The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, including the way we work. It has pushed companies to “go digital” – to lift how things are done in the real world and shift it to online because everyone is forced to work from home. However, for most companies, it may not be a straightforward thing. Industries such as manufacturing and hospitality need people onsite as inputs to production. But regardless of your industry one thing holds true – something needs to be done to achieve an acceptable level of productivity, to ensure business continuity.
In a previous post we shared how we helped BlastAsia become a fully digital company in light of the lockdown in Metro Manila, enabling support services such as (payroll processing, leave approvals, reimbursement requests) to continue running despite everyone on a work-from-home arrangement. That article tackled high-level, strategic moves to implement telecommuting across the organization. Now we’d like to share the software & online tools that you’ll need in order to efficiently implement 100% work-from-home across any organization.
1. Communication Tools
Arguably the first thing that we think of when we get into a work-from-home arrangement is keeping communication lines open. There’s the ubiquitous email, and then the rapidly growing segment of video conferencing/teleconferencing tools like Zoom and Skype. There’s also the multifunctional online collaboration software like Microsoft Teams and Slack, as well as project/task management tools like Trello.
2. Office Suite
For most knowledge workers, this is the solution most widely used next to communication tools. This includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software like those found in Office365 suite and Gsuite. This also covers those used largely by graphic designers (like Adobe Creative Cloud), and web developers (WiX, Wordpress, etc).
3. Cybersecurity Software
Protecting your files and devices is critical when implementing work-from-home, that’s why boosting cybersecurity is highly important. It’s not as straightforward to request for a new laptop or any IT support as it was when everyone’s at the office. This category of software includes device-level protection like anti-virus/anti-malware all the way to network security and more advanced cybersecurity software.
4. Core Software
This includes your usual ERP/Accounting, CRM, HRIS and project management products, but also includes more specialized, custom software that you may have bought/built for specific uses.
THE MISSING PIECE: BUSINESS PROCESS AUTOMATION
Sure, the 4 major categories above are what most companies already have. And for most small businesses, the first two may be all that they will need. However, mid-sized companies with over 100 employees would find it challenging to manage key business processes just via the tools mentioned above. That’s why we’ve identified a fifth item on the list that you’ll need: business process automation.
Say, for example, the procurement process. In a normal setup, this would need numerous email exchanges among several individuals coming from different departments to address a single purchase request. Multiply that by how many requests coming in each day for the same process (and much more for multiple processes), and you’ll have a host of problems that would lead to processes breaking down. Not to mention a big headache, regardless of your role in the company.
In general, a robust business process automation platform should have 4 key components:
1. Process designer
This is how processes are laid out, along with the form that is needed to create a request/ticket and trigger the process, a process map, user settings, and report settings
2. Work management tools
This is what most employees will use, which is the output of the process designer. It involves the filing of requests/tickets and managing these requests/tickets. It’s best if the platform has a mobile app extension to make it convenient to fill out forms and approve requests.
3. Business rule-based automation
This is how basic decision-making rules can be applied so that certain requests/tickets can move along the process faster, boosting operational efficiency.
It’s important that your existing core systems are connected to the process, in order to save contributors and decision-makers from logging into too many systems just to access certain pieces of information related to the process.
Now imagine using a product like QuickReach. After setting up via the easy-to-use Workflow Builder (with available templates) the procurement workflow can be rolled out in under an hour. At the same time, you’ll enable the following:
1. Easy filing of purchase requests using the QuickReach mobile app. Employees can also monitor the status of their requests in real-time.
2. Contributors across the entire workflow can manage their tasks using the QuickReach web app. Managers can also see where each request is located across the workflow.
3. Decision-makers can use the same QuickReach mobile app to approve items.
4. Auto-approval can be set for items below a certain amount, or if the budget for the particular item/item category is below the monthly/quarterly/annual limit.
5. Auto-posting in the accounting software via integration, towards the end of the process, once the purchase order has been fulfilled.
Business process automation can help lift-and-shift various processes that many companies have been carrying out manually, and even improve on them. This would not only benefit companies in the near- to mid-term during the COVID-19 pandemic but also beyond.