Workflow Management Software: What It Is and Why You Need It

Workflow Management Software: What It Is and Why You Need It

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One “little” human error led to the loss of 30 human lives and $720 billion, and that error caused an environmental hazard that the world may never recover from. A staff member acted on his intuition and turned off the plant’s emergency cooling system.

This is the story of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986.

Maybe it was an honest mistake. But all the trouble could have been avoided if there was a workflow management software in place. Rather than make assumptions about work processes, employees would be guided on how to execute tasks effectively.

Do not wait until the worst happens before safeguarding your business. Read on to find out why having a workflow management software is in your best interest.

Workflow Management Software Guide – Content Index:

Chapter 1: Understanding Workflow Management Software

Chapter 2: Warning Signs Your Business Needs Workflow Management Software ASAP

Chapter 3: Benefits of Using Workflow Management Software

Chapter 4: Features of a Good Workflow Management Software

Chapter 5: Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Workflow Management Software for Your Business

Chapter 6: Top 10 Workflow Management Software Solutions

Chapter 1: Understanding Workflow Management Software

You have probably read so much about workflow management software. So, we are not going to bore you with a long and complex explanation about it.

Let us break it down.

We are dealing with three words: workflow, management, and software. There is “work” that is “managed” by either you or your employees using “software.”

The end goal of using this software is to improve the work that you do and achieve better results. To achieve these, you need to identify areas of improvement, cut off redundant procedures, automate processes, and make work documents easily accessible by parties executing them.

Clogs. Most organizations have them in their business processes but are not always aware of their existence. These clogs elongate the work chain. Simple tasks take longer to be accomplished. With a workflow management software, you can X-ray your workflow, and check off anything that is not making a substantial impact. What is even more interesting is that everything pertaining to your business is managed in one place.

According to Statista, the market for business process management is predicted to reach $13 billion by 2021. This is on the premise that more businesses are realizing the need for effective workflow management. It suffices to say that improvement and efficiency are watchwords in the use of the software. No matter how good your business is already doing, there is always room for improvement.

At what point do you know that your business really needs workflow management software? We get to answer that question in the next chapter as we discuss the warning signs to look out for.

Chapter 2: Warning Signs Your Business Needs Workflow Management Software ASAP

Warning Signs Your Business Needs Workflow Management Software ASAP

Do you document your workflow? The answer is most likely a yes. Businesses hardly operate without some sort of documentation. At least you are making the effort to manage your workflow. But the big question is, are you documenting effectively? A BPTrends Report found that, although 96% of businesses were documenting their workflow, they were not doing it effectively. They had the motive to do the right thing, yet they were not doing it well enough. In the end, the time and resources spent on it were wasted.

Why was the workflow documentation of this businesses not good enough?

They lacked the necessary tools. Workflow documentation thrives in a system where everything is managed in one place. This enables free flow of work, accessibility, speed, and performance evaluation.  

According to a Business Process Maturity study, only 4% of the 69% of businesses that documented their workflow actually manage it. This is evident that it is not enough to simply create a workflow for your business. Without proper management, it will be just another routine task without any impact.

Still not sure if your business needs workflow management software? Let us take a look at some clues that you may need to invest in a new system.

1. Communication breakdowns

Workers are not employed for the sole purpose of communicating save for those in the communications industry. The focus is on their skill set of the job in question. However, the average work chain involves multiple people. Information is passed from one person to another especially during hang offs. When vital information is omitted or misinterpreted, the outcome is faulty.

Employee A spends hours working on a document. He sends it to the next desk. As Employee B gets to work, he realizes that something is missing. He sends it back to Employee A for rectification, and the waiting game continues.   

Valuable time is wasted as they go back and forth. This may not seem like a problem until you lose that big client or contract.

A workflow management software facilitates effective communication. There is no back and forth. Chances of things slipping through the cracks are almost non-existent as there are set guidelines for task completion. Until each box is ticked, documents cannot be passed onto the next phase. Employees involved in tasks are updated about work progress and make their input promptly.

2. Confusion about work processes

Owning the business process is a trait of competent workers. No one expects them to be confused about anything. But what happens when workers meet a roadblock? They have to wait until someone comes to put them through. In worst-case scenarios like the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant case, they acted on assumption and caused a disaster.

