How speedily can your company respond to complaints?
The best way to manage complaints differs according to each company. In all cases, though, the quality and speed of responses are in reverse proportion to each other. Debates regarding Quick Response, customer satisfaction and concierge services are truly diverse, and solutions are never simple. This is where a BPM consultant's competence is tested.

One thing that is clear, however, is the importance of recording the current situation, or knowing how fast the current system is able to handle complaints. This is the first step to improvement.
For example, in today's workflow sample, the point is to measure the time between webform input and automatic email response.

Tasks: 1. Confirm Complaint/Respond/Send On, 2. Respond, 3. Approve/Revise/Return, 4. Handle Return

[Complaint Management <Record Response>: "1. Confirm Complaint/Respond/Send On" screen]

Japan is entering the season of the year for accepting new employees. We already introduced some workflows for issuing new account IDs in the articles "Streamlining Issuance of Information System Login IDs" and "Issuing Accounts Via Multiple Staff Members."

ID issuance is not the only thing new employees must have done. There are so many small tasks, like writing self-introductions, signing employment agreements, handing in declaration forms, etc.

Reference: Stuff That Needs to Be Done When Hiring the New Guy

Tasks: 1. Register New Employee, 2. Confirm Necessary Procedures, 3a. Create Declaration Form, 3b. Write Self-introduction, 3c. Sign Employment Agreement, 4a. Confirm Declaration Form, 4b. Confirm Self-introduction, 4c. Confirm Signature in Agreement, 5. Confirm Completion

[New Employee <Completion Mail>: "1. Register New Employee" screen]

In yesterday's article, "<a href="">Streamlining Issuance of Information System Login IDs</a>," we looked at a process for issuing IDs.

But in many companies, one employee can't be responsible for all accounts in all information systems. The below workflow expands on yesterday's workflow.

1. Apply for ID Issuance, 2. Approve Application, 3. Accept Application, 4abcd. Issue ID, 5. Confirm

[Account Issuance <By PIC> : "3. Accept Application" screen]

April is the month when many Japanese companies hire new employees. This means companies have to handle a lot of new application forms, such as issuing new accounts for internal information systems. Using a workflow system is the best bet for making sure none of the applications are overlooked.

A workflow system that can handle different routes depending on the applicant (split conditions) is convenient for allowing anyone to start applications as proxy.

1. Apply for ID Issuance, 2. Approve Application, 3. Accept Application, 4. Issue ID, 5. Confirm

[Account Issuance <Queries/Answers> : "1. Apply for ID Issuance" screen]

We introduced a workflow for Taking Data Outside the Office in the Era of Cloud Computing, but you don't want to grant and cancel temporary authorization manually. Naturally, the authorization settings for accessing data files depends on the system that manages those files. For example, if your company uses Google Apps as an internal platform, it will be necessary to use Google Documents APIs. (We must borrow the power of SE.)

* Google Documents List Data API v3.0 (Labs) - Modifying Document and Folder Sharing Permissions
* Google Documents List Data API v2.0 - Modifying Document Sharing Permissions

Tasks: Apply for Authorization to Access, 2. Give Temporary Authorization, 3. Handle Rejection, 4. Report Action, 5. Cancel Authorization, 6. Confirm Cancellation

[Data Access <Change External Authorization>: "4. Report Action" screen]

Can data saved in the "Cloud" be taken out freely?
It is only a matter of time before Cloud computing hits mainstream. The era of limiting locations (headquarters, plants, call centers, etc.) used VPN technology to keep things closed even when separated. However, today's hot words are telecommuting and Cloud computing. We have to reconsider the problem of carrying data outside the office from scratch.

As one opinion, we offer the below four principles to work from, with a perspective of optimizing work (continuance of current work, using teleworking, assuming global businesses) and handling natural disasters.
[Centralization] Data should be centrally managed on the Cloud.
[Control] Authorization to access each data should be kept at the bare minimum.
[Log] Every reference and browsing of data should be recorded and logged.
[Education] Duplicating data to local disks or media should be prohibited (personal education).

Today let's introduce a workflow for giving temporary permission to browse particularly sensitive data.

Tasks: 1. Apply for Authorization to Access, 2. Give Temporary Authorization, 3. Handle Rejection, 4. Report Action, 5. Cancel Authorization

[Data Access <Confirm Cancellation>: "2. Give Temporary Authorization" screen]

In regards to security management, employees should not take data and computers outside the office. But when it is absolutely unavoidable for telecommuting or outside work, the important points are "prior application" and "appropriate follow-ups." The below workflow is modeled after a paper-based "permission to take out data" form, and automatically records who took out what computer or USB memory, when, for what reasons, etc.

* We'll talk more about the discussion of carrying data outside the office in the era of Cloud computing tomorrow.

