Office automation. Workflows to reduce email and Excel volume. Tommy & Clerius [Chapter 8]


When the Head of the Administration Department, Mrs. Numer, confronted Tommy, he already knew that the need was for office automation. His company, CleTo, had grown a lot, and it was impossible to continue managing administrative processes with Excel spreadsheets, and emails. Many emails.

Some of the tasks that are typically handled with spreadsheets and emails, but are actually automatable processes, are:

  • Purchase of office supplies.
  • Purchase of small fixed-assets or repairs.
  • Investments (large asset purchases)
  • Salary advance.
  • Travel expenses advance.
  • Expenses Reimbursement (used as an example below)
  • Construction, review, approval, and submission of accounting reports.
  • Documentation of Board of Directors’ minutes.
  • Follow-up of tasks defined by the Board of Directors.
  • Periodic evaluation of suppliers.
  • Periodic submission of reports for Banks.
  • etc, etc, etc.

Autonomy to automate

Sounds like a play on words but it’s not. Tommy immediately realized that he needed to give autonomy to the Administrative Department, so that they could model their processes themselves, with autonomy. It was unfeasible that he, one of the Directors of the company, would be the one to get into the details of each process, for its later automation in the BPM Suite they already had. The approach should be different. He should give autonomy to Mrs. Numer so that she and her team could move forward with the office automation initiative.

To achieve the desired autonomy, it was essential:

  1. To have the support of the management. Done. Both he and Clerius were very keen on automating all processes and would give Mrs. Numer the support and time needed to take the initiative forward.
  2. To have a friendly tool, so that non-technicians can automate their processes. Done. Flokzu is an intuitive and simple BPM Suite, to be used by non-technical personnel (see Low-Code Platforms give IT a breath.)
  3. Define priorities and a process deployment schedule. While all are important, the first process must be chosen well. It should show positive results and thus add to the team some skeptics who may have been left behind.

The first administrative process

Choosing the first administrative process to automate is key to the success of the office automation initiative. Like any change, it will generate resistance from some people.

It is critical that the first business process to be automated is successful. First, this will confirm the Board’s confidence in the initiative. Second, it will help convince those people who were skeptical of the project to join in. Thirdly, and not least, it will strengthen the project team, with an initial victory, to continue even more strongly to automate the following processes.

The first process to be automated should be chosen by balancing complexity with business contribution. It cannot be trivial, because it will surely contribute little to the business. Nor can it be very complex, because it will be more likely to fail.

Do not reinvent the wheel

Starting a process configuration from scratch, while not complex, can seem intimidating to a team of administrative, not IT people. Therefore, the recommendation is not to start from scratch, and not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, the recommendation is to take a pre-defined process template for the first process in your office automation roadmap. And adjust, modify and iterate on it, until you reach the final version. Then you can move to the next process.

As an example, in Flokzu’s process library, you can find the Expense Reimbursement Process. You can start with a very simple version of the process, where someone requests a refund, that is reviewed. If it is approved, it is reimbursed. And if not, you can ask for more information or reject the refund. The following BPMN diagram models this process:

Office automation. Expense Reimbursement Process example with Flokzu BPM.

Starting from a template will also make it easier to define the form with the relevant fields for the administrative process. Continuing with the example, the form for an Expense Reimbursement should include:

  • Name used
  • Department
  • Date of expenditure
  • Description
  • Currency of Expenditure
  • Amount to be reimbursed

It’s probably also interesting to keep a picture of the expense receipt. In this regard, Mrs. Numer said to her team:

Ideally, when the expense occurs (e.g. at the end of a lunch), the person should take a picture of the receipt (invoice), and start the reimbursement process from his phone. This way we would really save a lot of e-mails and time.

All these features are included in a BPM Suite like Flokzu, so Tommy encouraged Mrs. Numer and his team to start implementing this first process as soon as possible.

Office automation starts at home

“remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye”

Any effort to automate administrative processes should begin with the area in which you work, you know, and where you can be most effective in improving them.

First, the motivation to improve the processes in which you participate, and which make up the objectives of your area, will always be very high. This is key for the first implementation of the processes, as well as for the natural evolution they will have in the future.

Second, to automate a process it is necessary to know it in depth. That is why Tommy immediately thought that the Administrative area itself should be responsible for automating its processes. It is costly and very slow to transmit all the knowledge to an external party so that it automates the processes.

In short, you will have much more efficient and effective office automation, if it is done by a team that works with those processes on a daily basis.

In conclusion…

Many of the typical administrative processes have been left out of ERP’s and digitization initiatives. They are still done through Excel spreadsheets and emails. This leads to inefficiencies and is definitely a barrier to growth.

Ideally, the same Administration team should be responsible for office automation. For this, you need a friendly BPM Suite, which allows them to deploy complete processes quickly, and without involving IT staff.

It is important to choose the first process well, balancing its complexity with its contribution to the business. And then, do not start from scratch, but from a predefined template, to iterate in the adjustments until getting a final version.

This project ideally should be assigned to the Administration department itself, which knows each administrative process in depth.

In this way, amazing results will be achieved, automating and deploying processes in a short time, showing results to the whole organization and strengthening the digital strategy.

Schedule here a 30 minutes session and let’s automate one of your administrative processes together!