Collaboration across company boundaries
Everyone’s talking about the digital transformation. It’s more relevant now than ever. While the current situation is acting as a catalyst for change in many companies, most are preoccupied with their own needs and requirements. Their focus is on finding ways to digit(al)ize documents and processes in pursuit of greater transparency and traceability. But is this enough? Does digitalization simply stop at your company boundaries?
Time and time again I encounter similar situations, regardless of the company, sector, or content. Let me give you an example: One of our customers — a utilities provider — faces immense digital requirements regarding collaboration. These range from digital power grids and distribution networks to the immense quantities of paperwork generated in customer communications. A few years ago, the SER Group was asked by the utilities provider to help them in their digitalization strategy.
Unnecessary application switching slows down users – and workflows
Like with many projects of this nature, we started by looking at the customer’s internal workflows and requirements before moving on to the process of digitalization itself. The primary aim was — and still is — to have all documents and information on a business case available to the user together and in digital format.
Despite this, the customer had recently noted an uptick in employee complaints: users were spending too much time on certain tasks, e.g. making orders and supporting documents available to service providers. The process was paper-based from start to finish. Documents and large-scale drawings had to be printed out and mailed. In some cases, the service providers were then actually scanning in the documents and re-converting them into a digital format. In parallel, the same drawings were being sent as email attachments — since contractors are required to add a reply and confirmation of order fulfillment to the drawings and return them by email. The result: yet another unnecessary jump from one software application to another.
Regardless of its internal progress with digitalization, the utilities provider lacked a singular solution that would streamline collaboration inside and outside of the company for greater transparency and user ease.
So, which specific signs indicate a potential need for action? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do we share documents by email?
- Is document versioning highly complex and difficult to keep track of in the file system?
- Do we have to print out and scan outbound and inbound documents?
- Is it virtually impossible to ensure process transparency and compliance with company guidelines?
- Do we manually update dates, deadlines and processing statuses in calendars, Excel, etc.?
- Is it difficult to access comprehensive information and analyses of the order processing status?
An end-to-end strategy is crucial
It was therefore logical to develop this aspect of digitalization with the same Doxis system used by the customer for its internal digital transformation. At the first workshop it quickly became apparent that the Doxis® iRoom® met all requirements in full.
A key factor for the customer was the need for a uniform platform — which Doxis offers. This means that all data, documents and processes can be worked on and shared together and without having to switch software applications. No interfaces or complex authorization concepts are necessary.
The implementation was planned on the basis of cross-company workflows and processes. A key question we asked was: Which tasks are the responsibility of the customer’s users and which the responsibility of the service provider?
Using agile project methodology, we worked closely with the implementing department to find the answer. We showed the utilities provider a scenario based on the Doxis® iRoom® from a similar project. This prototype then formed the basis for the workshop phase and was adapted to the customer’s specific needs in two further iterations. At all times individual users from the department could see and test the developments and give valuable feedback on the project progress for the SER Group's Professional Services team.
A workflow and document class for use via the Doxis® iRoom® were set up specifically for this purpose on the Doxis platform. The workflow itself is incredibly simple, containing just a handful of tasks for verifying inbound and outbound documents and changes. In addition, the document class helps users to version and manage documents used in the workflow and assign the correct retention rules.
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Making relationships visible
Since both the workflow and the document contain metadata, these can also be displayed together as a business case. This simplifies launching the workflow with the right documents for verification and release by external partners.
The utilities provider uses its existing ERP system as the basis — SAP in this case. As soon as a new order is added in SAP, Doxis automatically creates a corresponding order file and launches the workflow. The supporting documents are linked with the workflow and can be forwarded to the relevant service provider according to the metadata.
The service provider receives an order via the Doxis® iRoom® accompanied by an automatic email notification and can open the order via a direct link. All documents are available at a glance and the service provider can then start approved actions — for instance working on the documents — before deciding whether they are reviewed and released or if further work is needed. This in turn prompts downstream workflow activities with the utilities provider. It sets the status of the workflow and order file to “released” or “in progress” until the order has been fulfilled.
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The customer’s users can now utilize all the advantages of Doxis when working with external service providers. End-to-end digitalization has completely eliminated the need for manual workflows and interruptions from application switching. The utilities provider was so impressed with the initial success of the system that it now plans to further pursue its digitalization strategy by expanding cross-company collaboration to as many service providers as possible.