Business Process Optimization 101

Among Gartner’s top CIO priorities for 2016, Digitization has stood out as a buzz word in the business and IT community. According to a 2016 CIO agenda survey, “CIOs expect digital revenues to grow from 16% to 37%. Similarly, public-sector CIOs predict a rise from 42% to 77% in digital processes.”

Digital technology is disrupting the business world on a fast-moving train that has no intention of slowing down. Traditional business operations are being replaced with digital platforms that can operate more efficiently: less cost, less resources, and faster output. An increase of 35% in digital processes clearly indicates one thing: print is dying. The facts speak for themselves.

In a city like London, Ontario, change is often slow and difficult to embrace. But this does not mean we should avoid embracing digital platforms as a more efficient, more secure and more cost-effective means of completing tasks. Just last week, I spoke with a successful company in town that still maintains all of their records in bankers boxes. They have no scanned versions of their files and no backup systems in place. At the end of each year, their transactions are stuffed into a cardboard box and placed in the middle of the office.

Several months before that, I spoke with a very renown organization that lost hundreds of documents in a flood — twice! Even after the second disaster, they still have not invested into a safer way to archive their information.

The time for consulting is no longer applicable. I am on a mission in the name of digitization. This is where Business Process Optimization comes into effect.

Business Process Optimization is the process of identifying, re-thinking and automating your document and information workflows. This includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchase orders, information retrieval, fax distribution, etc. Any task involving a transference of documents can be optimized to speed up completion, reduce costs, improve security, and many more benefits. This is primarily achieved via digitization. It’s important to note that Business Process Optimization is not about digitizing your workflows for the sake of digitization. If digitizing a workflow results in the same required time and labour resources, optimization has not been achieved.

Let’s take you through the three phases of Business Process Optimization.

Step One: Identify

Every business process follows a path from start to completion. Mapping out these steps will give you valuable insights into inefficient steps or where resources are being misused. For example, an invoicing process might look like the following workflow:

Invoice is generated in accounting software –> Invoice is printed –> Pre-printed packing slip form is filled out by hand –> Invoice and packing slip are scanned together as a PDF –> Scanned PDF is emailed to the customer –> Scanned PDF is re-named –> Scanned PDF is deposited onto a folder in the shared drive –> Printed invoice and packing slip are stapled together and filed away in a filing cabinet

Mapping out this invoicing processes gives us a very good visual representation of what is being performed in each step. In the identification stage, Laserfiche offers several questions you should ask yourself when identifying your business processes.

  • What is the goal or desired outcome of this process?
  • When does the process begin and end?
  • What activities move the process forward?
  • What departments and/or employees are involved?
  • What information is being transferred between steps?

Source: Business Process Optimization in 3 Steps,

Step Two: Analyze

In the second stage, we want to look more closely at our mapped workflows to find out how much resources are being used. Ask yourselves these questions:

  • How much paper is used in this process?
  • How many copies of the same document are made?
  • What is the labour cost required to complete the process?
  • How many man hours are required?
  • Of these man hours, how much time is spent on repetitive tasks?
  • Where can potential pitfalls occur, such as stalling, errors or halts in production?

In the invoicing process above, we know that paper is unnecessarily used in two spots. Firstly, the invoice is unnecessarily printed as it is later emailed to the customer. Secondly, the packing slip form is pre-printed and manually filled out, which costs money and takes unnecessary additional time to hand write. We can also see that the invoice and packing slip are filed away twice in two different formats, which is repetitive and requires an additional step to complete the process.

Step Three: Optimize and Automate

The final stage is about optimizing your business processes in order to:

  1. Reduce the amount of steps required to complete a process (reduces labour costs)
  2. Reduce the amount of paper required to complete a process (reduces supply costs)
  3. Automate or eliminate repetitive steps (reduces labour costs and supply costs)

Digitizing your business processes is the most common way to speed up completion time and simultaneously reduce the amount of resources it requires. Let’s review our invoicing process one last time to see where digitization can be implemented.

  • Invoice can be saved as a PDF to eliminate paper consumption
  • Pre-printed packing slip can be digitized into a fillable PDF and appended to the Invoice PDF
  • Invoice & Packing Slip PDF can be uploaded to a digital document management system to save time and resources depositing it into a shared folder and a cabinet

Here is what our re-envisioned invoicing process looks like:

Invoice is generated in accounting software –> Invoice is saved as a PDF –> Packing Slip form is filled out digitally –> Packing slip is appended to Invoice PDF –> Combined PDF is emailed to the customer –> PDF is uploaded into the document management system

Here are the benefits of this optimized business process.

  • Eliminated two steps
  • Zero paper consumption
  • Document Management System reduces time to upload, search for and retrieve documents

When tens of thousands of invoices are created each year, this adds up to a significant reduction of time and money, helping to increase overall profits and improve company productivity.

Ready for the next step?

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