Of all the goals and objectives you may have within your business – from increased market share to expansion of production – efficiency is always the key to success. Efficiency is the foundation of all progress made toward achieving your commercial vision. It is not something that is simply created through demands to work harder, though, nor is it achieved through making budget or staffing cuts in an attempt to generate leanness of operation. On the contrary, to be successful, efficiency must be a fundamental element of company culture, and should be evident in every action, process and procedure.
If efficiency needs to be a part of every aspect of your business, then it stands to reason that the way to achieve that is through another process that occurs throughout your organisation, which is why efficiency within workflow is the situation toward which you should be striving. When you have efficiency within workflow – when you are managing workflow efficiently – you are ensuring that efficiency is disseminated throughout your enterprise.
What is workflow?
Workflow is the process, or sequence of tasks, through which data or work passes. A manufacturing production line, for example, is a workflow. A design passes along a chain of manufacturing stations, each of which add something to the build until the product is completed. By that same token, contract management is a workflow. A legal agreement passes through a sequence of negotiation and administrative stages until the agreement is terminated by one or all parties.
Every part of your business functions through workflow – from human resources to accounting; from legal to IT support – each part of each department serves to move data or work through a workflow that is specific to their area of the company. This means that any procedural improvement or policy enhancement that relates to workflow in general will benefit the entire organisation by implementing increased efficiency throughout the enterprise.
Increasing efficiency throughout the enterprise is vital to current and future commercial performance because greater efficiency leads to increased productivity. This is due to the fact that increases in efficiency free up the time of personnel to undertake tasks that are more impactful than basic administrative work. When productivity is increased, profitability also improves. As a consequence, shareholders and investors are encouraged, helping to enhance the future prospects of the company. This is how efficiently managed workflows can help to future-proof your organisation.
Managing workflow efficiently
Regardless of which business area you examine, the workflow consists of the same three basic components:
- Input – This relates to the work going into the process, which might be data, a document, or parts of a product.
- Transformation – This relates to the way in which the input is changed. For example, a request from a client may become a negotiation which becomes an agreement, or a car specification may become orders for car parts which are then assembled in a production line.
- Output – This is the finished product, which could be the car ready for sale, or the contract having run its course and been terminated.
When we look at workflow in this way, we can begin to see where efficiency can be introduced and increased.
- Efficiency of input
This comes from specificity. For example, if a client request is received and it lacks specificity, then the workflow input is inefficient. Before the workflow has even begun its business of transformation, it is disorganised, ambiguous, and unlikely to achieve a successful conclusion. A lack of specificity at this initial stage has repercussions for the entire workflow. A client request that is open to misinterpretation can lead to the second, transformative stage consisting of the wrong kind of changes being made to the input, which is disastrous for the client relationship in the long-term. On the other hand, stringent specificity at the input stage gets the workflow off to the very best, most efficient start.
- Efficiency of transformation
This is the biggest stage in the workflow – the stage in which the ‘work’ actually happens – and it is therefore the point at which the greatest inefficiencies can arise. This is because the transformation process may involve multiple sub-stages, in which various tasks are undertaken by different personnel. In a car factory, for example, the transformation stage would be the assembly of the vehicle. In contract management, it would be everything that occurs between the initial request for an agreement and that agreement being terminated. The key to efficiency here is a pro-active approach that seeks to foresee and also resolve bottlenecks or delays within the workflow process.
- Efficiency of output
This may sound straightforward, given that the output stage essentially represents the completion of the workflow, but this stage also requires an increase in efficiency. To use the example of a car being built, the output stage is not simply the moment in which it rolls off the conveyor belt. The output stage is also the process of getting the car out to market. In contract management, the output stage is not merely the termination point of the contract, it is everything that needs to happen around that event, including administrative and management tasks. Inefficiency in the output stage can lead to financial losses as well as reputational damage.
In order to manage workflow efficiently, each stage must first be assessed for bottlenecks, sticking points and ambiguities. This ‘tightening up,’ across the board, benefits the outcome of each stage, but also creates a productivity and profitability boost for the entire organisation. One of the key elements of such assessments involves personnel performance. It is essential to identify any gaps in training and experience in order to increase efficiency. Businesses evolve over time, and so do the workflows that drive function within them. The assessment of training needs is a vital, ongoing process that serves to ensure a pro-active approach to efficient workflow creation.
The Contract Management Software solution
So, the efficient management of workflow is vital to the current and future success of your business, and Contract Management Software is the solution to achieving this efficiency in a sustainable way. This is because automation is key, and browser-based Contract Management Software provides a significant level of automated processes, alongside other facilities that are designed for efficiency.
- Centralised repository with template library
The best Contract Management Software, such as Symfact, is built around a centralised repository which stores all documents and serves as a unified resource pool. This means that work can be undertaken in an efficient way, because all required data is grouped together in one location, and is categorised for easy filtration. The need to first find the storage location of the document required is removed, which helps to make stage one of the workflow – input – more efficient. By centralising the data in this way, collaboration is also made more efficient with permission-based access – ensuring that personnel and signatories can access the documents and data from any web-enabled device in any internet-connected location. Furthermore, the centralised repository features a library of editable templates, which means contracts and clauses can be created using standardised, pre-approved language, before being stored in the centralised repository. As well as enhancing the efficiency of the input stage, this template library feature also helps build efficiency in the second, transformative phase, too.
- Automated workflow
Though a fully automated workflow does not create efficient management of the workflow on it own, it is a key part of achieving that goal. Contract Management Software provides fully configurable workflow automation, ensuring that milestones, deadlines and event triggers are never missed. Opportunities to re-negotiate agreements, avoid automatic renewals of under-performing contracts, and identify new commercial avenues are made clear for a pro-active approach, creating both efficiency and productivity in one feature.
- Customisable reporting
The provision of automated customisable reporting enables authorised personnel to access actionable data produced to a granular level, as needed. This means that all involved are consistently operating from a fully informed perspective and are able to make decisions that are driven by data. This removes the need for complex, manual modelling for future projections, and the risk created by human production of research reports.
- Audit trails
The automation of comprehensive audit trails helps your business meet compliance requirements, while also reducing the risk of human error. Due to the permission-based access design of Contract Management Software, every user action is logged and recorded. This allows for the closer tracking of changes and versions of documents, and also increases accountability and transparency throughout the organisation.
In the modern age of business, automation is the answer to questions of efficiency, and every workflow throughout your enterprise allows the benefits of efficient management to reach every aspect of the operation. This foundation of efficiency boosts productivity in every business area and, ultimately, improves the bottom line. Making these improvements to the day-to-day operation of your business is the most reliable way to achieve the goals and objectives you have set for your enterprise, and also ensures that this progress can be sustained into the future. Contact Symfact today to learn more about how your workflows can be efficiently managed.