Tasks: 1. Apply for Authorization to Transport Data, 2. Approve Authorization, 3. Handle Rejection, 4. Report Action

[Permission to Transport Data <Confirm Follow-up>: "2. Approve Authorization" screen]

Teleworking is One of Today's Needs

Thursday, March 24, 2011
There are so many reasons why telecommuting is big right now: Childcare support, elderly care, earthquakes, influenza scares, commuting and labor efficiency, CO2 reduction, free desk, cost reduction, community activation, etc.
Ever since the establishment of Japan's "2003 eJapan strategy II," more companies are supporting "teleworking" and the population of teleworkers has risen to approximately 20%. In Japan most teleworkers work at home after pre-determining the content of work and time it will take to finish. (Also see: A Workflow for a Telecommuting System)

Today's workflow system is a general workflow for providing work instructions. This makes work instructions, schedule adjustments and management of results transparent. Being able to clearly allocate and instruct work is essential in teleworking.

1. Instruct Work, 2. Reply Schedule, 3. Approve Schedule, 4a. Additional Instructions, 4b. Register Results, 5. Confirm Completion

[Telecommuting <Suggest Work> : "" screen]

A Workflow for a Telecommuting System

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Cloud computing works well with telecommuters. Having a workflow system on the "Cloud" helps to make applications, approvals, reports and reviews available anywhere, at any time. Today's faster communication speed and advanced terminals will surely accelerate work at home and mobile use.

Japan is currently seeing difficulties in the transportation facilities due to the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake. Today's sample workflow allows workers to register in advance the work they intend to perform at home, and also hand in a report at the end of the day.

1. Register Work Content, 2. Approve Work Content, 3. Report Commencement of Work, 4. Report Completion of Work

[Telecommuting <Report Work> : "2. Approve Work Content" screen]

Speedily processing business data is one of the essential missions of workflow systems (BPMS). But sometimes, for example, in a workflow that handles external inquiries, something may come up that cannot be handled by one inquiry counter staff. In other words, the item has to be confirmed by other departments.

Today we'll be further improving the Inquiry Flow That Depends on Identified Keywords, which we designed to be able to monitor the amount of inquiries and respond quickly.

0. Inquiry by Phone, etc., 1a. Emergency Inquiry, 1b. Password Inquiry, 1c. Application Inquiry, 1x. General Inquiry, 2b. Password Inquiry, 2c. Application Inquiry, 2x. General Inquiry, 3. Internal Advice, 4. Respond

[Inquiry Response <Internal Advice> : "1b. Password Inquiry" screen]

Routine work is good. As you continue handling external inquiries according to the workflow process, delivery and quality will naturally get better. The keyword here is "best practice management."

Today's workflow let's the team leader assess the responses. This makes it easier to find good samples to reuse or to use in new employee training.

0. Inquiry by Phone, etc., 1a. Emergency Inquiry, 1b. Password Inquiry, 1c. Application Inquiry, 1x. General Inquiry, 2b. Password Inquiry, 2c. Application Inquiry, 2x. General Inquiry, 3. Assessment

[Inquiry Response <ML Share> : "Share" Email settings]

Processes for handling external inquires tend to become overloaded when the number of inquiries increase. That's the inevitable reality. Or is it? Even if the number of inquiries increases, the "number of types of inquiries" should not change dramatically. Automatically categorizing and separating the types of inquiries should be efficient for minimizing response time.

Today's workflow sample automatically changes the business rules if the system identifies a certain set of keywords within webform and email inquiries from external sources.

0. Inquiry by Phone, etc., 1a. Emergency Inquiry, 1b. Password Inquiry, 1c. Application Inquiry, 1x. General Inquiry, 2b. Password Inquiry, 2c. Application Inquiry, 2x. General Inquiry

<Related Workflows>

[Inquiry Response <Auto Category> : "1b. Password Inquiry" screen]

Collecting, sharing and announcing information is an extremely important function within a company. if the team in charge of information merely sends out the information it collects as is, there's no meaning in this team to exist. In other words, this team not only has to collect and send out information, it has to also filter, supplement and organize all the information it gets.

0. Register Info for Possible Sharing, 1a. First Confirmation (Emergency), 1b. First Confirmation (Regular), 2a. Documentation (Emergency/New), 2a+. Documentation (Emergency/Existing), 2b. Documentation (Regular/New), 2b+. Documentation (Regular/Existing)

[Internal Announcement <IR Info>: "1a. First Confirmation (Emergency)" screen]

The Workflow for Procedures in Emergencies was a general flow for emergencies that started with identifying and confirming damages to announcing a state of emergency. But companies that have an alarm system or an information system that can identify crises, this portion of the workflow should be automatic to a certain extent, so they should be able to make faster decisions about whether it is an emergency or not.

Related workflows

1. Instruct to Check Damage (& Announce Emergency), 2. Announce Emergency, 3. On-time Instruction, 3abc. Start, 4abc. Report, 5. Confirm Report, 6. Decide to Gather Involved Parties

[Contingency Plan <Auto Send>: "1. Instruct to Check Damage (& Announce Emergency)" screen]

The major earthquake in North Japan (*) has been followed by many smaller earthquakes everyday. Japan's economy is under chaos with the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear plant accidents. We sincerely hope to see things turn around during the next six months or one year. (* The 2011 Off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake)

Today's workflow sample is called a contingency plan. It is a workflow for confirming damages and announcing a state of emergency. When emergency procedures are in place, people will be able to follow them better when something happens. Of course, there should be "practice drills" every six months or so, and the process should be revised periodically. This workflow assumes not only natural disasters such as earthquakes, but also cyber attacks and financial damage caused by rumors or misinformation.

