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Workflow integration more important than interoperability?

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Properly implemented integrated workflow systems can provide measurable improvement in organisational efficiency in very short timeframes.

That's the view of Grant Ward, management consultant at IQbusiness, who said that integrated workflow could provide immediate relief to business issues that were a result of poor interoperability.

"It is easier to achieve tactical business efficiencies through workflow, rather than through interoperability," he added.

He was commenting on a statement by the CIO of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, Darrin Dworkin, who is introducing a host of technological innovations to the iconic 958-bed hospital, that "Workflow integration is actually a bigger problem than interoperability. When it comes to organisational efficiencies, it's not about getting A and B to talk to each other. It's about creating the experience for the user, who doesn't know whether he's in A or B and, by the way, shouldn't have to care because the workflow has been integrated."

Ward maintained that interoperability - the basic ability of computerised systems to readily connect and communicate with one another - was not easy to achieve. However, he added that the business case for business process management (BPM) and robotic process automation (RPA) solutions, was to a large extent driven by the need for interoperability and the promise that BPM/RPA could easily provide workflow integration between systems and humans, thereby bridging the interoperability gap.

Robin Olivier, Managing Director at Apple supplier and total solutions provider Digicape, said interoperability would be more beneficial and easier to implement than workflow integration in situations in which organisations had teams of people with different skill sets or knowledge.

"Workflow integration is undoubtedly more challenging to achieve because this would require A and B to have the same skills and/or knowledge. Machine learning or artificial intelligence could be a solution in achieving this, but I still firmly believe that people inherently want to deal with people," Olivier added.

Ward agreed, pointing out that any business process that touched an organisation's customers required good workflow processes. "A client on-boarding process for instance should appear to be seamless to the client regardless of any human-to-human, human-to-system or system-to-system touch points. In this case workflow integration can help ensure a consistent, repeatable process experience for the customer," he explained.

According to Ward, the best way for an organisation to begin to deal with workflow integration issues was to understand the hand-off points across the end-to-end business process to ensure that all integration points were taken into account.

Olivier maintained that machine learning or artificial intelligence would be the most productive and cost-efficient way of implementing integrated workflow. The alternative, he said, was to have a team of customer-facing people who were highly skilled in every aspect of their organisation's operations supported by a well-designed ERP/CRM system to allow them access to the data for every step of the workflow.

"Systems are integral to successfully integrating workflows. Historically this has been limited to large enterprises due to the inhibitive costs of capable system development. However, we are increasingly seeing affordable Web and app-based products like Slack or Teamwork that offer offering solutions for the small to medium sized businesses to better enable better workflow integration," Olivier concluded.

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