Such a situation could have been avoided if they had a system where they could access information about assigned tasks. With just a few clicks, they could get the help they needed on their own without waiting on anyone.

3. Lack of employee accountability and tracking

Having a room full of workers does not mean that everyone is working. Some could be on the system doing whatever pleases them or redoing what has already been done. At the closing hour, they get up and leave. Several tasks for the day are incomplete, and the blame game begins.

Workflow management software helps to outline tasks from the biggest to the smallest. Specific roles are assigned to each person. It does not end there—the software enables tracking. You can monitor tasks as they progress, seeing where the ball is at every point in time.

There is no room for employees to hide under the shadows of others. Anyone who fails to deliver can be identified as their work will be undone. You get to know those who are unproductive, and then hold them accountable for their actions—or inactions, as the case may be.

4. Inability to scale up

Growth is attractive to every business. While many continue to wish for it, only a few actually achieve it. Why? The majority are stuck on their ineffective ways of operation.

Doing the same thing, the same way, will only give you the same results. The expansion you seek is not feasible under the same old working conditions. To move on to the next level, you must get rid of bottlenecks and redundancies in your processes. You are better off achieving this with workflow management software. It gives you a template for scalable business operations. By simply adopting the features in your business, you will be able to enhance your performance and take up new opportunities.

What do you stand to gain from using a workflow management software? The benefits are enormous. Check out some of them in the next chapter.

Chapter 3: Benefits of Using Workflow Management Software

Benefits of Using Workflow Management Software

Businesses leverage opportunities and tools to enhance their performance. If you were one hundred percent certain of turning your business around by implementing some tweaks, you would most likely give it a try, right? The lack of assurance brings about negligence.

NASA suffered a great loss with its Mass Climate Orbiter project due to documentation problems. Obviously, NASA is an organization filled with some of the most intelligent people on the planet. Rocket science is the height of complexity. But the little mistake of not documenting and troubleshooting all possibilities of the Mars Climate Orbiter’s journey to orbit Mars led to the loss of $193 million, among other damages.

According to a Press Release by NASA after investigations, “The ‘root cause’ of the loss of the spacecraft was the failed translation of English units into metric units in a segment of ground-based, navigation-related mission software, as NASA has previously announced.” They further identified eight possible reasons for the project failure: “These contributing causes include inadequate consideration of the entire mission and its post-launch operation as a total system, inconsistent communications and training within the project, and lack of complete end-to-end verification of navigation software and related computer models.”

NASA’s case might be big. However, both small- and medium-sized organizations can suffer similar fates, all because they do not have software for workflow management. While mistakes happen, they are reduced to the barest minimum in the place of a good workflow management software.

The benefits of workflow management software include the following:

1. Reduced need for manual labor

Manual labor accounts for wasted hours at the workplace. Employees spend too much time doing repetitive tasks when they could be making good use of their time working on other tasks.

As much as these manual tasks are time-consuming, someone has to do them; otherwise, work will not move forward. This is where automation comes in. Automation is an element in workflow management software. Repetitive tasks are set on auto pilot, leaving employees with more time to focus on the more engaging tasks. Automated processes are executed faster and more accurately. Employees are motivated by using their skills in tasks that engage them mentally.

2. Improved business performance

A typical business process involves several unnecessary tasks. In an attempt to be detailed, organizations often include redundant procedures, thereby elongating the work chain. You end up doing things that are irrelevant while eating up your time and resources.

With a workflow management software, you get insights into your processes and the impact they make in your business. Unnecessary procedures are taken out, reducing turnaround time.

3. Better communication

Have you been talking to someone on the telephone, and suddenly, you begin to hear a distorted sound? At that point, you are unable to understand what the person on the other end is saying. That is noise interference. The same thing happens in the workplace. Workers cannot understand each other when there is friction in workflow.

The efficiency of employees is threatened when they have communication problems. Workflow management software creates clarity in communication using various verbal and nonverbal tools to pass along messages. There is a provision for employees to document and save each step of the workflow. Coworkers simply refer to these saved documents for information about the work process if the need arises. 

