In the first of three posts we look at how to automate business processes that utilise PDF documents at their core.
1. Advantages of automating a business process
2. Business workflow examples
3. How to achieve business automation with PDF documents and workflow software
Examining an existing manual business document process, for example an event registration or a departmental document review and looking at ways to automate it, can lead to streamlining document production and leading to the creation of efficient workflows.
Automating a Business Process
How and what manual processes you automate depends on your business.
Some questions to start asking before you get started on implementing an automated workflow may include:
Which staff will be involved: – staff in the office, staff based at home or a mobile workforce on the road.
What process to consider for automation: – It may be as simple as moving one of your paper based processes to one that uses digital documents
What external agencies may be involved in the automated result: – do you need to consider how the workflow will work with customers, partners or external suppliers.
Advantages of Automation
Unless the aim is to gain an advantage from the automation then what’s the point? Right?
Advantages from examining an existing manual process and automating it may include:
Reduction of errors: – if a process requires data to be input the use of electronic forms can help by utilising validation to ensure data is entered and formatted correctly.
Speed: – moving paper documents can be less efficient than their equivalent digital format. The use of electronic documents allows for the inclusion of notification and automated routing to the appropriate person or department.
Taking care of repetitive tasks: – this where automation is really useful and can take away a lot of repetitive tasks and increasing productivity.
Easier to implement complex processes: – automating a process can allow complex tasks to be set up allowing staff to concentrate on other work and improve business efficiency.
Some workflows may be as simple as allowing the completion of a form and having an automated response. Others may involve the creation of documents based on an application for a mortgage or insurance quotation customised with the applicant details, specific terms and conditions and additional forms to be completed.
Complex workflows will include more user-centric tasks – the movement of multiple documents, routing of documents based on requirements involving various staff, departments, waiting for responses, storage of results and follow-up.
Examining the various parts of a workflow and focusing on individual tasks will not only make it easier to understand the different parts of the process but may also identify parts of the process that, once automated, can be reused and easier to update or fix when issues arise.
You don’t have to automate everything. Breaking a workflow down into individual modules or tasks and then automating them whilst testing can provide a good basis to start.
The PDF Workflow
The PDF format allows lots of advantages – too many for this post – from a workflow perspective it provides a document metaphor which can be easily implemented especially if a paper process is understood and is being replaced.
Automating PDF Creation
The following steps show the tasks involved in the creation of a custom PDF that may be part of a bigger workflow.
- Header and footers – add your company or contact details
- Security – prevent the PDF from being edited
- Merge pages – add additional pages to the original document
- Import form data – merge customer information
- Optimise the PDF – reduce the file size
So imagine that you could define these parts of a process and get a fully formed PDF at the end of it without having to do all of this manually. Sound interesting?
In the second post of this three part series we will look at some example workflows, then in the final post, how to develop and deploy your custom PDFs in the real world.