Every business and organization involves at least one workflow in its day-to-day operation. For a simple pub, for example, the process of preparing the bar’s signature cocktail is a workflow.
However, most businesses deal with more than one workflow intricately connected, and how efficiently these workflows get executed will dictate how efficient and productive the whole organization operates.
This is where workflow management software comes in to help your business optimize the workflow to ensure it’s as efficient as possible.
Understanding Workflow Management: What Is a Workflow?
The terms “workflow” and “process” or “business process” are often used interchangeably when discussing business efficiency. However, although they are deeply related to each other, they are not the same.
We can define a workflow as a series of activities or tasks that must be accomplished to achieve a purpose or objective. In a business setting, a workflow typically involves:
- Transformation of raw materials into processed goods (i.e., in manufacturing)
- Processing of raw data into a finalized format (i.e., raw data in an Excel sheet into a report)
- Movements of information between the different parties (i.e., employees sending out a reimbursement form for approval.
Workflows are everywhere and can come in various ways, but all workflows consist of three essential elements:
- Predefined steps: Tasks or actions that shape the workflow. Defining what happens at each stage of the workflow from start to finish. These tasks may be executed manually or automated.
- Stakeholders: essentially the people involved in executing the tasks within the workflow. Stakeholders may be assigned to just one task, a group of tasks, or even the workflow. In cases of automated workflows, there may be fewer or no stakeholders involved.
- Conditions: rules and policies that govern the workflow. Defining when a particular step should be completed and the next step.
Different Types of Workflows
A “process,” or to be more exact, “a process workflow,” is just one of three different types of business workflows:
- Process: a repeatable workflow, with predictable steps (i.e., manufacturing an iPhone in Apple’s factory)
- Project: a workflow with predictable steps but is non-repeatable (i.e., designing a new iPhone)
- Case: a workflow that is non-repeatable with non-predictable steps (i.e., an Apple Genius troubleshooting an iPhone, different steps with every different iPhone)
When discussing workflow management, typically, we refer to managing and optimizing a process workflow, but some of the principles can also be applied to optimizing a project.
Workflow Management: The Concept
Workflow management, as discussed, is an effort to optimize a workflow, so it’s as efficient as possible.
In practice, workflow management is performed in three different phases:
- Workflow mapping: visualizing the workflow in a workflow diagram to accurately represent how the workflow is executed.
- Workflow analysis: analyzing the workflow diagram to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies and develop an optimization plan.
- Workflow optimization: implementing the changes planned in the optimization plan to eliminate inefficiencies
Workflow Management: 3 Golden Rules
While every single workflow is unique and the actual implementation of workflow management for each will also be unique, there are three most crucial workflow management best practices to follow:
1. Accuracy and structured documentation of workflows
An organization must identify its workflows and document/map them accurately. Some workflows are visible, but some others, less so. Even if you don’t plan to optimize or automate a workflow soon, it should be appropriately documented. You’ll never know when you’ll need a workflow and when you’d like to automate it, so it’s best to be ready.
2. Prioritize your workflow management efforts
While the end goal of an ideal organization is to optimize all workflows, you have limited resources and time, so you should prioritize the workflows that matter the most.
In general, you can use three main approaches;
- Strategic: prioritizing workflows that have the most impact on your organization (ones that will affect your most important KPIs).
- Reactive: prioritizing workflows with clear issues and inefficiencies to plug the leaks ASAP.
- Customer-centric: prioritizing customer-facing workflows (shortening queue time, sales processes, etc.)
Also, your most essential workflows might have subsidiary workflows running inside them, so you should prioritize them accordingly.
3. Regular monitoring and optimization
It’s crucial not to treat workflow management as a one-off process but as a continuous one. No matter how well you’ve optimized a workflow, how data-driven and precise it is, it will still be inefficient. It’s crucial to regularly monitor all workflows and plan the subsequent iterations of optimizations repeatedly.
How Workflow Management Software Can Help
A workflow management software solution is specifically designed to streamline the three core steps of workflow management, and a comprehensive workflow management tool should offer the following features:
- Easily visualize and document your workflow
Solutions like Aproove offer a code-free, visual workflow builder to easily map your workflow even if you don’t have any programming knowledge.
- Intuitive reports and analytics
Solid analytics and reporting features are crucial for workflow analysis purposes. Make sure to choose a workflow management solution with robust KPI-based analytics and reporting functions so you can easily identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
- Smart notifications
Especially important if you are planning to automate parts or the whole workflow. A reliable workflow management system like Aproove can send notifications and reminders when and where you (or your stakeholders) need them. Also, check whether you can easily customize the kind of notifications you’ll receive.
- Integration with other solutions
Today’s workflows often involve many different solutions and technologies, so integration with other solutions is now a necessity. Choose a workflow management software solution that can integrate seamlessly with your existing CRM, CMS, calendar, email marketing tool, and more.
- Authorization and access control
Many business workflows involve confidential/sensitive data movements, and a workflow management software like Aproove can help you customize what each user can view and edit. Choose a solution that easily lets you give or revolve permissions quickly without causing any downtime and affecting requests.
A workflow management software solution can help your business easily and effectively implement workflow management to ensure all your workflows are as efficient as possible.
While choosing the right workflow management tool for your business is not easy. The key is first to identify your workflows and figure out your needs so that you can choose the right solution according to your business’s unique needs and available budget.