May 28, 2013 by Tom Zeliff Categories: Office Automation

To optimize efficiency and minimize risk when processing documents, organizations must ensure that all documents are captured and present before any given process is completed. Missing documents must be quickly identified and resubmitted to continue processing. The alternative: inefficiency, higher costs and potential regulatory headaches, failed audits, and lawsuits. Examples include I-9s as part of HR on-boarding and credit applications as part of order fulfillment.

What tool helps organizations achieve this? The exception handling functionality within workflow automation software.

Exception Handling Defined

In addition to streamlining any process, workflow automation software provides proactive notifications via email alerts if any documents are missing during processing so they can be identified and submitted. This is what we call “exception handling.” In this way, exception handling ensures that you have all of the required information before any process or transaction is finalized and that you are in compliance with company policies, industry regulations and federal law.

Not all workflow automation software offers exception handling, so you’ll want to look for this capability if you’re thinking about implementing workflow or upgrading your current system. The leading applications allow you to create customized workflows based on your existing business processes, helping to streamline standard business procedures such as new employee on-boarding and order fulfillment.

New Employee On-Boarding: Internal Example

For the human resources department, workflow exception handling helps staff keep track of all documents that must be provided throughout the on-boarding process. For instance, before an employee is hired, an email can be sent to the hiring manager and potential employee if the I-9 or other required documents were not completed. The email may even contain a link to an I-9 e-form for completion.

Furthermore, the employee may need to provide benefits documents within a month, direct deposit documents within a week, and employee handbook confirmation within three days. Automatic notifications can be sent to the employee, their manager and HR management if these are not imported into the document management system within the required timeframe. You can easily track who is responsible for completing, submitting, and managing the necessary documents, a feature that is especially important for management. This helps to ensure compliance with all HR policies, proactively. Spreadsheets, which may have been used to track the exceptions manually and are prone to error and version control issues, are no longer needed.

Order Fulfillment: External Example

When a customer places an order, a wide variety of documents must be in place to fulfill it. For many organizations, this may include credit documentation, the contract and the purchase order. If exceptions are present, they need to be highlighted quickly for the order to be processed in a timely manner.

When the order is placed, an email confirmation that the order is in the house can be sent to both the ordering party and the appropriate salesperson. If a credit application is not present, then the email can contain a credit application, and a description of the credit approval process. In parallel, an email notification is sent to a customer service representative, requiring them to confirm the order and make any corrections, which may need to be approved by the customer. Once all documents are in place, confirmation emails can be sent to all relevant parties.

Ensure Process Integrity

With exception handling, workflow automation software helps to ensure the integrity of the business process itself. By identifying which documents are needed, missing and available, exception handling leads to more efficient and thorough business processes—proactively, and in a way that minimizes risk to the organization. In the end, it allows your staff to focus on resolving issues rather than getting bogged down with processing paper documents.