Inner-office work flow

For the past six weeks we have been examining different ways automation on websites is beneficial to the company and oftentimes that leaks over to the customer’s experience. We have seen where a goal of easing the work load of employees has had an inadvertent effect on the consumer’s experience also. In this issue of Brad’s Helpful tricks and Tips, we are going off-line, in a sense, to discuss in-office work flow.

In government organizations, expenses have to go up a chain of approval before payment can be issued to the vendor (company). When an organization such as boards of developmental disabilities needs to pay a new vendor, that vendor has to first be approved by the county auditor and it is this step that we are going to be focusing on in this issue of the newsletter.

A board of developmental disabilities has employees who need to pay vendors for a very wide range of reasons. You could have support administrators who need to authorize payment for a person’s wheelchair to be repaired. Another example would be hiring an individual or company to do their website. An even more basic, the need to hire a repairman to come fix a broken door.  So as you can see, a vendor can be a very wide range of individuals or companies who all have to be approved before issuing payment. To make it a little more complicated, each board employee needs to have the ability to submit these new vendors for auditor’s approval and to do this, a request has to go through some sort of fiscal department/person at the board.

Any time you have multiple people submitting information, you are going to have minor, and sometimes major, variations in the way each person does it. Not only that, you also have to worry about human error. These two things can slow down the process, and as we all know, time is a precious commodity so the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities came to me to see if I could come up with a way to streamline this process. While this could have easily been accomplished by building a portal through the website that only the board employees could access, we really wanted to keep it in-house, on their internal network. Another requirement was that, since it was going to be used by about a hundred employees, it had to be lightweight enough as to not need installed on everybody’s computer.

The solution was to build a self executable program that would live in a share folder on the network and place a shortcut to it on all of the employees’ computers. A very big plus side to this method is that since everyone is running the same executable file, any updates needed to be made to the program could be made in one centralized location and inherently applied to everyone who runs it. By having employees use this program, it also allowed for some pre-submission validation of the information being sent to the fiscal person. This means the information is more likely to be in the correct format and ready to be sent to the auditor with little or no corrections needed, increasing time efficiency.

This program helps with more than just new vendors though. There are several other actions that need to be performed with vendors periodically, such as when the vendor’s place of business changes, they change their name, they decide to change the service(s) they offer, or other information about the company changes. All of these changes have to go through the county auditor and need to be sent in a format that makes sense. Instead of having the fiscal person take the information from an e-mail that employees sends, this program takes all of the submissions and automatically generates a spreadsheet that is ready to be sent to the auditor. One more helpful task this program handles is, sometimes forms need to be sent out to the vendor. When needed, this program sends out the appropriate forms via e-mail when the vendor has an e-mail address. If the vendor does not have an e-mail address, a note is attached to the submission so that the fiscal department knows they need to send out the forms via the postal service. Once again, making the process more streamline and efficient.

While this scenario is not website related, you can see how automation helps saves time and increase efficiency and productivity in the work place. By having an easy to use, customized solution that is tailored made instead of trying to adapt a pre-existing solution, we were able to build a solution that is easy to use, has little to no learning curve and is not bloated which makes it easier to maintain. Many pre-existing solutions are built to be as general as possible in order to appeal to a lot of people and organizations.

I have added some people to the recipient list of this newsletter so just as a reminder, I send out this newsletter bi-weekly with a helpful solution I have created for one of my clients. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter anymore, simply shoot me an e-mail letting me know and there will be no hard feelings. On the contrary, if you know of anyone who might benefit from these newsletters, feel free to forward this to them and if they would like to regularly receive it, have them let me know!