4. Reduced micromanagement and improved accountability

When responsibilities are not categorically spelled out, employees sit back and wait on others to do them. Instead of moving on to the next step after completing a task, an employee hands off, feeling that they have done so much already. Everyone is waiting on the next person, and nothing gets done.

Workflow management software enables you to assign minute tasks to the right employees. There is no waiting on someone else to get it done just because it is not assigned to anyone. You no longer have to babysit your workers. All they need is spelled out from A to Z.

With so many workflow management software options around, how do you identify one that is effective for your business? You do not want to end up with crap. We get it. That is why we will discuss features of a good workflow management in the next chapter, so you will know what to look for when shopping around for your own business.

Chapter 4: Features of a Good Workflow Management Software

Features of a Good Workflow Management Software

As great as workflow management software can be, it is important to note that deploying just any software in your business does not guarantee success. With several products on the market, if you are not careful, you might end up with one that is not useful.

The impact of workflow management is truly felt when your business processes are optimal. Take Taco Bell for example. Returning a meager 16% annually from their $500 million regional chain in 1983, they were able to grow their business internationally to worth $1.98 billion three decades later.

How did they do this?

They simply made their business workflow to be more efficient. Initially, fulfilling a customer’s order was time consuming. They used to prepare the order from scratch. But revamping their workflow, they prepared all the ingredients beforehand, and simply mixed them when orders were placed. Maintaining such routine requires a great deal of effort. Manual labor may not be efficient. Routine tasks need to be automated while employees focus more on engaging tasks.

If you paid close attention to newer fast food companies, you would see that they are emulating this strategy started by Taco Bell to optimize their workflow. The likes of Subway, Chipotle, Panda Express, and Panera Bread come to mind.

Features to lookout for in a good workflow management software include:

1. Intuitive, code-free workflow designer

Workflow software is meant to simplify your work, not complicate it. You are not a web developer, so you do not need to have knowledge of coding to be able to use one. If you happen to hire a web developer, rather than spend all day on coded programs, they get to accomplish a lot more work when the workflow management software is either code-free or has minimal coding requirements. Good software does all the complex work in the background, out of your sight. Your job is to fill in the gaps created. Anything short of this is counterproductive.

2. Task and workflow automation

Automation is key in the modern-day workplace. Manually executing every task is exhausting and time consuming. A good workflow management software automates repetitive tasks as outlined by you. This gives you time to focus on more interactive and engaging tasks.

3. Cloud-based technology

There is no debate that cloud-based technology is better than on-premise technology when it comes to workflow management software. Gone are the days when you had to be confined to a physical space to get work done. With several reasons keeping you out of the office, you need to be able to work remotely. To do this effectively, you need access to relevant documents from anywhere. Besides remote access, cloud-based technology also protects privacy. Only authorized parties can access it.

4. Role-based access controls

Being involved in the overall work does not make all employees privy to every piece of information. In the best interest of your organization, it is important that you reveal confidential details only to concerned parties. A good workflow management software system enables you to provide information on a need-to-know basis.

5. Customizable notifications

Notifications are great, but they become a pain in the neck when there are too many and irrelevant to some who receive them. Sending constant notifications to workers about tasks they have no business with can be a distraction. You can save everyone the harassment by customizing notifications to relevant parties. Again, this should be on a need-to-know basis.

6. App integration

The best workflow management software still requires additional input to offer more value. There may be additional services you need that are not offered by the software. You should be able to get them by integration. For example, you might want to integrate your Gmail into your workflow management software for easy access. All your emails come into your software instead of you having to fetch them. If a software program does not offer app integration in the name of being all sufficient, that is a red flag.

7. KPI-based reports

Your workflow processes may look good on paper, but they may not live up to expectations in practicality. Rather than setting up a process and hoping it performs, you need performance data to ascertain its efficiency. Aim for a workflow management software that provides key performance indicator (KPI) reports. Data from the reports will show you what is working and what is not working.

8. Parallel branches

Business processes may be sequential, but they are not exactly the same. Some take a different approach from others. Therefore, using a single template to create all business processes is not feasible. You need a workflow management software that allows you to create different process patterns. For instance, dealing with a first-time customer entails a different process from dealing with a returning customer. You should be able to create additional branches easily.

