The Ultimate Guide to Workflow Management.

Everything You Need to Know About Workflow Management

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Workflow management has the potential to boost your revenue by as much as 30 percent. To learn more, keep reading…

Every year businesses lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue due to inefficiencies. Imagine losing that kind of money annually, all because your current way of working isn’t as finely tuned as it could be. Now think about what you could do with that extra revenue.

What about investing in research and development; there’s always scope to improve your products and services, right? Or maybe throw it all into customer acquisition—that’s where the real money’s at. Or actually, screw it. Blow it all on a huge company retreat, somewhere sunny with white sand and cocktails perhaps. Hey, it’s money you never had so why not?

In fact, the most significant of these inefficiencies is an inefficient workflow, i.e., poor business processes. That’s where workflow management (WfM) comes in. It involves making your company better by squeezing every last drop of productivity out of its pores to maximize potential. It’s about helping staff and pleasing customers. It’s something you have to embrace in the present for the future.

This guide teaches you everything you need to know about workflow management so you’re armed with the knowledge needed to implement a streamlined workflow of your own. The contents are as follows:

Chapter 1: So What Is Workflow Management?

Chapter 2: A Brief History of Workflows

Chapter 3: Benefits of Workflow Management

1. Risk reduction
2. Improved productivity
3. Streamlined processes
4. Predefined rules
5. Greater access to information
6. Reduced paperwork
7. Better visibility and accountability
8. Visible audit trails
9. Adjusted focus for managers

Chapter 4: Workflow Management in the Workplace

1. The Children’s Hospital of Boston
2. Phoenix Municipal Court
3. The Toyota Production System

Chapter 5: Workflow Management Components Explained

1. Informal Workflows
2. The Power of the Flowchart
3. Formal Workflows
4. Six Sigma
5. Total Quality Management (TQM)
6. Lean Systems
7. Theory of Constraints (TOC)
8. Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

Chapter 6: Workflow Management Is Not Business Process Management

Chapter 7: Workflow Management Software – Essential Benefits and Features

1. Cloud integration
2. Reports
3. Email notifications
4. Seamless integration with other tools
5. Role-based access control
6. SLA status indicators
7. Pre-filled forms
8. Flexibility

Chapter 8: Laying the Foundations for Success – 5 Steps to Effective Workflow Implementation

Step 1: Map out your current workflows
Step 2: Challenge the results of your workflow
Step 3: Educate decision-makers
Step 4: Change or adapt your workflow
Step 5: Review and reinforce

Next steps

 

Chapter 1: So What Is Workflow Management?

Workflow management is organizing and implementing a workflow, and a workflow is the coordination of tasks within a process. In layman’s terms, a workflow is the way information is moved around a business between employees and, in most cases, computers. Workflows are managed to make them better like in this example of a developer workflow:

What is workflow management?

Image Credit: Jarry1250

 

The old flow includes steps that aren’t needed, so they’re scrapped to make way for a more streamlined process. The new process is a result of workflow management.

It’s like what legendary management consultant Peter Drucker said:

Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”

Cut the crap, basically.

If you strip away the scientific aspect of workflow management, it’s simply a case of productivity hacking — tweaking processes to work more efficiently. However, to undersell the scientific part would be to undermine the work of Henry Gantt and Fredrick W. Taylor.

Who, you ask? Time for a history lesson.

 

Chapter 2: A Brief History of Workflows

Take out your textbook. Or just take mental notes, whatever. This is interesting stuff though so don’t tune out!

Workflows in their most basic form have been around since the dawn of man, long before any fancy term was given to it. Before the 19th century, it was just known as “getting s*** done.” The late 1800s is when workflows were really looked at as a way to improve efficiency. A pair of chaps named Henry Gantt and Fredrick W. Taylor, a draughtsman and a mechanical engineer, respectively, both turned management consultants, began studying and applying scientific management principles to manufacturing.

Together, and individually, the pair set about documenting and implementing workflow principles that are still used today, albeit in a modified way. Over 20 years, Taylor came up with a kind of “one size fits all” method to complete shop floor tasks. This scientific management consisted of four main principles:

The four principles of scientific management and how it relates to workflow management.

