VIP Apps Consulting

Workflow Integration: Bridging the Gaps in Modern Organisations

Teams within organisations today are grappling with an overwhelming number of tools and systems, making it increasingly difficult to connect people, technology, and processes across the entire organisation. Recent reports, including Salesforce and MuleSoft’s 2023 Connectivity Benchmark Report, shed light on IT operations teams’ ongoing challenges in managing application delivery and interoperability. The findings indicate that organisations utilise an average of 1,061 different applications, which continues to grow. Up to 70% of these applications are not properly integrated with other essential business tools, resulting in fragmented data and inefficient workflows. The consequences of this lack of integration are costly, with organisations spending an average of $4.7 million on custom integrations to bridge the gaps.

One such challenge is integrating siloed applications and data, a concern voiced by 36% of respondents. Integration challenges are hindering digital transformation efforts, with a staggering 80% of survey respondents reporting the existence of data silos caused by integration issues. The importance of prioritising integration cannot be overstated, as organisations that neglect it miss out on cost savings, growth opportunities, and operational efficiency, ultimately compromising the customer experience.

A separate study by Forrester Consulting that evaluates how teams work today and the impact of fractured systems and organisational silos revealed that addressing organisation-wide fractures and improving cross-functional collaboration and alignment can result in substantial productivity gains. The research indicates that individuals could save up to 12 hours a week by overcoming these obstacles, enhancing business impact, team morale, and overall effectiveness.

Business process automation/management (BPM) is an important part of business transformation and continuous improvement and offers a comprehensive approach to address these challenges by connecting workflows within organisations and enabling seamless data and task flow between systems, applications, and tools. This article will explore the criticality of connecting workflows within organisations and explore strategies and best practices for successfully integrating systems, processes, and data. By embracing effective workflow integration, organisations can overcome the challenges highlighted in these reports, drive their digital transformation initiatives, and unlock the full potential of their teams and resources.

Workflow Integration or Workflow Automation? What’s the difference?

Workflow integration and workflow automation are related concepts but have distinct differences.

Workflow integration involves connecting and integrating different systems, applications, and tools within an organisation to enable the seamless flow of information and tasks between them. It focuses on creating a unified and interconnected environment where data can be exchanged and shared across systems, facilitating collaboration and streamlining business processes. The goal of workflow integration is to eliminate manual handoffs, reduce redundancies, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of workflows. Integration ensures that data and tasks can move smoothly from one system or department to another, enabling a cohesive workflow. Workflow integration typically involves integrating disparate software systems, databases, applications, and communication channels. It may require application programming interfaces (APIs), middleware, or specialised integration platforms to facilitate data exchange and process synchronisation.

Workflow automation, on the other hand, involves automating manual and repetitive tasks within a workflow. It aims to eliminate the need for human intervention in performing routine or rule-based activities. Workflow automation utilises technology, such as software, scripts, or robotic process automation (RPA), to automate tasks, data entry, approvals, notifications, and other actions within a workflow. Automating these tasks reduces errors, speeds up processing time, and frees employees to focus on more strategic or complex activities. Workflow automation is often a component of workflow integration, as integrated systems can seamlessly automate tasks across multiple systems.

Workflow integration connects and integrates different systems for smooth data and task flow. In contrast, workflow automation focuses on automating manual tasks within a workflow to improve efficiency and reduce human effort. Workflow integration sets the foundation for creating a cohesive environment, and workflow automation leverages that integration to automate tasks within the integrated workflow.

Workflow Management Technologies and Best Practices

The reliance on manual or electronic workflows in many organisations exacerbates the problem of data silos. According to the Forrest report, most respondents (83%) stated that their organisations frequently or always use electronic manual workflows, such as spreadsheets and email. Furthermore, 53% mentioned that their organisations often or always resort to paper-based manual workflows for managing or automating business processes (with the percentage rising to 72% for large teams).