9. SLA status indicators

You know you are using a good workflow management software when you can identify pressing business processes from the lot while viewing everything on a single dashboard. This is enhanced by service level agreement (SLA) indicators. With the use of predetermined colors, they highlight processes that need urgent attention. You are saved from having hidden ineffective processes in your business.

10. Flexible design

A good workflow management software is created with the understanding that businesses are different and constantly evolving. Hence, the software design is flexible to adapt to individual business processes. You should be able to adjust the design to accommodate your business needs without much hassle.

Are you considering getting a workflow management software? Great decision! It is our desire that you make the perfect buy for your needs. In the next chapter, we shall discuss factors to consider in choosing one.

Chapter 5: Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Workflow Management Software for Your Business

Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Workflow Management Software for Your Business

Do you know someone who already uses workflow management software in their business? If you are impressed with their performance, you may be tempted to get the same software they are using.

Hold on a minute.

No two businesses are the same. You need to evaluate software based on the nature of your businesses before opting for it. Gym management company Wodify had this experience. They were not getting the most of their original workflow management software system until they switched to another one. The company’s employee onboarding time, which used to take up to a month, was reduced to two weeks. They probably did not thoroughly consider the factors below before acquiring the first software system.

Let us take a look at some factors that will assist you in choosing a suitable workflow management software for your business.

1. Problem(s) you want to solve

The impact of a workflow management is best felt when it meets a need. This need is a problem which you are facing in your business. You need to identify specific questions you need your software to answer. Do you need a software that cuts across all areas of your business? Have you observed that your employees waste time on manual tasks, and need a software with excellent automation capacity?

2. Product features

Features of the software will either make them useful to your business or not. Different software programs have different features. In an attempt to beat the competition, some of these programs offer too many features without sufficient depth. Do not be carried away by this. Make a list of core features you need in your business and look out for them. Do you prefer cloud-based or on-premise hosting? Do you want a system with controlled access?

3. Support services

If there is one factor you must not take for granted in choosing a software management software, it is support services. As a new buyer, you will need a lot of help to get accustomed to your new system. Is the vendor willing to provide that support to you? Besides onboarding support, you are going to need more help in the course of using the system—will the vendor be available to help?

4. Security

In a society where cybersecurity is of great concern due to incessant attacks, you need to safeguard your system. Unauthorized access to your documents could result in serious business damage. Pay close attention to the security of a workflow management software before acquiring one. Can it be easily hacked? What measures are in place to ward off hackers? If you cannot sleep at night with both eyes closed over the security of your software, there is a problem.

5. Implementation timeline

Part of the reason to get a workflow management system is to speed up performance delivery. If the system is going to slow you down, what is the point? With the excuse of being sophisticated, some systems require long training periods for users to understand how they work. The workflow setup process is so cumbersome, requiring so much time. You do not need all that trouble.

6. Scalability

When business is doing so well, scaling might be the next step. If your workflow management software has been able to finetune your business processes to this point, it should be able to take your business to the next level. You should not be forced to start looking for another one to prepare for your next big move. Be sure that the software is flexible enough to accommodate your business when the growth you desire begins to happen.

7. Budget

After analyzing all the amazing features of a workflow management software, you need to be able to afford it to acquire it. It is not advisable for your buying decision to be only based on pricing, as you might end up with a system that is below standards. The idea is to ensure that you get a good deal and the features your business needs. It will help to compare various software by their features and pricing. If two systems have the same features, it makes sense to go for the more affordable one.

There are some workflow management software systems on the market that have received good reviews over time. If many people have something nice to say about them, they must be doing something right. Check out our list of the top workflow management software systems in the next chapter!

Chapter 6: Top 10 Workflow Management Software Systems

Top 10 Workflow Management Software Systems

Reviews are a great way to know products’ ratings. In the social media era, customers are ever ready to share their experience using products purchased. According to a BrightLocal study, 88% of consumers made their buying decisions from online reviews. In no particular order, the following 10 workflow management software systems are living up to expectations.

1.  SweetProcess

SweetProcess is a cloud-based workflow management software that helps businesses of various sizes to execute workplace tasks seamlessly with its productivity tools. It is a reliable tool for creating standard operating procedures and automating repetitive tasks to achieve better results. The workflow management software has a simple and flexible design that accommodates unique business needs.

