Strategy

7 tips for improving information flow

By George Parapadakis, Director of Business Solution Strategy at Alfresco Software
Strategy
Published: 6 February 2018

Process and content work better when they work together. To create a seamless information flow that advances digital transformation goals, integrating process services and content services is a must. The value of content will be increased, while core business operations will run faster, more efficiently, and with greater agility. Here are seven tips to help bolster your organisation’s information flow:

1. Identify content silos
Compile a list of disconnected content storage locations and systems across the enterprise to understand what’s in each ‘silo’ and the business processes the content is used in. It’s also essential to know if you are spending money storing content that doesn’t add value to the business and potentially archive or delete it. You can use a variety of tools that automate finding and classifying content, to ensure that it is stored appropriately and is able to move efficiently across operational processes.

2. Map information flows
Develop diagrams showing the major information flows in and out of your organisation. From end to end and across the entire customer journey, always including any external partners. Here, it’s important to identify where departments and processes intersect, as well as where disconnects, delays, bottlenecks and dead ends are. These are the impediments to fast, efficient information flow and need to be found and addressed.

3. Prioritise a problem to solve
Ask questions such as: Is there an information flow that’s critical to a department or digital transformation initiative? What matters most to the business and its future strategy? Then consider the difficulty of the solution versus its potential impact. If you can, start small for a quick win, and then iterate. Breaking complex processes into smaller components is also good practice, as this reduces risk and accelerates results.

4. Align with business goals
Changes and decisions should be tied to business outcomes. Agreeing on metrics and goals that align will help you secure a budget and buy-in from the business. Streamlined information flow can save time and money, increase capacity, employee productivity, or reduce exceptions, error rates, risk and inconsistencies. Perhaps the key driver for your business is to improve customer experience, regulatory compliance or enable new ways of working.

5. Engage users in solution development
Start your solution design with the users, not an architectural blueprint. Sit down with them; watch their work process and how they interact with content. What systems do they use? What workarounds have they improvised? What slows them down or wastes their time? What functionality can you offer them that will reduce time and effort? This user-centric design thinking approach will reveal what the solution can automate, eliminate, and simplify to improve information flow.

6. Address privacy and compliance requirements
Most processes and the content that flows through them have compliance requirements. It’s therefore imperative to identify what’s needed in terms of records declaration and management, process tracking and auditability, and security and compliance controls. Aim for ‘invisible’ information governance and embed these capabilities in the solution from the get-go. Information governance is much more than compliance. It is the strategy behind the entire information lifecycle, including effective management of information’s authority, control, accessibility, privacy and visibility. In other words, compliance is the end goal, and information governance the way to achieve it. Content can then be easily sorted and managed, while access and monitoring controls can be implemented where needed.

7. Build on an open, integrated platform
Accelerate solution delivery and time to value by starting with a platform that fully integrates process services, content services, and governance services. This will reduce months of effort in stitching together several individual best-of-breed products. At the same time an open platform makes it easier to orchestrate information flows between systems, while closed or proprietary products just perpetuate process and content silos.

To ensure you are on your way to effective information flow, ask yourself the following:

  • What are your company’s digital transformation goals?
  • Which processes are slowed down by silos and inefficiencies?
  • What content supports these processes?
  • What does a day in the life of the process participant or knowledge worker look like?
  • Where are the process disconnects and information gaps?
  • How can you integrate, automate, or simplify, to improve information flow?

All of these steps will ensure you have an integrated approach to accelerating digital transformation. With a system that is simple to use, and where information flow is automatically managed. As a result you will be able to achieve operational excellence, engaged and productive employees, enhanced decision making, better customer experience, and stronger compliance.