflow (hereafter we call it Workflow) is currently the main stream of improvements in management. Companies are beginning to implement Workflow tools to support purchasing, administration and service processes. It quickly turns out that the same system can improve production, transport, sales, HR etc. Increasingly, Workflow enters ERP competences. We used to write about a reasonable division of tasks between ERP and Workflow. Further implementations convinced us that the number of processes pushed from ERP to Workflow grows rapidly. In our opinion, the main reasons for this trend are:
- The growing dynamics of changes in companies (processes change more often)
- Increasing awareness of the benefits of technology (we know how much we can benefit using IT tools in general, hence we want to automate more and more processes)
- The increasing popularity of Workflow systems (the effect of conferences, workshops, trainings)
- Definitely lower costs and shorter time to implement custom process support in Workflow than in ERP
- Possibility of manual modification of the workflow process by the employees of the company (without programming)
Often at presentations for customers, when we show how the system is adjusted to specific areas in the company (eg training management, tender service, transport service, etc.), people ask: “Is what you are showing still workflow?” Sometimes when we see how they like it, we would like to say “no.. it is another module..” and present a separate item for the license in the offer. But the truth is that it is all the time the same tool, the same components (editor of forms, processes, lists), which allow you to build your own solutions.
The next area in which Workflow systems enter is management analytics. Workflow systems can show the user advanced cost reports (also in the form of a pivot table or dashboard), or warn against exceeding the budget. Moreover, unlike separate BI tools that do not have the ability to intervene in the process by themselves, Workflow systems can work. If something is wrong with the document (for example, the amount is too high or causes the budget to be exceeded), they may reject the document or initiate additional tasks (eg additional verification).
Are there any limits to the use of the Workflow system? It seems that, functionally, the best platforms are so powerful that there are no tasks that can not be done for them. However, today we are sure that there are no best systems for everything. In our opinion, the limit is determined by the following control questions:
- Is there a system dedicated to the process that we want to handle?
- Does this system meet our expectations?
- Can you configure it yourself in case the process changes?
- Is it possible to integrate it with other systems in the company? (sooner or later there will be a need)
- Can you afford it?
If all answers are positive, then a dedicated tool should be used. If any of the answers is negative, it is worth considering handling this process using the Workflow platform.