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Workflow Options in Back-Office Automation

All workflow solutions are not created equal.

Rules-based workflows and ad hoc workflows represent two different approaches to managing processes within an organization. Understanding the goals of the business process(es) that will be utilizing a workflow solution is key to making a good decision. In this blog we will address some of the high-level features and functions of each methodology:

  • Rules-Based Workflow:
    • Definition: In a rules-based workflow, predefined rules and conditions dictate how tasks or processes should be executed. These rules are typically established in advance based on specific criteria, such as the type of task, the user responsible, or the status of the process.
    • Automation: Rules-based workflows are often highly automated, with tasks being automatically routed, escalated, or completed based on predefined conditions. For example, an invoice approval process may automatically route invoices above a certain amount to a higher-level manager for approval.
    • Predictability: Rules-based workflows provide predictability and consistency in how tasks are handled, as they follow predefined rules and guidelines. This can help improve efficiency and reduce errors by ensuring that tasks are completed in a consistent manner. This can also help reduce the risk of fraud from a rouge user(s) routing a payment outside of the process parameters.
    • Examples: Examples of rules-based workflows include payment approval processes, request handling, and compliance workflows where specific rules and regulations must be followed.
  • Ad Hoc Workflow:
    • Definition: Ad hoc workflows are more flexible and dynamic, allowing users to create and modify processes on-the-fly as needed. Unlike rules-based workflows, ad hoc workflows do not rely on predefined rules and conditions but instead allow users to determine the flow and sequence of tasks as they go.
    • Flexibility: Ad hoc workflows are highly flexible and adaptable, making them well-suited for situations where processes are constantly changing or where tasks require unique handling. Users have the freedom to create new tasks, change the order of tasks, or assign tasks to different individuals as needed.
    • Human Intervention: Ad hoc workflows often require more human intervention and decision-making compared to rules-based workflows since the flow of tasks is not automated based on predefined rules. This can lead to greater variability in how tasks are handled and may require more oversight.
    • Examples: Examples of ad hoc workflows include project management processes, brainstorming sessions, and collaborative document editing where the sequence of tasks may vary depending on the specific requirements of the project or task.

Rules-based workflows provide structure and automation based on predefined rules and conditions, while ad hoc workflows offer flexibility and adaptability, allowing users to create and modify processes as needed in real-time. In processes like payments and other transfers of money or secure information sharing, ad hoc workflows can present and unacceptable level of risk compared to a rules-based workflow. Conversely, in processes where flexibility is paramount and risk is low, ad-hoc work flows may be a much better option. The choice between the two workflow management options depends on the specific requirements and characteristics of the processes being managed.

Also consider, AI-assisted rules-based workflows represent a pivotal evolution in how organizations approach their operational processes and the financial back-office will be among the greatest beneficiaries. The combination of AI capabilities with rule-based workflows not only increases efficiency and accuracy but also future-proofs businesses by providing adaptability and scalability. As industries continue to embrace digital transformation, these features position AI-assisted rules-based workflows as a cornerstone for organizations striving to stay ahead in the competitive landscape.

When choosing a workflow solution and solution provider consider the important elements addressed above. The most important factor is the solution needs to fit your goals and match your process and culture, not just the “shiniest toy”. You must also consider the security of data in the workflow and reduce your risk of fraud or compliance violations. ICG partners with AWS and Sysdig to provide the highest levels of security and monitoring of our clients data. Visit ICG Consulting for more information or to request a free evaluation or discussion of your workflow management requirements. Watch this short video on ICG’s solutions for automating your processes.

Posted on March 11, 2024