Click Cover to Read Digital Edition



ICBA National Convention
March 1-5
Gaylord Palms Resort
ABA Mutual Community Bank Conference
March 22 & 23
Marriott Marquis
Washington, D.C.
Card Forum & Expo
April 8-10
More events >  

<- Back

Share |

Print Friendly and PDF

Connecting Systems, People and Processes

By: Michelle Shapiro

Though the financial services market is starting to rebound, it is still forcing community banks to evaluate processes, find efficiencies and lower costs. Start by identifying the processes that are slow because the systems employees rely on every day cannot share information. Sharing information between systems is vital, because productivity drops when employees have to switch back and forth between applications to find what they need.

This lack of communication between systems also negatively affects business relationships outside the organization. For example, if the bank cannot produce documentation to a regulator on a timely basis, the bank receives a substantial fine. Or, if a loan officer cannot tell a customer the status of her loan and he loses her business to the competition.

Even though the bank relies on a core banking system to serve as a record of day-to-day transactions, premium services like mortgage loan origination require electronic document workflow capabilities beyond what a core banking platform is able to provide. Many community banks are finding that enterprise content management solutions that provide electronic document workflow help them automate, streamline and connect business processes so they can complete important activities quicker — like processing loans faster.

Connecting Systems

One of the most cost-effective ways to improve communication between important systems is to use ECM and electronic document workflow to increase the capabilities of an existing imaging solution beyond simply scanning paper. Solutions with strong workflow options automate processes by routing electronic documents through the right people and systems, increasing the speed and accuracy of the organization. Because documents are automatically routed to people and easily accessible in a central database, employees have more time to focus on organizational goals like providing better customer service and qualifying loans quicker.

Electronic workflows begin with events, such as scanning a new loan document into the system. Most loan operations departments receive daily “paid off” reports to determine if overpayment refunds are required or if they need to release or return collateral. At that point, they initiate record retention periods for the loan files. It is a slow process, especially when employees have to wait for paper documentation or when systems cannot share information easily. A connected workflow speeds the process dramatically by sharing information between systems, identifying process triggers and then automatically delivering the related documents or information. Anyone who needs to see information receives an email notification alert letting them know that it is ready for review.
Automatically sharing information between systems increases communication, speed, accuracy and, ultimately, improves the bottom line.

Connecting People

Some processes still rely heavily on paper. While the bank may never get rid of paper entirely, it can electronically capture the information on that paper — and the other formats it receives with relevant surrounding information like email or fax — priming it for the workflow process. Once the information is stored electronically in an ECM solution, employees can access it quickly.

In addition, by using a connected workflow, the bank immediately pushes that information out to employees through the automated process.

The mortgage origination process is a great example. Electronic document workflow provides benefits that do not exist in a paper-based world. It seamlessly connects people to business-critical documents. Automatically receiving, routing and completing all relevant documentation speeds the loan process so the bank recognizes profits quicker.

Connecting Processes

Automated document workflows are not just a way to automatically push documents through work queues, they also connect and streamline processes. A connected workflow does so by using a framework of consistent rules that efficiently route electronic documents without manual intervention. By presenting users with all related documents simultaneously, the workflow facilitates business transactions and bridges the gaps in the bank’s processes. So instead of searching file cabinets, looking through emails or waiting for documents, employees are connected to what they need. The workflow provides visibility into the organization’s processes, so users know exactly where things are and can manage the organization based on real-time information.

That is the key to connecting your processes — making sure employees are sharing accurate and current information.

Another important way an electronic document workflow improves processes is by eliminating any variances in the way individual employees handle tasks and reducing any associated risks. Ensuring that employees always handle processes the correct way helps the bank stay in compliance with regulations. A connected workflow shows you real-time document and process status, as well as historical data, so the bank is prepared for audits and not scrambling to find documentation.

Electronic document workflow also expands beyond banking processes to eliminate paper across the financial institution. From accounts payable to human resources and contract management, it allows:

Tie Everything Together

The workflow solution should be simple to configure and easily integrate with your existing systems, including the core banking system relied on every day. Integrating these important systems with an ECM solution, also referred to as document management, allows the technologies relied on every day to communicate seamlessly with one another and ensures compatibility, so users are automatically forwarding documents that are usable. That is why a document management system should have the ability to handle any document type or file format.

Choosing a workflow solution that integrates with little or no custom coding allows the bank to create and expand workflows easily and effectively as business processes change. Connecting systems, people and processes without disruption is critical, so the institution realizes the benefits without any downtime or employee frustration.

Working behind the scenes, ECM integrations connect systems so they share information and make documents available in the business applications used every day. By keeping users in their familiar applications, they avoid the need to log in and out of different systems, creating greater productivity. Employees immediately find the documentation they need, when they need it. And, if done right, that increased speed and accuracy translates to exceptional customer service because employees can answer questions immediately, without the need to search for information.

By integrating systems, bottlenecks are eliminated and work continues to move forward. Increasing the speed, accuracy and visibility of a bank’s processes provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace because employees are empowered to focus on customers and members. That makes your bank the best choice in the community. And that is the most important connection of all.

Improve Your Processes

To get started, select a process that needs automation. Document the tasks, handoffs and procedures involved as the process currently works. Next, choose metrics to measure, such as the overall process time and error ratios. Choosing metrics is critical to demonstrating the value and effectiveness of electronic document workflow. Finally, automate that process and keep a record of the improvements — such as return on investment — and anything else learned along the way. This will help when the bank is ready to expand the solution and automate other paper-based processes that are slowing down.

When it is done correctly, many community banks find that the ROI on electronic document workflow is higher than any other software. By connecting systems, people and processes with ECM and electronic document workflow, the bank gains speed and accuracy, giving it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. That is how to get as much value as possible out of existing systems and resources.

Michelle Shapiro is financial services industry manager at Hyland Software. Contact her at michelle.shapiro(at) or 440-788-6903.

Copyright (c) August 2012 by BankNews Media