Financial services companies are often rife with ad hoc workflows established to solve a particular task that is ultimately performed inconsistently. To ensure organizational efficiency, it is imperative to define and establish workflows with consistency within the financial services industry. These firms should follow a standard set of steps to establish consistent workflows. Processes that are often ripe for improvement within a financial firm include processing of customer data, new accounts processes, compliance management processes and even human resources processes such as new employee on-boarding.
Workflow is one of the primary components of the larger discipline of business process management (BPM). According to AIIM, BPM is "a way of looking at and then controlling the processes that are present in an organization." BPM holistically identifies, manages and controls the processes within a financial services firm.
BPM is not a single project; rather, it is an ongoing improvement methodology to continuously and incrementally build organizational efficiency into a financial services firm. AIIM identifies six steps within their BPM methodology; while there are other models available, the core steps of each are similar. It is helpful to think of the steps as a continuous circle rather than as a line with an end point. BPM is similar to an agile development model, in which there may be multiple phases existing simultaneously.
The analysis phase of AIIM's BPM methodology ensures that processes within the organization can be identified, categorized and prioritized. It must first be determined whether ad hoc processes within the organization can be standardized. If there is consistency in application, or if there can be consistency in application, then those processes are possible candidates for standardization. Likewise, processes that are standardized but inconsistent are also likely candidates for improvement. Finally, processes that have already been standardized may work well for the present, but they should be tested for any areas in which workflow processes can be improved and made more efficient.
2. Redesign and Model
The redesign and model phase builds upon the analyze phase. From the list of categorized and prioritized processes, new processes and new workflows can be designed and modeled. For existing processes, this phase includes the improvement of process inefficiencies and standardization. For processes that have been ad hoc in the past, this is the establishment of a standardized process.
The implementation phase rolls out the changes that have been made to the organization's processes. In most BPM methodologies, this is done incrementally to avoid overwhelming the user population. Communication and change management are the keys to successful implementation of new workflow processes.
The monitoring portion of the AIIM BPM methodology tracks the metrics of workflow usage in both the early stage after rolling out the new workflow and for long-term workflow usage. The monitoring of processes allows a financial firm to identify changes and inefficiencies through workflow usage patterns. Usage patterns that may indicate the need for changes are bottlenecks or increasing lengths of time for workflow steps, workflow usage reductions or even large increases in workflow usage. Any changes in key metrics often require additional verification.
The management phase focuses on the management of workflow and processes. Workflow processes change with the firm over time. Whether those changes come from internal policy changes, new business imperatives or outside pressures such as compliance requirements, BPM should include an ongoing component to ensure organizational efficiency as changes occur.
The automation portion of the AIIM BPM methodology focuses on the reduction of manual intervention. Through the use of workflows, metadata input and storage location (often at the folder level), one is able to establish automation where manual input had once been required.
Improving Financial Firm Organizational Efficiency
The goal of BPM methodologies is to improve organizational efficiency within a financial firm. Through a standardized methodology such as AIIM's, organizations can reduce the overhead related to processes and focus on driving their efficiency.