How Document Workflow Management Helps Businesses

Virtually every business has large volumes of documents — from expense reports and purchase orders to travel requests — that flow through a work process. In a traditional workflow, each document routes through one department to the next, where an employee manually evaluates the information for review or further action.


3 September 2009

Virtually every business has large volumes of documents — from expense reports and purchase orders to travel requests — that flow through a work process. In a traditional workflow, each document routes through one department to the next, where an employee manually evaluates the information for review or further action. Many of these tasks are repetitive and time-consuming, yet vital to businesses that require detailed records be kept. Accurately tracking a document's progress from its originator to its final destination is known as document workflow management.

Traditional Workflow: A Day in the Life of a Document
Let's look at the traditional document workflow for something as simple as a purchase requisition. In this case, a form is usually filled out with information about an item that is needed along with its estimated cost. The form is taken to accounting and, assuming that some standard criteria are met, a purchase order is generated and returned to the person who requested it. Then the purchase order is approved for the item to be acquired up to a specified cost.

The workflow for this purchase order began with the person who generated the requisition, progressed to the purchasing authority in accounting, and ended back at its source. While the document's journey sounds simple, such paperwork is easily mishandled or lost when it is just one in a stack of many. The impact on the business is greater than the cost of redoing the paperwork. Misrouted, misplaced, or lost documents can cause a number of problems that impact productivity and cash flow. An electronic workflow system prevents mishaps by auditably tracking the document's progress through to completion.

Effective Workflow Management: A Long-term Approach
Best practices for creating an efficient workflow including a number of factors:
• A central repository where documents are stored and indexed
• A security system that allows only the appropriate personnel to view folders and documents
• A flexible methodology with rules that can adjust the flow of information dynamically based on logical criteria, just like the manual process (For example, "If a P.O. is more than $100, then route to Joe for approval.")
• The ability for knowledge workers to have access anywhere, anytime to the documents they need to get the job done.

Best Practices in Document Workflow Management: How Intralinks' Workflow Offering is Built
Intralinks' platform emphasizes tailored workflow definitions for each client's unique business processes. One characteristic unique to Intralinks' SaaS workflow management include its rich node library, which addresses a variety of business problems with short turn-around time. It also gives end users the configurability of their business processes.

Defining A Rich Node Library
Intralinks provides a rich set of nodes as the basic building blocks of a workflow. To create a workflow that models a particular business process for a client, Intralinks' sales engineers simply select relevant nodes from a node library and link them with "lines." The deployment of the newly created workflow is quick and doesn't require involvement from the development team. It is "hot" in the sense that no server bouncing is required before the workflow is put into use.

A good workflow node library encapsulates a deep understanding of common requirements for document management. Nodes such as email notification, document approval, document submission, document permission, dynamic fork, etc. are basic building blocks in most document-centric business processes. Intralinks strives to continuously grow the node library based on new discoveries in our engagement with customers. In the future, Intralinks may introduce industry-specific node libraries to address specific needs in verticals such as legal and life science.

Elements of Success: Configurability
After Intralinks designs a custom workflow (i.e. business process modeling) it is handed over to clients who can then add their own touch to the workflow before it is implemented. By giving clients the power to configure a workflow it can be further tailored towards multiple requirements. Each node in the node library is built to be configurable. In addition, Intralinks provides a graphical tool and wizard tool for client configuration at the workflow level.

Elements of Success: Document-centric Processes
Intralinks workflow solution was primarily designed for automatic management of documents. Specifically, it provides automation of the creation/deletion and updating of documents, permission management on documents, submission/approval of documents, threaded-discussion around documents as well as integration with other document management system such as SharePoint and Documentum. Moreover, the Intralinks workflow platform works by design as an integral part of Intralinks' content repository.

Software as a Service (SaaS)
The workflow platform is hosted by Intralinks with the content repository. Users log onto Intralinks from anywhere to review materials or fulfill tasks assigned to them. Automations are performed in the "cloud," resulting in changes made to the central content repository. In addition, integration with client's own document management system (such as SharePoint and Documentum) is easy via Intralinks open API. Intralinks workflow is particularly designed for those organizations that have needs to exchange critical information outside company firewall but centrally managed by company business processes.

Summary
The Intralinks workflow platform was architected and designed to facilitate and promote collaboration between end-users (configuration), Intralinks' sales engineers (business process definition) and Intralinks' development team (workflow node development and maintenance). We believe this very collaboration is the key to the success of fast modeling and deployment of complex document-centric business processes in today's rapidly changing market.