Folders showing an automated document workflow in today’s post-pandemic world

How to create a document workflow

Summary

Discover the key elements and different ways to create a document workflow.

Time: 5 minute read

What is a document workflow?

A document workflow is an ordered system of steps that guides a document’s journey in an organization from creation to archival or destruction. Document workflows provide rules-based business processes for repeatable tasks that all employees must follow. 

More than outlining processes, well-designed document workflows also identify who is responsible for next steps and lays out a timeline for completion.

Document workflow steps: 

  • Creation / Capture 
  • Generation 
  • Tracking / Versioning 
  • Editing 
  • Approval 
  • Storage 
  • Retrieval 
  • Archival / Destruction

Examples of document types:

  • Editorial content
  • Job applications
  • Purchase orders
  • Invoices
  • Expense reports
  • Health records
  • Test results
  • Insurance claims



Why are automated document workflows important?

Workflows help organizations standardize and streamline day-to-day operations which helps to reduce costs, increase employee productivity, and eliminate errors.

Automated, or digital document workflows, create additional efficiencies by eliminating the time and cost of handling and routing hardcopy between co-workers and clients.



Once a digital document workflow is established it should:

  • Automate repetitive processes, freeing users to perform more important functions.
  • Allow stakeholders to access information from wherever they are located.
  • Reduce hardcopy printing and postage expenses.
  • Eliminate document distribution errors.
  • Offer rules-based access control by permission level with a comprehensive activity log for audits.
  • Speed the routing of documents to the next step or department.
  • Alert document owners to incomplete tasks awaiting action.
  • Provide performance metrics and a feedback mechanism for improvement.

Key features of an automated document workflow

An automated document workflow in today’s post-pandemic world must support the ability to connect with and provide end-to-end security to hybrid workforces and mobile users. Consider these elements:

  • The cloud. Cloud document workflows allow users to access, view, and take appropriate action on up-to-the-minute data and reports stored in a centralized location from anywhere at any time. Cloud solutions usually offer multiple layers of security and data encryption.
  • Reporting and accountability. The workflow should have reporting capabilities to identify bottlenecks, activity logging to track and trace users with transparency, and retention schedules for document archival periods and destruction points.
  • Proactive workflow alerts. Should a task time-out or a document not be forwarded as expected, the workflow should have the intelligence to alert the owner that an incomplete or overdue task requires attention.
  • User rights and permissions. Access to sensitive or confidential data should be managed with passwords and rules-based authentication. Administrators should be able to control individual user permission levels, allowing them to view and edit only those documents pertaining to their jobs.
  • Integration with other business systems. Efficient document workflows do not operate in a silo. Workflow applications should offer some degree of integration with associated scheduling, billing, and other back-office ERP business modules.
business man Building a document workflow for a digital world

Building a document workflow for a digital world

Once a document workflow has been defined, there are tools and services available from myriad software developers to enable the automation of critical process steps.


To build a workflow, it helps fist to understand the lifecycle of a digital document workflow. Here is an example of a common best practice. 

  • Map the workflow. What does the workflow need to accomplish? In a logical order, blueprint the steps of the process with each step representing a single action or decision to be made and note task owners and deadlines for each step. Some people find engineering flowchart tools simplify and help to visualize document-centric processes.
  • Identify stakeholders and their roles. Who will be using the workflow? Ask for input as to any changes from the current model; getting buy-in from users is key to adoption. Experienced employees might have a better idea for workflow improvement.
  • Build and implement the workflow. Using off-the-shelf tools or custom-designed software modules, link the steps together in an automated process that can be initiated from a PC or multifunction printer. 
  • Train stakeholders. Don’t go live with a cold launch. Teach users how to best use the new workflow before implementation and answer any questions to reduce resistance to change, errors, and learning curves.
  • Analyze and optimize. Consider document workflows living processes that must evolve with changing laws, stricter compliance requirements, and advancing technologies. Revisit steps periodically and incorporate feedback from daily users to keep the workflow running at peak efficiency.

Document Workflow Examples

Your business should construct workflow steps that fit a logical sequence and meet the needs of your unique business model and end users. After all, you know your business best.

Often, organizations will partner with a company like Ricoh that provides expert consulting services to assist in efficient document workflow design and offers solutions to automate critical document routing steps in the process. 

Some are straightforward. Many Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable workflows often come as out-of-the-box solutions. Other workflow may require more involved development and decision-making trees to route the right document to the right destination.

Here are a few examples of solutions Ricoh offers:

Ricoh Smart Integration (RSI) modules define and automate document routing workflows in legal and healthcare. For example, upon scanning a document at a Ricoh MFP, it can be:

 

  1. Automatically saved in the desired format.
  2. Named according to a designated schema.
  3. Converted to editable text with extracted data sent to a specific database.
  4. Stored in the proper local shared drive.
  5. Copied to a folder in the cloud for disaster recovery and archival.
  6. Forwarded to the next person in the action chain with an alert the document is in the system.

 

Ricoh Payer Provider Payment Solutions for Healthcare streamline insurance claims processing to increase speed of payment to healthcare providers. 

Digitizing documents can reduce backlogs, increase cash flow, and minimize manual data entry and indexing errors while allowing processors to access patient information and work from anywhere using their familiar EHR management system.


Ricoh Business Processing for AP/AR manages Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable transactions through a unique blend of intelligent capture and process automation modules to streamline AP/AR cycles. 

Reduce costs, improve visibility into financial standing, and offload the burdens of day-to-day invoice processing to a trusted business partner.


Ricoh Intelligent Delivery Services
convert physical inbound communications with managed services for anywhere, anytime digital mail delivery. 

Mobile optimized, cloud-based workflows allow users to securely retrieve their mail on any device after being opened, scanned, indexed, and routed by highly trained Ricoh staff working on-site, off-site, or as a hybrid service to speed external communications with customers, providers, and partners.

 

Related content

Webinar: The End of Manual Payer Provider Correspondence Processing


Document management solutions

Document management solutions belong in any discussion of document workflow. These solutions typically combine centralized document storage together with automated document workflows.

In most cases, a document management solution is more than a document storage software application. It is a total solution encompassing document production, storage, and sharing, with security and access controls baked in. 

A document management solution like DocuWare not only digitizes hardcopy information, but it also organizes data to eliminate unnecessary print jobs and lost documents, aids in compliance, and interfaces with other business systems to accelerate the flow of information between co-workers and clients who are authorized to see it.

Related content

Webinar series: Business Continuity and Your Remote Workforce



What is the best document workflow solution for you?

The answer is simple. It's the one expressly built to cut through the mountains of paperwork that can slow your daily business operations. It should be customized, secure, and cloud-based to minimize infrastructure costs and allow for flexibility and scalability.



 

 Questions about how document workflow tools can help automate your business processes? Contact us to speak with one of our document workflow professionals.

 
 

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