 

Gantt, for his part in the workflow revolution (our words, not his) created the Gantt chart. Still regarded as an important tool in project management, it is designed to help visualize and break down work structure. If the term isn’t familiar, the look of one might be:

Gantt Chart and how it relates to Workflow Management

Image Credit: MindView

 

The bar chart helps clarify start and end dates for resources, milestones, tasks and dependencies within a project.

Office workflow was born out of these manufacturing principles created by Taylor and Gantt, but brought into the modern computing world thanks to the work of German mathematician Carl Petri. His work on the concept of the Petri net lead to the creation of workflow management systems and software (we’ll get into those later) — the very systems relied upon today to deliver effective workflow.

A small side note: The term “workflow” first appeared in the 1950 book Office Methods, Systems, & Procedures by I.A. Herrman, which mentions workflow diagrams as

“effective in solving various kinds of problems.”

Turns out he was right.

So what does all this history have to do with workflow management? Well, a) it’s always good to know a bit about what came before; b) we did say we’d teach you everything you need to know; c) you never know what questions might come up in a quiz.

The work performed by Taylor, Gannt, Petti and others in laying the groundwork of modern workflow management has brought about many benefits, all of which greatly enhance businesses like yours. We take a look at the most significant advantages in the next chapter.

 

Chapter 3: Benefits of Workflow Management

Okay, you’re familiar with what workflow management is. And now you know about how it came to be. But can it improve your business? Indeed, a better workflow helps you cut wasted time and increase revenue. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits:

 

1. Risk reduction

Any task, regardless of complexity, is open to human error. Even the most effective workflow won’t change that fact. What it can do, however, is reduce risk considerably. It does so by eliminating unnecessary steps within a process and ensuring every task is carried out in a consistent manner. Everyone knows what they are doing at every stage, every time. The same rules followed in the same way deliver the same results. And in a “practice makes perfect” kind of way, a project carried out repetitively results in fewer errors and fewer disputes.

 

2. Improved productivity

Time is money.

According to a study by Intermec, the average worker loses 15 minutes of an eight hour day as a result of inefficient workflow. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but in a business of 100 staff, that’s 6000 hours of lost productivity a year.

Proper workflow management gets things done quicker by placing square pegs in square holes. It’s simple really. Tasks within a workflow are assigned to specialists. The designer designs, the copywriter writes, the marketer markets, etc. It’s much easier for employees to work toward a clear objective on a project that suits their skill set. They work better and faster. This directly benefits managers who are able to convey how long tasks and overall projects take.

 

3. Streamlined processes

Workflow management brings order out of chaos — chaos being anything within a workflow that slows down the process. A good example comes from Ricoh’s Brian Wallace. Looking at the invoicing process of a small (imaginary) furniture business, he illustrates how the current workflow is needlessly time-consuming:

Workflow management brings order out of chaos

Image Credit: WorkIntelligent.ly

 

And then he presents how it can be improved by streamlining the process (with the help of a workflow system):

Workflow management much tidier and evidently less chaotic.

Image Credit: WorkIntelligent.ly

 

See, much tidier and evidently less chaotic. And to touch on an earlier benefit, much less risk of human error. (Read Brian’s full article here; it’s worth your time.)

 

4. Predefined rules

People, for the most part, like rules. A few anarchists might disagree with that statement, but rules give structure and clarity. With rules in place, everyone knows what they are doing.

Workflow management put rules in place without the hard sell. They follow a sequential (and sometimes simultaneous) order with checkpoints along the way to ensure everything is as it should be. Questions around what needs to be done, when, and what happens after, are answered, thereby eliminating guesswork and improving confidence throughout the workforce.

 

See, much tidier and evidently less chaotic. And to touch on an earlier benefit, much less risk of human error. (Read Brian’s full article here; it’s worth your time.)

 

5. Greater access to information

Prevent employees from spending time searching for information by means of workflow management.

