Jeremy Burgess is your Workflow Doctor. For over twenty years, he has been setting up systems for businesses, from the small to the very large, to take care of all the endless small tasks that get in the way of their productivity. Fondly described as a 'disruptive consultant', Jeremy will help you to dramatically reduce your operating costs or staffing requirements. He is also your data guy, showing you how to make your extracted data work harder before you feed it into your business systems such as accounts payable, CRM, manufacturing or case management.
Find out more about Jeremy in our interview here
Tell us a little bit about what you do, Jeremy. What does being a ‘Workflow Doctor’ entail?
Workflow Doctor provides a combination of consultancy and software solutions to enable automation of information-centric business processes. Our systems help to find structure where there is little or none. When you have structure, you can automate the tedium.
Can you give us an example of this?
Invoice processing is the one everyone will appreciate – thousands of documents arrive in the business and our systems will extract the data (from who, for what?) and can either push that information directly where it should be, or potentially also manage matching (to order data) and approval workflows.
How did you get into the business?
I have a background in software development. Then in 2001 joined Canon’s business solutions team, where I was involved in delivering document-centric solutions. I left 11 years ago and set up my own business, focusing not on the document, but the data within it. I partnered with another ex-Canon colleague for 7 years before setting up Workflow Doctor as a new business in February 2018.
What have some of your highlights been in your first year of business?
Despite being a new micro-business, we are specialists in our field and count among our clients the likes of Accenture, as well as several other global businesses.
What are the challenges in your work?
‘The rise of the robots’ is often talked about these days and it’s a sexy topic – using robotic automation, or more recently intelligent automation, to streamline business with potentially enormous resource savings and guarantees of consistent service delivery. In order to make that possible you need to find structure, which is where we come in. Our biggest challenge is helping clients realise the potential – many are fearful of change. The next issue is then making sure that the rest of their business is able to support the change.
What situation do you tend to find companies are in when you begin?
Data is often spread thin across the business or in silos. It is frequently in poor condition and needs to be manipulated. Systems, both people and IT, may need to be remodelled to be effective. It’s not sufficient just to automate a bad process e.g. when ordering from a supplier but giving them bad information you may get the same in return – automation can make this happen quicker but it’s not a good idea. Another common observation is staff might feel fearful for their jobs at first, but they later discover that automation makes their role less tedious and more fulfilling.
How have your seen your industry change over your career?
Technologies come and go but people remain. For the 20 years I have been in IT we’ve always “been on the cusp of greatness” but unless a new system takes into account the people that use it you will never get the most from it and the project can fail to deliver at all. There are so many good tools and platforms out there now the real magic is in integration between them and this is easier now than ever before.
Which business leader or company do you find inspiring and why?
MacDonalds. From the beginning they are a business obsessed with ‘system’ and, having reinvented themselves many times in response to the demands of the time, they remain a model for the value of understanding how and why their business works.
What kind of clients do you like working with?
The £20m-£100m per annum business that’s just stuck and cannot grow without corresponding linear growth in their cost base. They are the businesses where a relatively small investment in ‘process’ can deliver 2-3 digit growth without any significant increase in resource.
What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?
Know what you’re good at and never be scared to challenge the status quo.
How has failure helped you in your career?
Telling 12 staff that their is no job to come back to next week will stick with you for a long time. It is important to never lose sight of the need to balance optimism (dot-com era!) with realism (paying salaries, suppliers and HMRC).
What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years’ time?
‘Mainstream’. Right now we are “defining the new normal”.