In workflow management, a bottleneck is a situation causing a delay in a process or system.  Similar to a traffic jam, it prevents actions and documents from progressing within the workflow.  Bottlenecks are typically caused by inefficiencies in a workflow’s configuration.  While many managers are aware that the bottlenecks exist, they can be extremely difficult to pinpoint using traditional methods.  A workflow and document management system can help organizations detect these bottlenecks, so companies can rethink their workflows and create more efficient processes.

Types of Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks can be both short-term and long-term; however, there is a rigid dichotomy between the two.  Short-term bottlenecks are often inevitable and are caused by unavoidable instances, such as temporary absences, training times, and miscommunication.  Long-term bottlenecks, on the other hand, are systemic and can be much more devastating to an organization.  They present significant challenges for many organizations and are more likely to occur as a result of inefficient workflows and managerial processes.  While many employees may be working at full capacity, their current systems may actually hinder productivity and consequently impact the bottom line, and can do so for a long time if not corrected.

ImageSite’s Workflow+ module is the perfect tool for designing and optimizing workflows, such as those used by engineers and external collaborators.  Organizations can automate document actions at each step in the workflow and easily detect bottlenecks and data silos as they occur.  Not only do administrators have the ability to create and visualize company workflows in ImageSite, but they can make changes at any point in time and effortlessly rectify errors in their processes.

Audit Trails to Analyze Bottlenecks

The system also creates audit trails of all workflow and document actions within the system, ensuring no nefarious actions are taken and all projects are completed on time.  Audit trails provide records of all actions, including the frequency in which documents are opened, viewed, downloaded, or printed.  It’s an easy way to understand how users are interacting with the system and who is accessing each file.

Audit trails not only help organizations detect long-term bottlenecks but also help organizations manage audit compliance, making it easy to respond to regulatory requirements and e-discovery requests. Companies seeking certification can also use audit trails to comply with standards, including by NIST, ISO, DFARS, ITAR, and NERC/CIP.

To better understand timelines in a workflow, organizations can utilize ImageSite to create a clear understanding of the workflow's step-by-step progression.  With the Workflow+ module, managers can visualize the progress of a workflow by displaying progress as a percentage at each step.  It's up to the workflow creator (typically the administrator) to determine the status of a project at workflow steps so team members should be included, as their input may be valuable for creating realistic and achievable work effort accruals and deadlines.

Optimizing Bottlenecks

Reducing the number of bottlenecks in a workflow significantly improves processes by enabling organizations to complete workflow steps more quickly.  With optimized workflows, organizations can expect to see improvements in project turnover, enabling organizations to achieve a faster return on their investments and improvement in their bottom line.  It also helps companies create a less stressful environment, which is proven to improve productivity throughout their workforce.

Regardless of the industry you work in, a workflow and document management system can help your company optimize your workflows and improve key metrics that directly elevate your bottom line. ImageSite and Engine-Box (the Cloud version of ImageSite) are workflow and EDMS solutions created for engineers, and host an array of features designed to help organizations improve collaboration and elevate productivity.

For more information on ImageSite and Engine-Box, visit www.eQuorum.com.