Every company has business processes that keep the work flowing forward, and many companies rely on workflow software to standardize common activities across the entire organization. Workflow applications have proven extremely beneficial in automating routine tasks such as approvals for vacations, purchase orders and timesheets. In retail, manufacturing, delivery/transport and other niche industries, workflow applications are incredible time savers and often reduce human errors.
Typically, workflow applications are used for connected tasks that require a team to complete. The applications track the activity from start to finish, providing an electronic history of activities. Mobilizing these workflow applications increases efficiencies by eliminating time lags that occur when key members of the team are on vacation, traveling or busy with a high-priority project.
A standard rule of thumb is that any task that involves three or more people takes seven business days to complete. When one of those people is out of the office, that completion timeframe can move closer to 10 days. Mobilizing workflow applications keeps business activities moving forward, potentially decreasing task completion times from seven days to seven minutes.
Mobilizing workflow takes away the hassle of e-mail notifications, searching for Wi-Fi connections, accessing the VPN, then logging into a system to approve. New mobile workflow capabilities eliminate those multiple steps. Recipients need only to open the workflow notification on their smartphone, and all the necessary information is available to approve or decline.
Typical workflow processes that should be mobilized are contracts that need customer signatures, expense reports that need approval, and shipment and delivery requests. Instead of printing, filling out and submitting paperwork, the recipient can approve the request on a mobile device while in an airport, at a customer site, and from the workplace. Having the request appear on the mobile phone makes it convenient for the recipient to approve, and it adds immediacy.
People are much more attentive to messages that appear on their mobile devices. They respond more quickly to text messages than voicemail on a landline phone or an interoffice memo. Let’s look at a couple of mobile workflow scenarios.
Travel requests are often delayed when managers are out of the office. These requests can be mobilized so that managers receive the alerts on their mobile phones. The manager can view the request, review the purpose of the trip, the destination, the travel days and travel costs. The manager can approve the request, send the acknowledgement to the HR system, and the sales rep can book the flight.
Time sheet approvals can also benefit from mobile workflow. Part-time employees that must fill out worksheets showing the hours worked and activities can send a request for approval to their managers. The manager views the request, hours worked and projects billed. If approved, the manager can send the acknowledgement to the payroll department so they can cut the employee’s check or deposit the employee’s payment online.
Looking into the future, workflow will extend beyond the internal organization to partners and suppliers. Consider this example: When a production order is complete, the operations team sends a trigger to the shipping department to load the order with the bill of lading (BOL) for the carrier. In a mobile supply chain, the shipping department will receive the notification that the shipment is ready on a smartphone or other mobile device. The shipping department attaches the necessary documentation and sends it to the carrier electronically. Once the carrier picks up the shipment, it notifies the retailer’s warehouse about when the shipment will arrive. All these notifications will be sent electronically to any number of devices that each partner uses.
MobileEnterprise Application Platform Puts Workflow Apps to Work
Many organizations have defined standard workflow practices that require the manager to acknowledge each step of the business process. HR systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms and other procedures require an electronic trigger to complete the process. Mobilizing these applications ensures that these critical tasks will not be delayed.
Organizations can mobilize their workflow applications with a mobile enterprise application platform, and once mobilized, workflow applications will:
- Speed the decision-making process
- Leverage a convenient and familiar e-mail inbox
- Provide direct interaction and integration with existing back-end solutions
- Increase ROI on wireless e-mail and business solutions
- Extend the reach of business applications and workflows
- Be available across heterogeneous mobile devices
- Enforce enterprise-class security and management
Mobilizing internal business processes is a significant first step toward creating a truly mobile environment. This type of mobility leads to business process reengineering that can spread throughout the enterprise and lead to new, long-term strategies.
In the next few years, mobility should extend beyond your organization to your customers, partners, suppliers and any stakeholder in your ecosystem using any device and sending multiple types of electronic notifications. It will be what Yankee Group describes as the “Anywhere Revolution,” where everyone is constantly connected to everything that matters to them.
The Anywhere Revolution is under way, and mobilizing workflow applications now prepares you for unlimited opportunities in the future as mobility becomes even more pervasive in business.
Willie Jow, a 15-year veteran of Sybase, leads product marketing efforts for the company’s mobility solutions, overseeing product direction, strategic partnerships, go-to-market strategies and marketing programs. Jow has more than 27 years of experience in enterprise software and the technology industry.