 

Simple and timely access to information is essential to the success of any business. Consider these two stats from the IDC’s White Paper on “The High Cost of Not Finding Information”:

  • A majority (76 percent) of company executives consider information to be mission critical;
  • Yet 60 percent feel that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information prevents employees finding the information they need

Also detailed are problems caused by a lack of easy access to information:

  • Poor decisions based on faulty or poor information;
  • Duplicated efforts because more than one business unit works on the same project without knowing it has already been done;
  • Lost sales because customers can’t find the information they need on products or services and give up in frustration;
  • Lost productivity because employees can’t find the information they need on the intranet and have to resort to asking for help from colleagues (Studies by AIIM and Ford Motor Company estimate that knowledge workers spend 15–25 percent of their time on nonproductive information–related activities.)

 

Workflow management is about improving the way information is moved around a business. Naturally, then, when improvements are made, information becomes more accessible. A well-formulated workflow ensures each member of a project has immediate access to all the information needed to complete a task. Processes are reviewed at set checkpoints, and managers can easily oversee everything.

 

6. Reduced paperwork

Workflow management reduces time spent on paperwork.

 

Paperwork is the bane of business processes. And paper chasing is one of the main reasons why workflow management has become such a buzzword in recent years.

Back in 2015, US software company Planview carried out a study of 515 business leaders and key decision-makers with regards to wasted time at work. Of those polled, 43 percent agreed that too much paperwork was a major cause of inefficiency.

Nothing slows things down like trying to decipher the handwriting of a receptionist or chasing after documents you sent over to the marketing team last week for review, only to find it being used as a coffee coaster.

To combat such issues, workflow management promotes constant movement. Once a task has been completed, it is immediately passed onto the next stage — drastically reducing the risk of it being lost or forgotten about. This, of course, saves time, and you already know what time is … money!

Reduced paperwork also means reduced waste, which benefits the environment. And that’s always a good thing.

 

7. Better visibility and accountability

Workflows provide a very visual way to communicate. Problems and bottlenecks can be identified and rectified from the top level; performance can be monitored and members are accountable for their roles. Furthermore, where stakeholders need to be kept in the loop, this level of visibility is crucial.

 

8. Visible audit trails

Who completed a task? What did they do? When did they do it? All this information is logged and records kept along each stage of a process thanks to a workflow’s connection to a database. This is particularly true in the case of workflow systems.

 

9. Adjusted focus for managers

A well-oiled workflow is a godsend for managers, as it frees up valuable time. Time that, without a system in place, would ordinarily be spent focusing on operations, reading emails, signing off tasks and conversing with team members on various aspects of a project.

With a workflow management process effectively taking care of itself, attention can be shifted onto other important aspects like how to grow the business.

All of the aforementioned aspects are significant benefits; we’re sure you’ll agree. But how do they translate to the workplace? Chapter 4 provides some examples.

 

Chapter 4: Workflow Management in the Workplace

Everything sounds good so far, right? Implementing workflow management seems like a no-brainer, especially given its benefits. Nevertheless, anything can be made to look good on paper. So how does workflow stack up in the real-world? Do real companies — the kinds of businesses you interact with on a daily basis — actually use it successfully?

A good example of how workflow management has been able to help operations lies in healthcare. This video by Manuel Oliverez explains it with remarkable clarity:

 

 

In case, you’re unable to watch the video, here’s a quick rundown of a customer billing process before and after WfM has done its thing:

 

Before

  • Patient arrives at doctor’s office and fills out information form.
  • Receptionist, with a million and one things to do, eventually places form in patient’s chart.
  • When patient is ready to be seen, doctor refers to chart and provides medical service?
  • Doctor then fills out fee ticket, which is returned to the receptionist.
  • Receptionist enters fee ticket information into computer (hopefully without error) and converts ticket into claim form.
  • Receptionist sends claim form to insurance company via good old-fashioned snail mail, hoping it reaches the correct destination. Otherwise, claim form will be returned.
  • Insurance company checks information, hopefully finding no errors. Errors mean restarting process, which is bad!
  • Insurance company is happy with information and sends payment in the form of paper check, via good old-fashioned snail mail.
  • Check arrives at doctor’s office front desk, where receptionist still has a million and one things to do.
  • Receptionist inputs check data into computer and prepares check for deposit … if it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • It’s been a while now. Doctor wonders where his money is
  • The whole process is a mess. Everyone is unhappy, with doctors only paid 60 percent of the time.

