In many companies, business processes executed in IT systems gather millions of pieces of information in databases every day. This is information from values entered by users on forms, history of the process, exceptions, statistics, etc. This information is available at your fingertips, often thanks to simple database queries, and its use allows for contextual presentation of information in the user interface. Despite these obvious advantages, in many process automation projects the potential of using historical data is not fully exploited.
In this article, we wanted to highlight some ways to use historical data in selected business processes. We hope that the suggestions for these solutions will help business analysts, implementation specialists or „citizen developers” 🙂 in delivering even more value to business users.
It’s time to speed up correspondence delivery
Undisputedly, the right step to present historical data is the assignment step, in the process of registering incoming documents into the company. Offices handling these documents often waste valuable time finding the right addressee of the correspondence. Incorrectly filed documents are returned to registration or start unnecessary flow throughout the organization, significantly prolonging the delivery to the right recipient. We can minimize this problem by using historical data presenting, for example, assignment for the last 5 similar documents. The word “similar” can mean here e.g. documents from the same addressee, of the same type, for the same company etc. – everything depends on the context and business logic of the process.
Thanks to such a solution, we can easily help our users find the right addressee, and with hundreds of documents filed daily, significantly accelerate and increase the efficiency of information flow within the organization.
To accept or not to accept? That is the question.
It is natural for us to forget tasks completed or decisions made in processes after a while. The same applies to approval in business processes. An example here could be the acceptance of cost documents or orders.
Especially among employees working in managerial positions, who accept a lot of cost documents on a daily basis, the presentation of historical acceptances from a selected period may help to make the right decision or help to catch some anomalies concerning the accepted document.
Active links to processes accepted in the past and additional information from these flows allow a significantly better assessment of the situation and a more complete verification of the document.
Analyzing many of our Customers’ business processes with the use of Process Mining or monitoring of specific process KPIs, we have noticed that the acceptance stage often significantly prolongs the whole process. A delayed acceptance is of course caused by many factors, the most important of which are:
- lack of complete information for decision making in the process.
- deliberate postponement of decisions, not accelerated by appropriate escalation mechanisms.
- lack of system acceptance via email response (lazy approval) or directly on the mobile device.
Both the cause of prolonged acceptance indicated in point 1 and 2 can be mitigated to a certain extent by placing statements with the history of acceptances (or rejections) for “similar documents”. Again, “similar” may mean something different depending on business conditions, e.g. acceptances from the same person, for a similar amount, in the same project, in a given quarter, etc. Factor 3, is related to the functionality of the BPM platform itself – using the low-code platform WEBCON BPS we can very easily use these functionalities.
Data in context means better decisions
The process of requisition or purchase requests begins with filling out a form and indicating the products and services that we want to order. Then, through appropriate approvals, the request is entered into the ERP system as a formal order. Often, this process has quite complex business rules related to warehouse data, conducting enquiries, analysis and negotiation of prices, sub-processes of consultation and verification. No matter how complex the process is, the beginning is always the same: the user has to select a list of product and service indexes, complete the header data related to e.g. cost qualification, dates of expected delivery, a project assignment, etc.
Visualization of historical orders from a given period may remind what products or services were ordered in the past. Adding to this overview also information about the selected contractors or finally achieved prices during the negotiation process, can help to properly submit the demand/purchase request. The possibility to go to historical forms and use the cloning function, i.e. copying the content to a new form, shall significantly accelerate filling in of the whole form.
Both during the registration of a document or task in a process and at later stages, e.g. comparing offers or accepting an order, historical data can provide a better perspective and context for making the right decisions and choices in a specific process.
Let’s Go Next Stage 🙂
All right, but what next? How can we automate our processes even better using historical data? An idea here is to automatically substitute historical data as default values for form fields. Sure, it won’t always be the right solution, but we can find many examples when this idea works great in practice. Below are two examples:
- Registering case in the Case Management – when a user from a given department often registers similar cases, based on historical data, the system fills in fields with the type and classification of the case, the team working on the documents and the required approvals (in this process they are assigned dynamically, for more see our article Every business process is a case management.
- Delegation registration – users from a given department, who often travel to the same places, after activating the registration form on the basis of historical data will immediately receive filled-in fields with the purpose and place of the trip and e.g. the value of the advance payment, which was collected in a specific value during previous delegations.
We can take our automation evolution a step further by adding some intelligence to our system and use elements of AI (Artificial Intelligence). At certain stages of the process, we can ask ‘brilliant’ questions to users based on our historical data:
- Contract Lifecycle Management – a message that we can display after moving from contract preparation to acceptance – “For some time now, you have been passing all contracts to [name of person and/or department] for substantive consultation, or do you want to go straight to acceptance this time?”
- Order Approvals Process – a message we may display when accepting an order – “The last three orders from this Contractor have had service delays, are you sure you want to accept orders from this Contractor?”
We could multiply endlessly the examples of using historical data in business processes, but one thing is certain: not using this potential is a great loss for the process, the user, but also for the whole organisation. We encourage you to think about this topic in project groups creating such solutions in your company.
To be heard in the upcoming posts on our blog 🙂