I work with companies every day that use email not only as a business communications tool but to initiate work processes. Is your company using emails to kick off manual back office processes? I am willing to bet that a majority of companies have adopted email as a means to trigger processes.
There are several problems that companies face when using email as a way to manage workflow in the back office, including:
- Visibility -Once an email is sent it is hard to keep track of what is going on with that piece of work. Someone will have to manually complete a search to find the “status” of the email that was sent out.
- Prioritization -Using rules or a manual flagging system to prioritize work in an inbox can be a daunting task. Plus, is the time a user spends prioritizing a value add? In addition, there are consistency issues – does every team member prioritize the same way?
- The “Black Hole”- Emails sent to other team members or a department are never seen again. How often is an email sent and nothing ever done with it?
- The “To Do” list – Employees will spend a majority of their time in their inbox sorting through messages and will stop whatever they’re doing to read a new email. Is this a productive practice?
- Human routing engines – I have worked with companies that have certain employees that spend a majority of their day monitoring in-boxes and reviewing every email to simply route them to the appropriate department. Do you really want the expense of a resource to simply route work when a business process automation tool can do the same work more efficiently?
Does it make sense to continue using email in this fashion or look at business process automation (BPA) software to automate processes and free up resources to perform other value added functions in your organization? BPA would add capabilities such as end-to-end process visibility, the ability to prioritize work, as well as the ability to auto-escalate and set automatic follow-up dates.
Take the time to evaluate your business processes and look for the following flags:
- Are there business processes triggered by email coming from your company website?
- Are employees sending emails to other departments to trigger work?
- Do your employees have to use some type of calendar program to schedule follow ups?
- Are your employees using email as a “to do” list?
I invite you to read this whitepaper, “Humanizing Business Process Automation: Optimizing Performance for Employees and Customers,” for a closer look at the issue of using email as a workflow tool, as well as for tips on designing business processes from the customer’s perspective.
Reader challenge: find one place where you are using email and reverse-engineer your process, start with the result of a delighted customer and see where you end up. I’m curious to hear what you find.