What’s Next in Workflow Technology?

By Deane Shillito


Businesses have witnessed the benefits of adopting good workflow technology which in turn, when well planned, designed and implemented has warranted the investment in cost to implement and the resources to manage.
Workflow technology in the graphics / packaging industry has been around for quite some time, and while there are many products and solutions available in the marketplace with varying bells and whistles, essentially the aim of any workflow management system has always been to:

  • Give an overall picture of the project status

  • Manage stakeholders tasks

  • Automate repetitive processes

These deliverables are true of nearly all workflow management systems, but the essence of good workflow technology is to remove complexity, provide good insights, and provide a solid workflow platform to support the project. Businesses have witnessed the benefits of adopting good workflow technology which in turn, when well planned, designed and implemented has warranted the investment in cost to implement and the resources to manage. 
Workflow Technology Silos Prohibit Insights 
However, when you look at the packaging workflow in its entirety, map the process and tasks of all stakeholders, you soon find that you have varying mini-projects with different stakeholders operating in silos, often duplicating tasks and using independent technology that is lacking connectivity. 
Therefore, while individuals may be using their own technology to manage their ‘sub-project’, there is no visibility into the overall picture of the project status and the connection of data between stakeholders to provide good insights is lacking. Additionally, ancillary processes to the packaging workflow like finance, quality management systems, design, digital marketing, etc., are often managed separately which adds further complexity for the user. 
Ask The Right Questions
When viewing the process as one overarching project rather than a series of separate mini-projects, one thing that stands out is the abundance of duplication. Not only in tasks, but in supporting technology as well. Understanding this, when thinking about and evaluating workflow technology tools, one should ask: 

  • What is the purpose of multiple workflow technologies, essentially managing the same project? 

  • Should I be investing in the cost of this technology and the resources to support it when it could be provided by one of my strategic business partners?

Data Integration: The Next Big Step
The next big step in workflow technology is not about workflow or a singular piece of technology, its about data integration. This is more than a company being able to provide a solution with the ability to pull data from one system to another, but for your strategic business partners to have the ability to understand your business needs, remove non-value-adding activity and duplication, and implement solutions that can integrate and grow with your requirements.

To deliver upon this, your strategic business partners need to be agnostic in their approach to working with and supplying technology, and have the ability to provide modular services that can integrate with your systems that deliver the solutions you require. Without this integration, an organization will suffer the consequences of “data blindness.”
No Single Tech is Better than All of Them Connected
There are plenty of technology providers and suppliers that are happy to take the time to tell you how great their closed, proprietary piece of technology is and wow you with all the bells and whistles it comes with—and with a bloated list of bells and whistles comes greater complexity, often without a corresponding increase in value. How many of the bells and whistles are just nice-to-haves but may go unused at best and be distracting or intimidating to users at worst?
The best strategic business partners will:

  • Integrate with your existing workflow management system if you have one

  • Connect all your existing workflow technologies

  • Enable you to use their workflow management solution if you don’t have one

Choose an Agnostic Modular Tech to Grow With
Marketing deliverables have become more complex. Therefore, more than ever, workflow technology needs to support more than just project management and approvals. However, there is also no one-size-fits-all solution. It is because of this, strategic business partners who have an agnostic, modular approach to technology that can integrate and grow with the needs of your business will be the ones whom can deliver on the good workflow deliverables of removing complexity, providing good data and a solid workflow platform.
About Deane Shillito
Deane brings 20+ years industry experience with extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical packaging artwork & printing processes. As a member of the SGK Consulting team, he has successfully led numerous initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brands to identify and implement improvements to their graphic supply chains.