Workflow systems are essential for managing business processes in organizations of all sizes. They define a sequence of tasks required to complete work and can involve multiple people, applications, and information sources.
As companies aim to improve efficiency, customer experience, and decision-making, reimagining traditional workflow systems through new technologies is key. There are several innovative approaches that leverage automation, analytics, artificial intelligence, and more to transform workflows into strategic competitive advantages. Here’s how:
Automate Repetitive Tasks
Many workflow steps involve repetitive, rules-based tasks such as data entry, categorization of information, filling standard forms, or approval routing. These mundane chores can consume a large chunk of an employee’s time. Robotic process automation (RPA) is an emerging technology that mimics user actions through bots.
For instance, workflow management software bots can extract data from documents, scrape web pages, move files across systems, or interact with applications just as human users would. Implementing RPA shifts the burden of repetitive tasks from employees to bots, saving significant time and costs.
Bots can also handle exceptions that break rules-based workflows by deferring these to humans. For example, an insurance claims bot may process all standard claims end-to-end but transfer unique cases to agents for special handling. According to Deloitte, RPA can lower process costs by 25 to 50 percent. Along with time savings, it improves compliance, scalability, and resilience.
Apply Predictive Analytics
As workflow systems handle hundreds of cases over time, they generate valuable data trails. Collecting and analyzing this workflow data using techniques like machine learning can uncover inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Predictive analytics identifies signals and patterns leading to certain outcomes. Based on historical cases, algorithms can predict optimal pathways and flag outliers.
For instance, analyzing patient data may reveal that ordering an X-ray is highly probable to confirm a suspected diagnosis. Doctors can then be prompted to order the X-ray upfront rather than wait for later steps. By guiding users to appropriate actions, predictive analytics improves both the speed and accuracy of workflows. It also enables proactive changes rather than reactive firefighting.
Adapt With Dynamic Case Management
Traditional workflows have rigid sequences of tasks with limited ability to adapt to new information or changing circumstances. Dynamic case management overcomes this by taking an adaptive approach. After the initial steps, later activities are decided based on the specifics of the case. Expert systems use business rules and artificial intelligence to recommend the next best actions, but knowledge workers ultimately decide the process.
For example, an insurance claim could follow standard steps for notification, documentation, and investigation. Beyond that, actions like assessment, provider selection, and settlement depend on the nuances of that particular claim.
By blending structure with flexibility, dynamic case management produces better and faster results in uncertain environments. Workers also have greater autonomy to apply expertise.
Empower Customers Through Self-Service
Customers often have simple transactions or status requests that can be addressed without human intervention. Implementing self-service options like chatbots or web portals empowers customers to serve themselves.
Natural language processing allows chatbots to understand common questions and provide answers immediately. Customers can also be given access to portals where they can check order status, make payments, or update personal information independently.
Self-service channels improve customer satisfaction by offering quick resolution. They also reduce call volumes, allowing agents to focus on complex issues. Companies can leverage self-service to handle high-volume repetitive tasks and free up staff for value-added work.
Optimize Across Multiple Channels
Omnichannel support involves managing customer interactions across multiple channels such as phone, email, chat, self-service, and social media. A workflow system must unify these channels to deliver seamless experiences. Customers expect a unified context where agents already know their history and don’t have to repeat information.
Analytics helps understand channel preferences, service costs, and customer sentiment across channels. This data then drives appropriate staffing and resource allocation across channels.
For instance, chat may be preferred for quick questions, while phone is better for complex issues. Customers may start with self-service and then call an agent if needed. Omnichannel workflows improve both worker productivity and the customer experience. Agents have integrated desktops rather than switching between systems, while customers don’t have to bounce between channels.
Incentivize Behaviors Through Gamification
Gamification applies game concepts like points, levels, challenges, and leaderboards to business processes to motivate behaviors. Workflow systems can incorporate gamification elements to incentivize adherence to defined flows and processes. For instance, employees earn badges and points for following best practices that can be redeemed for rewards. Leaderboards display top performers.
Gamification taps into emotions like achievement, status, and competitiveness. Even intangible rewards like points and badges drive engagement. By encouraging desired behaviors, gamification leads to improved compliance and performance. It also promotes learning of workflows and best practices through repetition. Companies like Microsoft have successfully used gamification to train contact center agents.
Collaborate Across Workflows
Workflows often involve handoffs between multiple teams and departments. This can result in siloed systems. Collaborative tools can break down these barriers for better communication, transparency, and decision-making. Chat applications enable real-time coordination by allowing teams to chat, share files, and co-browse. Internal collaboration platforms also create knowledge hubs where workers can access shared documents and forums.
For instance, an employee working on a new customer proposal can check the internal forums or chat with colleagues to learn from previous similar cases. This prevents duplicate efforts and re-solving the same problems. Collaboration across workflows improves efficiency, consistency, and accuracy. It also mitigates risks of miscommunication or gaps between handoffs.
There are many innovative approaches to enhance workflows leveraging the latest technologies. As workflows become more adaptive, intelligent, and strategic, they evolve into a true competitive advantage. Organizations that reimagine workflows beyond the basic digitization of manual processes will gain significant productivity, agility, and cost benefits.
By taking an omnichannel, data-driven approach, workflows can power optimal decision-making and service delivery. The future of work relies on building strategic and intelligent workflows informed by automation, analytics, and AI.