This article is an excerpt from our white paper, "Policy, Process, and Business Management".
The Anatomy of Effective Policy
To paraphrase what Confucious said, “The journey of one thousand automated processes begins with a first policy.” Policy is defined as, “a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency and facility.” A policy should be a repeatable procedure that is intended to:
- Compliance with required steps
- Make something easier to do
- Make something faster to do
- Avoid potential negative consequences
Policy sets the guidelines for a successful outcome and is based on a previous accomplishment or failure. In addition, policy should provide a course of action that will hopefully yield positive results. It’s a treasure map with a legend, set trail and all the booby traps uncovered. If this is not the case for your business policies, then there is room for improvement.
For example, a good policy for compliance in an Accounting Department would be to “ensure that in every order, invoice number X matches with purchase order number Y and that purchase order number Y matches the items on the shipping document before posting payment.” by specifying the parameters for a beneficial outcome, the process provides the needed “checks and balances” to prevent fraud, fines and costs of audit.
But policy should never overburden current organizational resources, and be based not on theoretical work or a soon-to-be-filled position but on tried-and-true, favorable business evidence. If you can prove it with numbers, like man-hours spent per task or time to completion, even better. If your HR department needs to have multiple paper copies generated of personnel documents because policy dictates that 5 people need to see a document before a person is hired and that another person needs to be kept on the payroll to re-verify the checker’s work, then your policy may need to be modified to streamline your organization, not stick to it because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Once the tough job of defining policy is done, then the more difficult job of developing sustainable processes begins. This includes: ensuring adherence to policy, implementing and cultivating policy adherence, managing policy change and evolution, quantifying metrics and accountability and mitigating situational impact from policy deviations. The need to keep the organization moving and producing while accomodating changes and revisions to company policy is paramount. Disruptions to production are costly and are rarely an option for growing enterprises.
Process is a procedure that converts something from point A to something that is valuable to someone else at point B. Almost always, processes are populated by documents and actions that need to happen to or with those documents. For example, at the start of an Accounts Payable process you have an unpaid invoice (point A), and at the end you should have a paid invoice (point B and valuable). Same goes for any back offi ce or front office process across any vertical industry. The only items you need to know to start developing the process is what your input points are and what your desired output is. Then all you
need to do is fi ll in the path in between.
ECM takes a document-centric approach (“follow the document”) to process automation and can handle processes two ways: 1) using built-in ad hoc workflow functionality, or 2) using an advanced rules-based process management module.
Ad Hoc Workflow
Ad hoc (Latin for “for this purpose”) workflow is designed to move documents pertaining to a specific purpose, case, or situation at hand, based on the business process to which the documents belong. The Ad Hoc Workflow pertains to the different stages your document goes through in your business process and who is responsible for handling it. Ad hoc workflow processes are designed to quickly move a document through a process without needing additional information to complete the process or needing synchronization with third-party, line of business applications.
Rule Based Workflow Automation
Designed to automate process-driven organizations, Progression provides a studio-like environment that simplifies the design and implementation of in-depth, rules-based business processes. Progression is an
effective tool for approval processes, controlled processes, routing, tracking and adding security to the management of document processing. It can be used to distribute documents into parallel processes and wait for events to synchronize in the decision-making process. Progression automatically implements new automated business processes within iSynergy. Tasks defined in the Progression designer are configured in the browser environment. They appear as a list of available tasks for users assigned to processing those tasks.