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With the onset of mass digitalization, technologically savvy workers are no longer the exception but the rule. This new digital standard has impacted every facet of the corporate workday, including the processes employees use to complete each day’s tasks. Information technology (IT) leaders are working to accommodate the needs of a workforce that expects the same simple, user-friendly technology used in their everyday lives at work. It is crucial that companies take note of the trends that have emerged within office workflows in order to transform and adapt their businesses to embrace digital transformation.
Technology has caused a major shift in how we define the traditional “office,” largely because it creates such a wealth of options. Different people will inevitably select different personal workflows and solutions that function best for them and their work style. Employees answer emails from the sidelines of their kid’s soccer game, sign forms from their kitchen table, and edit documents from the backseat of the car on a long road trip. Whether it’s on their smartphone, tablet, or laptop, employees expect to easily and efficiently access information the same way they would from their cubicle.
From the intern all the way up to the chief executive officer (CEO), all employees have different preferences and ways of working. Many still opt to print out documents to read and annotate on the hard copy, while others prefer reading and editing in digital form. With that said, there is no single, uniform workflow that the modern office consistently uses, inciting the need for each individual employee to develop his/her own unique strategy for getting tasks done. On the other hand, companies need to be flexible and agile in order to handle the diverse needs of their personnel.
The problem with the office workflow
There are two common problems with office workflows: The first is that they tend to be heavily paper-based, and the second is that they are inflexible, so they don’t meet different employee preferences. Paper-based processes can’t accommodate the growing population of workers who either work off-site or on their mobile devices.
Think about the following scenario: A company executive is traveling, but he needs to receive, review, and sign an urgent contract. With a paper-based procedure, he would need to wait until he is at his hotel to pick up a fax, read it, sign it, and fax it back. However, if the company has in place easy-to-use, agile, digital solutions that integrate with personal work habits, he could have easily accessed the contract on his mobile device, provided an e-signature, and quickly sent it back. These problems, while formidable, can be addressed and avoided by using the following four trends to guide and motivate business decisions.
Four transformative office workflow trends
1. Digital workflows for multifunction printers
As employees become more entrenched in the digital world, they expect the same ease-of-use and convenience found in their personal devices on office interfaces. In many cases, smart multifunction printers (MFPs) are a great way for companies to address this expectation. Smart MFPs often feature touch-screen interfaces and customizable apps that allow users to tailor workflows to fit their needs. While this is certainly an investment, a smart MFP will provide companies a return on investment through increased automation, accelerated work processes, and a more interconnected digital device network.
2. The mobile office
Gone are the days when the office is limited to the four walls of a building. Today, the office can stretch across cities, countries, and time zones to include any team member working in an inter-connected way toward a common goal. In turn, office processes are becoming more and more flexible to account for this expanded office. A remote worker needs to quickly and easily access the same documents as one based at company headquarters, and companies are making this access easier for users with the help of technology. Any discrepancy in the level of access restricts agility, lowers productivity, and increases costs.
3. The adoption of industry-specific workflows
As companies embrace digitalization, they face a new challenge to design workflows that target the specific industry that they serve. Different industries have different priorities, and the key is to implement a workflow that will accommodate those priorities. Therefore, we are starting to see industry-specific technology and workflows being developed to address these very different vertical processes. For example, a major priority for the human resources (HR) field is data security. HR systems hold massive amounts of highly confidential information, which, if threatened, could cause a serious data breach and the potential for fines and penalties. Thus, an HR firm may need to take extra precautions when building their office’s workflow to ensure the highest standards of data security. It falls on IT leadership to understand and advocate for this goal.
4. The integration of personal and office workflows
To many workers’ dismay, offices tend to be dominated by paper-laden processes or outdated, highly complex applications and solutions that don’t integrate well with employees’ personal workflows and work styles. As more companies move towards digitalization, IT decision makers are taking a hard look at their workplace technology and taking steps to meet the demands of a digital workforce. The biggest step towards making this a reality is to provide employees with user-friendly digital tools that have the same look and feel as the platforms they regularly use in their personal lives.
While it’s not always easy to acknowledge gaps in a business and address areas that need improvement, it is important that companies embrace digital change. Ensuring office and personal workflows are integrated and work together, not against one another, will ultimately impact every level of the business, making it a stronger, more agile company with a base of more satisfied employees and customers.
Andy Jones is vice president of workflow automation of large enterprise operations (LEO) at Xerox. He is a part of the LEO global senior leadership team, which is responsible for Xerox’s Worldwide Document Outsourcing business. Contact him at Andy.Jones@Xerox.com or follow him on Twitter @AndyJonesXerox.