Why SMBs should see big benefits in Workflow Automation

Today’s businesses are no strangers to the arrival of new technology and its power to create change. And it’s no coincidence that the most successful are those who adopt and embrace quickly.

From the introduction of electricity in the late Industrial Revolution, to the inception of the World Wide Web before the turn of the century, you can clearly see how business and society are shaped by technology.

We are now at the very beginning of another wave of new innovation – the age of digitisation. How this wider trend can be used to benefit small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is particularly interesting, and an area that is generating a lot of interest at the moment is Workflow Automation.

Let’s start by considering what Workflow Automation actually means. In simple terms, I’d say it’s the process of digitising and automating document-intensive workflows. A good example of this in practice for SMBs is around expense claims. Right now an employee may have to fill in a form and attach all their paper receipts. This may have to go to a number of people for sign-off, depending on the amount. This is all before the claim has reached the finance team.

By using digital technology, that whole process can be automated and thus streamlined.

It is about using the technology to digitise and automate as many steps in that process as possible. The core idea here is to take paper out of the equation and replace it with digital communication. This removes people from a laborious process, freeing them up to complete higher value tasks. Another big benefit here is that the business knows the amount it needs to pay much quicker, allowing it to better plan cash flow. Workflow Automation means you can run at a lower cost with a higher speed of action. It also boosts efficiency. As an added bonus, staff are happier because their expenses are paid more promptly.

Staying with the expenses example, traditional systems can be disparate. This makes it hard to see what an individual has claimed for over a period of time. Different rules and approval layers can also be applied and automated.

How this works for different use cases really depends on the process. But for those that are higher volume, if you’re able to remove people from it, you will save money as an organisation.

At Ricoh we’re excited to be making great strides in this space and show how we can support SMB firms. In Spain we’ve just launched an app that connects between our multi-function devices and the cloud. Businesses can scan expenses then send at the click of the button before they enter the approvals workflow. The machine then takes the signed claim in digital form and sends it to the right person for payment. We see a great opportunity to link up our huge network of multi-function devices to make it easier for customers to manage these type of processes.

I believe we are only scratching the surface in terms of the benefits and use cases this technology can bring. SMBs, in particular, can reap huge benefits from embracing Workflow Automation.

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