Digital Workflow

What is a Digital Workflow?

Digital workflows are a series of steps that are completed electronically to automate tasks and processes within an organization.

Digital workflows are used in a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and customer service.

Digital workflows appear in companies in a variety of places. They can be used to automate tasks and processes in any department or function, from sales and marketing to human resources and IT. Here are some examples of where digital workflows are used in companies:

  • Sales and marketing: Digital workflows can be used to automate tasks such as lead generation, lead nurturing, and customer support.
  • Human resources: Digital workflows can be used to automate tasks such as onboarding, employee training, and performance reviews.
  • IT: Digital workflows can be used to automate tasks such as asset management, software deployment, and help desk support.

Digital workflows can range in complexity from simple to complex.

Here are some factors that can affect the complexity of a digital workflow:

  • The number of steps involved in the process
  • The number of people or departments involved in the process
  • The level of automation required
  • The complexity of the data that is being processed

The complexity of a digital workflow can also affect the cost of implementation and maintenance.

If you are considering implementing a digital workflow, it is important to carefully consider the complexity of the process that you want to automate.

What is a Digital Workflow Process?

Digital workflow processes refer to the specific steps required to complete an action through the use of software.

It involves guidelines, tasks, data, and technologies that enable information and documents to be routed and delivered to the correct department or person while being traced throughout each stage.

What Are the Benefits of a Digital Workflow?

If done correctly, digital workflow implementation can provide companies with benefits for both their employees and customers, including: 

  • Elimination of manual processes
  • Reduction in paper transactions
  • Reduction in human errors
  • Fewer duplications
  • Simplification of business processes
  • Creation of process efficiencies
  • Saved time and costs
  • Automation of approval processes
  • Auditing of processes
  • Process standardization
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased insight into end-to-end processes 
  • Increased accountability

What Are the Obstacles of Digital Workflows?

Enacting digital workflows can be difficult at times, especially with complex processes. It can be challenging to achieve these goals:

  • Accurately auditing and defining a process
  • Identifying the root causes of issues
  • Gaining leadership buy-in for the implementation
  • Convincing teams that implementing digital workflows is beneficial 
  • Gaining full cooperation from process owners
  • Regulatory or legal hurdles 
  • Finding the right technology for your organization

What is Digital Workflow Transformation?

Digital workflow transformation involves using technologies to automate and connect manual processes or workflows to improve business performance.

Some commonly used technologies used for workflow orchestration include artificial intelligence (AI) such as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP).

Successful digital workflow transformation requires input; the steps must be broken down into tasks, parameters, and a desired output or result. 

6 Functions Digital Workflows Can Perform

Digital workflows can be applied to virtually any repetitive task, series of tasks, or processes such as these:

  1. Accounting and finance payment processing
  2. Employee onboarding
  3. Customer service claims processing
  4. Supply chain management
  5. IT support tickets
  6. Marketing campaign management

What is the First Step of Building a Digital Workflow?

The first step of digital workflows is to break down a process or audit the current process to identify manual tasks, bottlenecks, or areas for improvement.

This requires accurately identifying inefficiencies in workflows and where there is room for optimization. 

Tasks could be duplicated, unnecessary, or outdated. There may also be areas susceptible to human error.

The audit of a process provides a map of the end-to-end workflow as a baseline to start. 

How to Design and Implement a Digital Workflow

After auditing the existing workflow, creating a digital workflow involves looking for gaps or issues in the current manual workflow and developing an action plan for implementing and migrating digital solutions. 

The Implementation

  1. Map and analyze the existing workflow
  2. Identify gaps or issues
  3. Document gaps and requirements for the new workflow
  4. Design the desired workflow diagram
  5. Identify the technologies needed to automate the workflow
  6. Determine the success criteria and timeline 
  7. Develop a workflow automation plan and gain approval
  8. Initiate the workflow plan
  9. Execute and monitor the workflow changes
  10. Test the new workflow 
  11. Deploy the new workflow
  12. Train teams on new workflow

What is Workflow Migration?

Once a new workflow has been fully tested and is ready to use, it is migrated. Workflow migration refers to moving data or information from a test environment or old system to a new platform or environment. 

6 Steps to Migrate Workflows to Digital Systems

  1. Develop a baseline by auditing data in an existing environment
  2. Create a copy of the data to be moved to the new environment
  3. Move the data
  4. Analyze and compare the data in both environments to confirm they are the same
  5. Test the new environment to ensure it works as intended
  6. Retire the old environment once everything is working as intended

During workflow migration, companies run both environments simultaneously to ensure the processes and data are correct.

An Example of How Digital Workflows Are Helping Businesses

From an interview with Tobias Washington – Director, Learning Experience, Design and Technology, Christus Health:

“Process completion in healthcare is life or death,” he says. “If our people don’t know how to use the applications properly, that could mean a negative outcome for our patients.”

Process completion is also crucial to the billing team. Washington says too many errors were being made on invoices, or by entering incorrect codes into the billing system.

“The more inefficient we are in getting those bills out of our systems to our payers, the less money we get reimbursed as an organization,” he says. “We are a company about helping our patients, but we also need to have the financial means to be able to do that.”

Then came the decision to deploy a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Infor ERP would replace 40+ disparate applications for HR, supply chain, performance, financial management, and more.

Washington knew it was time for a new digital adoption solution.

“We couldn’t keep doing communication and training the way we always have,” he says. “For the past 13 years, we’ve been just trying to create better job aids and we’ve been trying to create better manuals and better classroom experiences. But they just weren’t having the impact we need.”

The Christus Health team implemented digital workflows and used a digital adoption platform to ensure proper implementation of their newly digital processes.

They ended up saving $1 million per month in improved payment outcomes!

Migrating Workflows From Paper to Digital

Migrating paper-based workflow data to digital workflows requires planning. It means carefully documenting the current workflow and mapping processing to reduce duplication, errors, and unnecessary steps. 

New workflows then need to be designed, and technology like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can migrate paper documents and forms into a digital format.

Once migrated to a digital format, it is essential to confirm that everything has come through accurately. Following this, AI can be used to automate workflows further. 

The Future Of Digital Workflows

Going forward, companies are likely to hire more remote workers and look for ways to increase productivity yet reduce costs.

Leveraging digital workflows will become not only one of the most practical means to achieve these wins while remaining competitive—it will become the new normal. 

Frequently asked questions

  • What is a digital workflow sequence?
    Digital Workflow sequences are composed of functions that process data through a set path from start to finish. Staff can utilize these sequences to create the structure of any business task in any industry.
  • What are the four steps in the digital workflow?
    To perform the four digital workflow steps, perform a workflow audit of existing structures. Second, select one digital workflow. Third, integrate the relevant communication tools. Finally, regularly optimize, automate, and expand your digital workflows to ensure maximum ROI.

Updated: April 30, 2023

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