 

After

  • Patient arrives at doctor’s office and fills out information at kiosk.
  • Data is sent directly to doctor’s laptop.
  • Doctor provides medical service, enters billing information into computer.
  • Doctor sends information to insurance company via email.
  • Insurance company processes information and sends confirmation email to doctor’s office and sends immediate payment via funds transfer.
  • Doctor is paid. Everyone is happy.

 

Workflow management just made a heck of a difference right there. Let’s see how it changed the processes of real-world businesses and improved efficiency.

 

The Children’s Hospital of Boston

With 18,000 inpatient admissions and emergency care for 300,000 patients annually, the Children’s Hospital of Boston, MA, had a hard time storing files and sharing patient information. By moving patient files to an electronic database to create a centralized document system, staff were able to easily share information, maintain privacy and slash time spent processing. The system also improved regulatory compliance and saved a whole lot of physical space.

 

Phoenix Municipal Court

Changes at the Phoenix Municipal Court offer a great example of how workflow management can improve operations.

With 350,000 cases (including 80,000 criminal cases) to process every year and declining resources with which to handle them, the court was forced into becoming more creative. Since the 1990s, the court has worked on refining a case management system that automates much of the court work and allows over 300 employees to work without bottlenecks. The court has also used workflow management principles within its contact center and financial department to improve productivity and cut costs.

Similar workflow automation processes have also been used with great success at the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Judiciary of Puerto Rico. Although the National Center for State Courts continues to look at ways operations can be further streamlined and improved (as indeed any company should), the Phoenix Municipal Court now sees 80 percent of cases heard at first trial date.

All three case studies are featured in this document by the National Center for State Courts. Do have a read through it if you get chance.

The Toyota Production System

There is no better example of workflow management in full flow (pun intended) than on the assembly line. Manufacturing is where workflow as we know it today began honing its chops (remember Henry Gantt and Frederick Taylor?).

And if we’re talking assembly line workflow, we have to mention the Toyota Production System. If ever there was an advert for the advantages of WfM in the workplace, this is it. Toyota’s lean production system, which was inspired by Ford’s assembly lines in the 1950s, has helped the vehicle manufacturer increase productivity by over 300 percent and deliver 98 percent of its products on time.

If it seems like we’re gushing here, it’s because we are. Toyota’s Production System is to WfM enthusiasts what Elvis is to Rock ‘n’ Roll fans. Here’s a video of it in action:

 

 

In each of the examples above, a problem had been identified and solved with a change in workflow. Whether it’s a complete overhaul of current work patterns as with the Children’s Hospital of Boston or the more marginal gain approach of Toyota, weaknesses were addressed head on.

 

Workflow issues won’t improve on their own. You’ll need to improve them through proper management, however drastic the steps taken need to be. To mimic the success of these case studies, you’ll need to get to grips with the various workflow management components and theories — one of which you’ll be using for your own gains. Components and theories are the meat and bones of workflows, so it’s worth paying close attention to the next chapter.

 

Chapter 5: Workflow Management Components Explained

A key to understanding anything in business is breaking through the jargon. And workflow management certainly has its fair share. In this chapter we simplify the terms you’re likely to encounter when creating your own workflows. These are components of WfM.

 

Informal Workflows

Informal workflows are simple and the easiest to create — usually just a sequential diagram or flowchart like this one detailing the legislative process in Australia:

Informal Workflows in workflow management.

 

Or more simply, this common TeX workflow example:

Another Informal Workflows in workflow management.

Image Credit: TeX

 

You’ve probably scribbled down such a workflow sequence in an old notebook before. See the many different shapes in the first image? That’s not just for fun. There is a method to the madness. In fact, each shape has a different meaning. Branding expert Ryan Hoten’s image explains the six most common:

Basic flowcharting icons used in workflow management.

Image Credit: Ryan Hoten

 

The Power of the Flowchart

While flowcharts can look a bit simplistic and even crazy at times, when done right, they can really improve business operations for the better.

