In the current environment, a focus on smaller workflows can provide significant buffers against operational inefficiencies for organisations with either automation foundations which are already advanced or looking at workflows for the first time.
The challenging environment facing operators in the Trust, Private Wealth, Corporate Services and Funds Administration sectors is necessarily resulting in teams looking ‘inwards’ with some urgency to find new efficiencies, boost productivity and increase operational agility to weather whatever storms may emerge on the horizon. As many familiar with the concepts behind time in motion studies, lean and process re-engineering will know, there is often a lot to be gained from a granular look into how the business works at a process and task level, with small improvements capable of amounting to significant gains overall.
As global software solution providers, we have the benefit of a pan-industry view on how organisations are approaching and investing in their technology. One of the clear observations is that organisations (even whole sub-industries) vary greatly in terms of their adoption of workflows and automation in general. It may be fair to say that organisations which are further ahead in their ‘automation journey’ might be better positioned than others, but whatever their position, a focus now on workflows can play an important role in organisations maintaining operational efficiency, managing risk and supporting customer relationships.
Digital workflows offer part of the solution to current key operational challenges
Firstly, system workflows can of course deliver operational efficiencies by automating processes (in full or in part), eliminating the ‘wastage’ of waiting times, longer processing times, and rework due to manual error. A quick internal efficiency gain might come from creating a follow up task across a team, triggered by a specific type of event accompanied by a notification to complete it, instead of living with the risk of delay caused by the lack of visibility of said task.
There are also efficiency gains however in enforcing standardisation of more critical processes, such as beneficiary payments, capital calls or redemptions. This type of workflow might require users to work through a series of predefined steps, checking and validating data as they progress, until the end of the process. In whatever form, workflows help create bandwidth for more value-adding tasks or other uses.
Secondly, system workflows are particularly important in a risk and compliance context. With the wealth management industry continuing to grapple with the operational impacts of regulatory change, such as Economic Substance and the Mandatory Disclosure Regime (and doing so in fluid resourcing situations due to the current global lockdowns), workflows can ensure adherence to critical risk processes. This is particularly important if staff are working remotely. A well-configured compliance workflow might be able to escalate issues automatically and in real-time for improved identification and faster resolution, whilst at the same time being highly auditable offering better management control.
Lastly, at a time when client relationships are particularly crucial, workflows offer solutions to maintain and even enhance service levels whilst the organisational focus is internal. A simple example might be triggering real-time email or SMS notifications to inform clients when a task is completed, database changes are made, or documentation is due.
Think small for potentially big results – just ask the British Cycling team
The idea of workflow implementation in such a fluid environment, it should be acknowledged, may seem counterintuitive. After all, workflows rely on well-defined, standardised processes. Furthermore, they can be highly complex depending on the underlying process, and potentially costly to implement.
However, focussing efforts on small scale, low complexity, high volume administrative processes (or even segments of end to end processes) can amount to significant gains over a relatively short space of time, and overcome the possibilities that processes might change.
At a time when we are all starved of sporting activity, this Harvard Business Review article provides an interesting interview with Sir Dave Brailsford, head of the British Cycling Team in the 2000s who adopted this type of view - a ‘marginal gains’ philosophy - with great success.
Setting up internal workshops to review current processes in detail end to end to identify and prioritise workflow opportunities on impact and ease of implementation would be a positive step. A visit to Microsoft Flow might also offer inspiration in terms of the granular opportunities for workflows.
At Touchstone and Microgen Financial Systems, workflow capability is a key component of our holistic wealth management systems, allowing clients to benefit quickly from automation whether simple or more complex. Importantly, clients don’t themselves need to be IT experts to reap the benefits of workflow. All that is required is logic and a knowledge of the business.
Whilst there are workflows encoded into our solutions, there is also significant flexibility available to clients in terms of how they are applied. For example, workflows can be configured and applied at global or individual client level, with or without specific controls or with varying levels of controls, subject or not subject to user permissions and approvals and in numerous other ways. The real power of the workflow capabilities within our solutions, in fact, is that they interact with other in-built functionalities, allowing for significantly more automation possibilities.
A futurist once commented “anything which can be automated, will be”. Arguably, now is a good opportunity to refocus on workflows within systems, starting small, to help deliver those marginal gains to deliver efficiency, lower cost of compliance, and organisational resilience.
As the saying goes, “every little helps”.
Should you wish to talk to us about how to make further use of existing workflows in your system, or how our solutions can improve your operational efficiency, please speak with your Account Manager
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