A manager that notices the emergency, thus in charge of confirming damages, immediately begins to grasp the situation, and accordingly gather involved parties. The system automatically records who did what work at what time, so this can be referred to at a latter date.

1. Instruct to Check Damage, 2. Confirm Start, 3. On-time Instruction, 3a. Start, 4a. Report, 5. Confirm Report, 6. Decide to Gather Involved Parties, 7. Announce State of Emergency

[Contingency Plan <Notification>: "1. Instruct to Check Damage" screen]

In an emergency, companies will want to efficiently assess the amount of damage at each branch. Further measures can be decided only after assessing the situation. As a general rule, having several locations input info in a centralized location, like a Google Spreadsheet (or webform) is often beneficial. This cuts communication costs, because multiple sources can access one resource. (The problem of efficiency depends more on "what kind of items you include in the form.")

The below workflow send damage reports to all employees at 9:00 AM every morning. This allows the entire company to be aware of the overall damage situation, at the same time, and also makes it easier to confirm everyone's safety.

[Damage Report <Fixed Time>: "1. Report situation" screen]

The massive earthquake and tsunami is expected to take the lives of tens of thousands of people. We sincerely hope Japan can come together to provide assistance and revive the affected areas as soon as possible.

Today let's consider a workflow for giving instructions and checking work progress. Instructions on work can easily be made by personal emails, but BPMS systems let managers see the company's overall tasks, and clearly know which employee has and is working on what work.

[Work Instruction : "1. Register/Instruct Work" screen]

You may be tired of our "free sample request workflow" by now, but management of inquiries (leads) is a crucial theme in business.
"Creating a Workflow for Managing Requests for Samples"
"Responding Quickly to Communications in Sample Requests"
"Workflow Split for Customers Who Don't Have Email Accounts"
"Making Follow-up Calls 10 Days After Shipping a Free Sample"

[Sample Request <Sales Approach>: "6. Report of First Approach" screen]

Today we'd like to consider improving our free sample request workflow (see "Creating a Workflow for Managing Requests for Samples," "Responding Quickly to Communications in Sample Requests," "Workflow Split for Customers Who Don't Have Email Accounts") by adding a follow-up task for calling or emailing the prospective customer; an obvious improvement.

[Sample Request <Follow-up>: "5. Specify Sales Staff" screen]

If your company receives requests for free samples by phone as well as electronic methods, you might want to refrain from making the "email address" a required item. But in order to prevent mis-input and overlooks you really do want to make email addresses mandatory.

One general solution to this quandary is to input a dummy email address for people who have obviously entered an incorrect addresses or who don't have an email account. That's one solution.

But this doesn't prevent emails from being sent. Today let's work on improving our previous workflows introduced in "Creating a Workflow for Managing Requests for Samples" and "Responding Quickly to Communications in Sample Requests."

[Sample Request <No Email>: "Thank You Email" settings screen]

The workflow we introduced in "Creating a Workflow for Managing Requests for Samples" was almost completely automated.

But it's probably a good idea to let an actual person respond quickly to cases that have input in the "Communication" field. (Concurrent processing by human and computer)

[Sample Request <Communication Field>: "3. Adressee Sticker/Cancel Shipment" screen]

Free samples are often used for marketing tools, especially in cosmetics and health foods industries. It may be one idea to have a "system for managing and shipping free samples" custom-made, but you can probably design your own using a present-day workflow product. That way you will be able to accommodate spec changes immediately.

Today's workflow sample is for companies that reliably manage personal information in the Information System Department's database. If registered correctly, the process will go through to the "thank you email" automatically.

[Sample Request <Shipping>: "1. Confirm Registration" screen]

Like we've repeatedly emphasized, it's important that company documents are reviewed and proofread. One way to make this more usable is to let people specify the range of the reviewing team. (Spin-off of "A Document Reviewing Workflow")

[Document Review <Team or Dept>: "1. Request Review" screen]

A Document Reviewing Workflow

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
It's important for companies to have their documents double-checked. Questetra BPM Suite has a discussion board type function, so with the below workflow, team members can add their comments and opinions whenever they have extra time. The process continues to receive comments until the original user (person who is requesting the document review) decides to end it at task 2x (Respond to Comments/End).

[Document Review <Team Comments>: "1. Request Review" screen]

A programmer's skill depends greatly on the level of the organization. The existence of a "charismatic" programmer at study sessions can have a great impact on the effect of internal training.

Today's workflow sample allows this "charismatic" programmer review the final codes and add comments. For the organization, materials of past meetings are valuable resources. (Spin-off of "Recording "Code Reviews" on Workflows")