Workflow Automation is such a loaded term, dripping in hope and expectation but can sometimes be accompanied by missed opportunities, anti-climax and wasted effort. Behind the hype and preconceptions lies something of power, that whether we’ve realised it or not, has permeated every aspect of our home and work lives. Simon Witkiss takes a look at what it takes to truly get value from Workflow Automation.
Workflow automation has been through its own archetypal hype cycle. In the 90s, we were primed to shortly expect automation at every turn, but the millennium and the burst of the dot com bubble brought us back down to reality. Over the last 10 years as we’ve seen technology increasingly dominate our lives, we’ve also seen workflow automation mature and become an increasingly critical part of business life.
In the trust and corporate services market, technology coupled with other market factors has driven an increasingly globalised market. This – alongside clients' increasing expectations of a digital, anytime, anywhere service – has changed the commercial models of our markets. No longer will clients except a time-based fee and service model from their local provider. Instead, clients can take their business anywhere in the globe that can offer the best service at the right price point. This change to fixed fee or asset-based fee models rewards a firm that can provide the service more efficiently – and this is why workflow automation has become so crucial: it gives you competitive advantage.
But it’s not as simple as automating a task so it takes less time. There are other nuances that have led to workflow automation reaching Gartner’s ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Technology is no longer a tool that employees use at work – instead it pervades our life and as such employees now expect their work life to be similarly interwoven with technology. This means employees will quickly grow tired of tasks that they know can be automated and your firm is losing an opportunity to move them on to higher value work.
There are also downsides to the people-aspect of workflow automation: islands of knowledge. Workflow automation does not simply come into existence; they are instead created by someone who crafts the workflow automation from their knowledge of the firm. Often this person carries the needed knowledge to amend the workflow automation and all too often, if that person leaves, the workflow becomes a black box that continues to operate but with no way of improving or changing. You avoid this by keeping workflows not overly-complicated and under group review.
As we all know, regulations are changing at an ever growing pace, placing increasing burdens on firms to provide the same services while operating with an increased regulatory burden. It is crucial that workflow automation be deployed in such circumstances to ease the burden as much as possible. Increasingly regulation is becoming proactive, requiring firms to monitor for changes in almost real-time and report as required.
Workflow automation can help by allowing you to streamline such reporting, giving your compliance and administrative teams an extra pair of technology eyes reducing errors and speeding up reporting. Our Economic Substance Advisory Service is a perfect example of this.
Workflow automation isn’t just for the benefit of your employees, clients and regulators. Your firm’s management can also spend its time more effectively by using workflow automation to manage by exception. By this, we mean focusing on the areas that require your attention and not those areas that are performing as you’d expect. A key plank of modern MI strategies is automated management of your KPIs.
Workflow is going to become increasingly important within our industry as consolidation increases over the next two years, as we saw in our Future Focus Report. The future of workflow automation in the workplace includes predicting next steps or even predicting an alternative to assist with management by exception.
Workflow automation will increasingly reach into your client relationships too, helping you serve your client’s requests more rapidly and efficiently. 2020 has already seen us demonstrate the importance of digital onboarding and it sits at the heart of TrustQuay Portal.
Workflow automation has a bright future ahead of it, but organisations need to be using workflow automation now in order to benefit from its future possibilities. If you are not, your competitor firms who are making use of workflow automation will overtake you with a better service delivered more efficiently. You need to make the most of current workflow abilities to benefit from future.
Simon is Global Head of Product and Marketing at TrustQuay