Most companies have a system that tracks help desk or maintenance tickets, and processes for workflows, such as processing purchase orders or tracking facilities requests. All of these systems are typically not integrated; they are piecemeal and often outdated. Inefficient workflows cost organizations time and resources and can alienate employees who are forced to struggle through cumbersome processes that may not even adhere to corporate auditing requirements. Having a clear workflow design in place helps organizations maximize the benefit of IT service management (ITSM) tools.
The key to successfully streamlining, and even automating, business processes is how well the underlying workflows are designed. Taking a fresh look at your workflow architecture can improve enterprise productivity and reduce costs across the board. A data-driven approach helps to identify and quantify pain points and provides a platform on which to automate onerous tasks. Utilizing anecdotal data from current procedures and hard data from current systems, like an organization’s ITSM tool, helps identify the areas that need the most improvement. Learning from the current state helps eliminate errors and redundancies and ensures the use of best practices.
Here are some areas where a review of your workflow design can have a significant impact.
Help Desk Services
The help desk is often the first place where workflow design is implemented. It’s usually a necessity to track requests for computer support or maintenance issues. But with a clearly designed workflow, reports can be generated that help management evaluate if they are staffed correctly. Accurate reporting can make it easy to identify the most productive technicians and the workgroups that demand the most help. Reporting also feeds root cause analysis on recurring issues. For example, reports can be customized to quantify related problems, which may point to failing software or failing equipment that might not otherwise be identified.
Human Resources Onboarding/Offboarding
Recently, a healthcare services company was assisted with a close examination of its workflow for onboarding and terminating employees. Analysis of available data revealed that new hires sometimes waited hours or even days to have their computer set up or a mobile phone issued. Similarly, terminated employees sometimes had ongoing access to proprietary data because the correct team was not informed to disable access. In some cases, the company was continuing to pay for software licenses that were no longer in use.
Additionally, on-site site discovery sessions and end-user interviews uncovered all the actions required for onboarding and offboarding and the bottlenecks and pain points that management was unaware of. Investigations revealed that multiple teams needed to be alerted for each new hire or termination event in a complex workflow that included human resources, the direct manager, facilities, security, IT, software and networking, payroll, and benefits. Now, HR New Hire Requests and HR Termination Requests automatically spawn multiple sub-tasks that follow approved, auditable procedures. The company reported that today, resources are always in place to help new hires become productive on day one.
Whether it is upgrading a server or introducing a new tool or application, ITIL practices are essential to documenting the process and making sure the right approvals and testing are in place. In a software development environment, the process would involve a change request, approvals to make the change, documentation of the development work, levels of testing, quality assurance review, and final sign off. Businesses have internal rules, but they are not always digitized in a way that systematically tracks and documents the processes online, with all approvals captured, and change outcomes confirmed. Organizing the proper workflow can be essential to the success of upgrades and new implementations. It can eliminate disastrous outages and unauthorized changes that disrupt the flow of business.
Tracking Purchase Orders
IT is not the only place where workflow design impacts processes. When clear workflows are developed for purchasing, order processing can be streamlined, and tracking can be automated. A well-designed system notifies users, tracks costs and assets, and provides easy access to status reports. Every request for a purchase order can trigger the correct chain of events to ensure all required approvals are in place, orders are received, and payments are processed on schedule. Basically, any business process can be digitized in order to be tracked, automated, and audited. A well-designed workflow provides the underpinning for customizable reports that answer important questions such as: which groups are placing the most orders, where might we consolidate orders for better pricing, and what will our payables be next month?
Ultimately, organizations that have refined their workflow designs, and implemented ITIL compliant processes, report increased productivity, reduced downtime, and improved customer satisfaction. Employee morale and retention are bonus benefits from efficient systems that make human error difficult and automatically enforce internal controls. Data-driven services derived from a strong workflow design drive informed, confident business decisions, and more successful companies.