A few years back, Ryan Hoten (whose image we used above) visited a large supplier that was having trouble increasing on-time delivery. Others before him had succeeded in improving the manufacturing process, but this hadn’t translated to delivery.

As it turned out, the problem was related to order entry. It was taking almost four days for a team of nine to enter an order, and this was slowing everything down. So Hoten asked to sit down with each member of the order entry team. He asked each of them questions about the process they used to enter orders and created individual flowcharts with the answers.

The Q&A session revealed that members of the same team were using different processes, ranging from six to 27 steps. The team member using six steps to enter an order held the key. He had created a database to improve workflow, but hadn’t bothered to share it with the others.

With the use of flowcharts, Hoten had gotten to the root of a problem that others before him couldn’t fathom. With the new information at his disposal, the order entry team was able to improve entry time by 22 steps in just three days.

 

Formal workflows

Formal workflows are known as “analytical pipelines” — instantly more serious than informal workflows, right? This approach is implemented using software systems and allows processes to be saved for reuse in new and repetitive tasks. Whenever something is referred to as “workflow automation,” this is a formal workflow created using WfM software (we’ll get into that shortly). Every step of a workflow comprises of data inputs, data transformations and data outputs.

 

  • Data inputs: the information required to proceed with a step
  • Data transformations: the rules and requirements set in place to deal with the input, including who receives and it and how the information is processed. The meat and bones of workflow, if you will
  • Data outputs: the information produced from the transformation and used for the next input

 

Or layman’s terms:

 

Information – Work Requirements – Result

Those steps exist within an overall workflow, which itself consists of four elements: actors, activities, results and state.

 

  • Actors: the people or machines tasked with carrying out the work, i.e., you and your computer (not the sort that appear in Hollywood movies)
  • Activities: the process performed by actors. Actors paired with activities within a process (for example, copywriters with copy) is called a task.
  • Results: the finished outcome of an activity or step within the workflow
  • State: the status of a workflow between processes.

 

In layman’s terms:

 

Man/Machine – Job Required of Man/Machine – Result – Workflow Status

Having each of these steps and components in order is essential to ensuring the desired outcome of a process.

 

Workflow Management Theories

Okay, so now we know that workflows are made up of steps and elements. Well, there are also various theories, including Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Lean Systems, Theory of Constraints and Business Process Reengineering. There are more, but these are the most commonly referred to when creating targeted workflow processes.

 

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is the term most often used in relation to workflow management. It’s the big dog. The leader of the pack, if you will.

It is based on statistical theory and relies upon scientific methods to break down processes and eliminate errors. Quality is analyzed at every level with observations and experiments carried out within a process until the desired goal is achieved.

Six Sigma users tend to follow two common methodologies to achieve their goals: DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) and DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).

Think of Six Sigma as the fine-tooth comb of workflow theories.

 

Total Quality Management (TQM)

These principles focus on the improvement of quality across the board. Every aspect of a workflow is examined to determine what could be changed for the better, including the quality of products and work environments.

Think of Total Quality Management as the fine-tuning of the engine for better efficiency.

 

Lean Systems

Leans Systems look for continued improvement within a workflow. It works on the basis that nothing is ever perfect, that there is always room for marginal gains. Lean systems can adapt to changes in market and technology, as is so successfully demonstrated by the Toyota Production System that we waxed lyrical about earlier.

 

Theory of Constraints (TOC)

This is a popular theory in manufacturing (although it is increasingly being adopted in marketing, sales and engineering) as it focuses on how to eliminate bottlenecks for improved performance. More specifically, TOC looks at the most inadequate aspect of an organization (the constraint) and sets about improving it. This theory works on the basis that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Moreover, it uses the Process of Ongoing Improvement (POOGI) by applying the following Five Focusing Steps (5FS):

Five focusing steps in workflow management

 

Think of Theory of Constraints as the coach always pushing you to do better.

 

Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

 

BPR works beyond workflow and looks at how an entire business process can be improved. To do this, it uses software algorithms for analysis. Keep in mind this theory is more closely associated to business process management than workflow management. Therefore, it’s worth mentioning that workflow management shouldn’t be approached in the same way as business process management. They are NOT the same thing. We explain more in the next chapter.

