Instant messaging tends to be the fastest method of communication within a business, short of picking up the phone. What about using IM to speed up workflows?
Salesforce.com has done just that with its instant-chat platform Chatter. A function called Approvals in Chatter lets receive approval requests as posts in their Chatter feeds. You can also customise the way the approval request post displays in Chatter by creating unique post templates and associating them with your approval processes.
A classic example is in sales where a manager needs to sign off on a quote. Many businesses would create a quote in Microsoft Word, save it as a PDF and send it to a manager to print, scan and email back. With Chatter approvals, a user clicks a “for approval” button and the key information is sent in an instant message to the manager with a big Approve button.
Once a manager clicks approve, the workflow can then generate the quote document, create a task, email a link to a webpage or a webform, send documents to the customer for electronic signatures, or trigger some other step in the process as required.
Workflow automation should aim for three outcomes – process efficiency, improving customer experience or increasing revenue.
In one recent project for improving efficiency, a plant hire firm that rented cherry pickers and lifts used Chatter to approve quotes. The quotes workflow was split into two depending on the size of the quote. If a company wanted to hire a cherry picker for six months rather than a one-off job the approvals workflow required more levels of approval before the quote was issued to the customer.
Another customer, a foreign exchange margin business, wanted to boost revenue by streamlining the sales process. The 20-person sales team were competing for leads among themselves as they came across their desks.
The broker set up a Chatter workflow that assigned leads based on their location, potential value, the stage of the buying cycle and the capacity of each salesperson. If one sales executive had a lot of leads to follow up the workflow would automatically assign it to the next person. This balanced the load across the team.
By automating a manual process the workflow gave back each member of the sales team eight hours a week. The revenue rose directly as a result of the revised workflow.