Core features of the software include:

  • Systematization 
  • Process automation
  • Document tracking
  • Collaboration
  • Workflow configuration

2. Comindware

Comindware offers users the opportunity to manage their workflows without coding of any sort. Its cloud-based technology allows workers to connect remotely, executing various projects either individually or as a team. Process modeling is simplified with flexible digital reports and web forms.

Core features of the software include:

  • Approval and change management
  • Customer request management
  • Compliance and policy management
  • Document tracking
  • Procurement management

3.  Integrify

Organizations dealing with big data can have their workflow streamlined with Integrify workflow management software. It allows adherence to set standards with its easy-to-use automation and deployment tools. A cloud-based software, users have easy access to work progress from remote locations.

Core features of the software include:

  • Process builder
  • Form designer
  • Custom self-service service portal
  • Process reporting
  • Process integration

4. ProcessMaker

ProcessMaker is a cloud-based workflow management software system that assists businesses in creating, assigning, and automating workflow at different levels. It is equipped with a document builder for the purpose of creating all sorts of documents needed in the workplace. Users can create both text-based and diagram-based processes in line with their preference.

Core features of the software include:

  • Low code, iBPMS platform
  • Automate workflows
  • Rapidly deploy solutions
  • Accelerate digital transformation
  • Streamline compliance

5.  Kissflow

Kissflow is a cloud-based software system that helps businesses manage, optimize, and track their work. Its no-coding capacity enables anyone with authorized access to create documents, automate processes, and execute tasks individually and collaboratively. It prides itself as a digital workplace due to its all-in-one interface for executing tasks.

Core features of the software include:

  • Workflow configuration
  • Customizable dashboard
  • Document management
  • Collaboration
  • Compliance tracking

6.  Zapier

Zapier is a workflow management software system that assists businesses to optimize performance by integrating multiple web applications on one interface. Instead of moving from one point to another to use different applications, organizations get to manage their time and resources better having all the application they need on a single system.

Core features of the software include:

  • Third-party integration
  • Automation
  • Document management
  • File sharing
  • Innovation

7.  Flokzu

Flokzu makes collaborative efforts in organizations seamless with its easy-to-use interface. Its flexible design allows form customization to meet the uniqueness of each task. Duties are easily delegated to employees with an automatic reminder to concerned parties as work progresses.

Core features of the software include:

  • Form customization
  • Process execution
  • Process measurement and analysis
  • Third-party integrations
  • Workflow configuration

8.  ProWorkflow

Businesses do not have to worry about the control and visibility of their workflow with the ProWorkflow management software. Employees are continuously shown an overview of work progression. Their simple interface is easy to use by everyone. With customizable API features, businesses can tailor the software to be a great fit.

Core features of the software include:

  • Task management
  • Project reporting
  • Collaboration
  • File sharing
  • Resource management

9.  TrackVia

TrackVia is a workflow management software system that helps businesses to digitize their manual processes for better performance. It offers real-time data analysis used for streamlining workflow. Its cloud-based system can be customized to suit unique business needs without IT expertise.

Core features of the software include:

  • Customizable dashboard  
  • Business process automation
  • Third-party integrations
  • Notifications and alerts
  • Quality management

10.  Process Director (BP Logix)

Process Director (BP Logix) is a workflow management software system that assists businesses that are keen on leveraging digital technology. It allows such businesses to customize their processes for great results. Its low coding interface helps in creating workflow and configuring applications.

Core features of the workflow include:

  • Reporting/analytics
  • Collaboration
  • Access controls/permission
  • Source control

Conclusion

Hiring competent employees is hardly an edge in today’s business terrain. Every organization hires nothing short of the best. So how do you beat the competition?

There is only so much that competent workers can do when their skill set is all they have. Successful businesses understand that they can do exponentially more when they empower their workers with the right productivity tools.

Workflow management software multiplies your inputs by several digits. You do the same amount of work as others but get greater results because the system streamlines work and boosts performance. It marks a difference between smart work and hard work. It goes without saying that the former is the future.

Learn how to get the most of your workflow management software by downloading our free Checklist for Onboarding Workflow Management Software.

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