 

Chapter 6: Workflow Management Is Not Business Process Management

Workflow management and business process management are terms often used interchangeably, which is completely understandable, given that the two are very similar: Both are used to help companies improve operations.

There are differences though, and they matter, regardless of how subtle they may be. You might find these differences important when it comes to software. When we’ve concluded this journey and you head off to create a workflow of your own, the chances are you’ll use software to do it. When you do, keep this in mind…

A workflow is a component of a business process management.

Workflow Management vs Business Process Management

 

Hey, we did say the differences were subtle.

Workflow management software (WfMS) focuses on interactions between humans and software, while business process management software focuses on all of the resources within an organization. However, both focus on streamlining and improving the flow of work, which is why it can all get very confusing.

Let’s clarify some things with an example: You’re a manager of a team within a particular department. Things are going well, but they could be better — after all, there’s always room for improvement, right? Staff performance could be improved if they went about their job in a more efficient manner.

This is where you’d use workflow management software.

Different scenario: You’re a boss of a distribution company. Orders aren’t getting out on time. Not the fault of any one department in particular, but processes could definitely be improved to increase speed. Things need to improve company-wide, from pickers and packers to admin and drivers.

This is where you’d use business process management software.

In the case of the former, workflow management software is likely going to play a critical role in improving productivity and reducing the inefficiencies that affect revenue. As you’ll be investing a significant amount of cash in this software, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with. We explore the ins and outs in chapter 7.

 

Chapter 7: Workflow Management Software – Benefits and Features

We’ve briefly discussed what workflow management software is, but it’s worth repeating: Workflow management software is a system that provides the infrastructure for a company to coordinate, control and manage workflows. They are often software programs (usually cloud-based) for collaboration and seamless integration between teams working on projects and typically used to streamline and partially automate routine or repetitive processes — the sort of jobs that are mundane and kill productivity. In other words, the kinds of tasks we all hate doing.

Beyond the workflow automation aspect, the benefits of using WfMS are in line with the benefits of workflow management as a whole: reduced risk, improved productivity, greater access to information, enhanced visibility, et cetera.

So should you use it? That depends.

If you feel like your business regularly meets targets and objectives, you may not need WfMS at all. It might actually hinder your current workflow, rather than enhance it. Broadly speaking though and given the fact you’ve read this far into a guide on workflow management, we’re going to go out on a limb and say WfMS will probably do a lot more good than bad for your business.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Not every system will do what you need it to do, so be prepared to delve deep into what a particular piece of WfMS can offer before parting with your hard earned cash.

 

Essential features of a workflow management system

Software specific features aside, you should look for a system to provide the following features:

 

1. Cloud integration

Essential features of a workflow management system

 

According to the results, 95 percent of respondents to Right Scale’s 2017 State of the Cloud survey are now using the cloud.

In this day and age, no one is at their work desk all day, every day. We work from coffee shops, libraries, at home at 2 AM when we really should be sleeping. We even often work with colleagues in different time zones. Therefore, people need to be able to work, access information and give approvals at any time and from any location. WfMS has to be cloud-based.

 

2. Reports

A central dashboard featuring key performance indicators (KPIs) that detail performance of projects and people within the workflow ensures everything keeps ticking along nicely.

 

3. Email notifications

Customizable email notifications keep everyone in the loop when they’re not logged into the system. This is the easiest way to remind participants of new tasks and upcoming approvals.

 

4. Seamless integration with other tools

Successful workflow does not exist solely within the confines of a WfM system. It must allow documents to be uploaded from third-party software and integrate with popular systems used for sales reports, cash-flow and data capture. We’re talking apps like Microsoft Office, SalesForce and Google Calendar.

 

5. Role-based access control

Not everyone within a workflow needs access to all information. For example, a designer doesn’t need to know what’s going on in the financial department. Role-based access allows you to customize access for individuals without messing up historical workflows.

 

6. SLA status indicators

A color-coded status warning system is key to keeping on schedule and allows you to instantly identify important workflows and processes.

