Workflow is Changing how Government and Non-Profits Operate

Start-ups across the United States appear to be fat and happy as billions of dollars are poured into their accounts and astronomical valuations enable them to make acquisitions and pay hefty salaries. Yet while the economy is purring along with increasing vibrancy, there are still sectors that do not necessarily luxuriate in the spoils of a booming economy.

Government agencies and non-profit groups, on the other hand, frequently deal with shrinking budgets despite an increased demand for services. People want more, however resources are not always available to address their needs. And, although it can be a major factor, technology alone cannot do what is required. As a result organizations are seeking better ways to run their operations. Workflow and business process management (BPM) are being recognized by government entities and non-profits as providing a framework that facilitates sustainable change while contributing to significant cost savings and enhancing efficiency.

Most enterprises look to technology to solve issues of operational redundancy, process change and organizational innovation. We know that there are plenty of vendors who promise ‘change’ and bottom-line improvements —and ‘demonstrate’ how to achieve these “quickly and effortlessly”. In our world, there is no such thing as effortless change. Most governmental and non-profit operations are not looking to improve quarterly numbers nor meet earnings per share expectations. When looking at how a County, a health department, or a non-profit organizes around goals, that view looks quite different from those of a typical company.

Workflow and BPM provide something beyond just software and APIs. With effective use of workflow and processes comes a culture change within an organization seeking business process improvement— and not just the data-driven kind. This is where governments have started to embrace workflow as a solution that maps to their needs. Rather than just identifying numerically-driven performance indicators, organizations that operate for the benefit of specific populations must be able to address issues of better customer service, sustaining a high responsiveness rate, and being able to adapt and meet needs in the midst of budget changes and organizational shifts. Workflow and BPM allow, and in fact, encourage teams to think about solving problems, not just meeting numbers.

Take, for instance, the County of Fresno (CA), where the IT department was tasked with providing better services to residents and identifying where processes could be improved. To meet the requirements of a growing population (whose need for services increases exponentially), the IT Department needed greater visibility into the County’s business processes. Its legacy system was no longer able to provide relevant analysis, reporting, or insights into the status of IT projects. As a result, IT was unable to predict delivery timeframes with any degree of certainty, preventing Fresno’s IT team from being responsive to the needs of its citizens. Those needs were real and critical to its operations.  Fresno wanted to approach the problem in a meaningful and judicious way, which workflow subsequently provided.

In the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, WI, officials decided they needed a more efficient and responsive solution to processing licenses, permits, work orders, building inspections, and requests for services. West Allis wanted to help things move faster, eliminate red tape and be easier to work with. These needs align with what workflow does best, yet they are not one-off solutions. Each of the processes that West Allis sought to improve needs continual oversight and modification. Rather than employing a solution such as ERP (which would not truly address its requirements) West Allis has selected workflow to enable non-developers to adapt as needed.

In both cases, these teams were able to do those tasks that provide a better end result for constituents as residents and as taxpayers. Workflow and BPM provided cost-effective solutions that have deepened thinking and dedication to end goals. These teams, and those in other organizations like Memphis Light, Gas, and Water, and the National Institute of Mental Health, have created systems of improved communication, sharing of content, connections with third-parties and greater transparency to stakeholders, irrespective of where they sit in the organization.

These organizations will not announce quarterly numbers, nor offer dividends to shareholders, yet they are already recognized as using the valuable elements of workflow software and BPM software to create more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable ways to operate.