However, relying on such manual and electronic workflows presents several challenges. Firstly, it is not scalable, especially as organisations grow in size and complexity. These workflows often result in multiple sources of truth, making it difficult to ensure data consistency and accuracy across the organisation. Additionally, the data needed for decision-making or day-to-day tasks become scattered across countless emails and spreadsheets, making it arduous for teams to locate the required information.

The data from the report reveals that respondents spend a significant amount of time searching for the right data and information, consuming approximately 30% of their workweek or 2.4 hours daily. This time-consuming search for data is particularly pronounced for higher-level roles, ranging from directors to the C-suite, and for larger organisations and teams that face additional obstacles in bridging deep cross-functional silos.

Workflow management technologies enable standardised processes and connect tasks within a defined path. These technologies leverage automation and advanced capabilities to enhance process outcomes and create value. Here are some examples of advanced technologies used in modern workflow software:

Big Data: With Big Data technologies, vast amounts of information can be integrated into business processes, providing improved visibility and data-driven decision-making. For example, in a capital expenditure approval process, relevant data sources can automatically generate reports and guide decision-making, speeding up the process and reducing manual effort.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI technologies, such as machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), computer vision, and robotic process automation (RPA), enable the automation of process steps that previously required human intervention. Machine learning can analyse complex data to detect patterns or make predictions, while NLP can automate interactions through chatbots or digital voice assistants. Computer vision extracts contextual information from images, informing and automating other processes. RPA mimics user interactions to execute repetitive manual tasks, bridging integration gaps and increasing efficiency. These technologies enable organisations to automate manual or semi-automated tasks, enhance data analysis and decision-making, automate interactions, extract valuable insights from images, and improve overall process efficiency. By leveraging workflow management technologies, organisations and adopting the following strategies and best practices, can achieve faster and better process outcomes, drive innovation, and deliver enhanced experiences.

Streamline and automate workflows: Implement workflow automation technologies and tools to replace manual and paper-based processes. By automating workflows, organisations can reduce reliance on spreadsheets, emails, and paper, ensuring that data flows seamlessly between systems and teams. At VIP Apps Consulting, we use our AMOBI methodology to map and optimise business processes. AMOBI is an iterative framework based on the concept of continuous improvement.

It enables a structured, templated approach to assess initial requirements using root cause assessment, mapping, and optimising processes to identify manual or system bottlenecks, comparing the proposed optimisations to the expected benchmark and implementing successful optimisations

Implement centralised data management: Establish a centralised data management system that serves as a single source of truth. This eliminates data discrepancies and allows teams to easily access the necessary information without wasting time searching various sources.

Invest in integrated systems and platforms: Choose integrated systems and platforms that facilitate seamless data sharing and communication between different applications and departments. Integration platforms or middleware solutions can enable smooth connectivity and data synchronisation across the organisation.

Foster collaboration and cross-functional alignment: Encourage collaboration and communication between teams and departments. Break down silos by establishing cross-functional teams that work together on integrated workflows, ensuring everyone can access the relevant data and collaborate effectively.

Prioritise data governance and quality: Establish data governance practices to ensure data consistency, accuracy, and compliance. Implement data validation processes, quality checks, and stewardship responsibilities to maintain high-quality data across integrated systems.

Provide training and support: Offer training and support to employees to familiarise them with the integrated systems and workflows. This helps ensure the smooth adoption and utilisation of the new processes and tools, driving efficiency and productivity.

In today’s hybrid working environments, the reliance on multiple applications has skyrocketed. Organisations must adopt a robust business process automation and workflow integration strategy to navigate this complex landscape. Integrating workflows ensures smooth data flow across the organisation, eliminating data silos that hinder productivity and decision-making. As employees bid farewell to the distractions of app-switching and low-value administrative tasks in a fully integrated digital workplace, organisations can reap a multitude of benefits, including cost savings, improved decision-making, and a unified digital ecosystem.


Forrester The Crisis Of Fractured Organizations

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