 

7. Pre-filled forms

Anything a user has to fill in repeatedly is made a whole lot easier if it’s pre-populated with existing data, thereby leaving only unique aspects to complete.

 

8. Flexibility

Not every workflow is sequential. Some require parallel tiers so that they can head off down a different path for certain departments without affecting the overall workflow. Take an expense form, for example; this will probably need managerial approval. Rather than create separate workflows for those that fill out expense forms, flexible pattern creation allows complexities to be added with ease.

 

Finding a workflow management software solution that meets the requirements we’ve laid out in this chapter will stand you in good stead for a successful workflow. For the software to maximum impact however, you’re going to need to lay the foundations.

But how do you lay said foundations? All is revealed in the final chapter!

 

Chapter 8: Laying the Foundations for Success – 5 Steps to Effective Workflow Implementation

When workflow isn’t quite right, it’s the employees and customers who suffer. In Planview’s study of wasted time at work, inefficiencies impacted 57 percent of staff and 48 percent of customers. That means a lack of productivity and morale in employees as well as the alienation of almost half a customer base.

Bad Workflow Management Affects People

 

Business is about the people, and the human element must be leveraged. Coplex CEO Zach Ferres says it best in his article for Entrepreneur:

“Every part of your business boils down to people. And by understanding the human element, you’ll be more profitable, lead more effectively, create brand loyalty, close more deals and do better work. Taking this approach also forces you to consider your own motivations, and this can lead you to become more empathetic and understanding.”

Better workflows equal a better workforce.

It’s become a recurring theme at this stage in the guide, but putting an effective workflow management plan in place is critical. Here are five steps to create one, starting with how your business currently operates.

 

Step 1: Map out your current workflows

Get together with key decision-makers and look closely at your current workflow. Focus particularly on how a workflow starts, how each step is performed, and the results. Make this a brainstorming session and write everything down. Involve individual team members too. Input from the ones carrying out the bulk of the work is vital to improvement.

 

Step 2: Challenge the results of your workflow

With your current workflow mapped out, ask yourself:

 

  • What works well?
  • Would it have worked better in a different order?
  • Could some steps be automated?

Identify the flaws in your workflow, again writing everything down. Are steps being duplicated? Are certain steps even necessary?

 

Step 3: Educate decision-makers

Decision-makers should have a strong knowledge of the business, its strengths and weaknesses. Refresh them on the company mission and the values of the organization. This information should also be passed onto individual team members. The idea is to get everyone on the same page, working towards the same goal. Things work much better that way.

 

Step 4: Change or adapt your workflow

With full clarity on what your business is trying to achieve, you can set about improving your existing workflow. Determine whether some steps could be carried out in parallel, rather than in sequence, and whether the addition of new tools can be used to achieve this.

Eliminate redundancies in the process.

Finally, determine roles and responsibilities. Make sure every participant is clear and confident on what their job is: where their input or action is required and where work is moved to once a task is complete.

A good tip is to rehearse workflows. Practice makes perfect, right?

Moreover, a “dry run” is a great way to make sure no steps have been overlooked or left in unnecessarily. Plus, it saves on the panic of finding out something is wrong after the workflow is “live.”

 

Step 5: Review and reinforce

Continually document and review your workflow and meet with decision-makers to ensure they’re happy with the way it operates. Also, reinforce the values of collaboration with staff and encourage participation. Make sure everyone knows what the end goal is and that they’re happy working toward it. The team is always stronger than the individual!

 

Next steps

The statistics say it all: Better workflow improves revenues, productivity, employee morale and customer confidence.

These are things you can’t afford to ignore.

The sooner you embrace workflow management, the better the long-term prospects for your business will be. Do it today for the future of your business.

Hopefully, this guide has given you enough information that you can go ahead and improve your workflows for the better.

To help you get started, download our FREE 14 Point Workflow Automation Checklist. It covers everything from identifying workflows for automation to implementation and will ensure you can effectively put into practice the takeaways from this guide. Download it now by clicking on the image below.

Of course, if you need any help, we’re always here. Email me at owen@sweetprocess.com with any questions you have about workflows or this guide.

Download the 14 point Workflow Automation Checklist

 

 

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