Without workflow management, your business is doomed to fail.
Even if your business is doing well now, if you don’t continuously improve its efficiency and productivity, sooner or later, you’ll lose to the competition sooner or later. Without workflow management, your business is more prone to error, will use more resources in achieving its goals, and ultimately, is impossible to scale.
Yet, what is workflow management? How can you implement it to improve your organization’s performance?
In this post, we will learn all you need to know about implementing workflow management and how to use workflow management to:
- Map and document your processes to standardize the execution
- Improve efficiency and productivity to reduce operating costs
- Reduce or eliminate oversight and human errors
- Improve your business’s scalability by allowing the whole team to focus on growth rather than dealing with repetitive administrative work
Without further ado, let us begin.
What Is Workflow Management?
Before we can understand the concept of “workflow management,” we must first understand what a workflow is.
What Is a Workflow?
We can define a workflow as a set of tasks, typically sequential in nature (one task must be accomplished before the next task in the sequence should be executed) when all of these actions have been executed to achieve a specific purpose or objective.
The terms “workflow” and “process” or “business process” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. Instead, in a business environment, there are three different types of workflows, and a process (process workflows) is one of them:
- Process workflow: a workflow with predictable steps/tasks that is also repeatable (when given the same input, will produce similar outputs with minimal variations). In a restaurant, cooking its signature dish is a process workflow.
- Project workflow: a workflow with predictable steps, but is not repeatable. With the same example, inventing a new dish is an example of project workflow in a restaurant.
- Case workflow: a workflow with non-predictable steps. Only when more information has been gathered can we understand the next steps to take. A case is also unique and non-repeatable. In a restaurant, taking and processing a customer’s unique order is a case.
When discussing workflow management, we typically deal with process workflows, but some of the principles can also be used to analyze and optimize projects and cases.
Workflow Management: The Concept
Workflow management is an effort to manage a workflow (or workflows) to make sure the execution of this workflow is as efficient as possible: faster to execute while using fewer resources without sacrificing quality.
In practice, workflow management involves three distinct phases:
- Workflow mapping: identifying a workflow then visualizing this workflow into an accurate workflow diagram. This phase will also involve gathering as much information as you can about the workflow.
- Workflow analysis: analyzing the workflow diagram, mainly to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks to discover where improvements can be made. The goal of the analysis process is to develop a comprehensive optimization plan.
- Workflow optimization: implementing the changes to optimize the workflow. If the implemented changes haven’t caused enough improvements, then another round of workflow analysis and optimization may be in order.
In practice, these three phases of workflow management are executed with the help of a workflow management software like Aproove that allows businesses to map, analyze, optimize, monitor, and update the workflow map in just a single platform.
In the next section, we will learn how to use a workflow management software solution to perform workflow management in a step-by-step guide.
How To Implement Workflow Management: Step-By-Step
Step 1: Identifying a workflow to manage
If your business only has one workflow, then you can skip this step.
However, if you have more than one workflow, while the end goal may be to manage and optimize all of these workflows, we should prioritize due to our limited time and resources.
- Pick a workflow that is the most important for your business in terms of direct impact (i.e., will directly improve revenue)
- Pick a workflow with obvious inefficiencies and other issues so you can fix the problems ASAP
- Pick a customer-facing workflow that will directly impact customer satisfaction, for example, a workflow that will shorten the customer’s queue time when optimized.
Step 2: Data gathering
Once you’ve identified a workflow you’d like to optimize; the next step is to gather as much information as you can about the workflow.
Observe the workflow’s execution and interview/survey stakeholders that are involved in the workflow to identify information like:
- All the tasks required to complete the workflow
- The condition(s) for finishing the workflow
- Who’s responsible for each task
- The information needed to accomplish each task and make any decision
And so on. The more complete the information you can gather, the more accurate the workflow mapping process will be.
Step 3: Workflow mapping
Once you’ve gathered enough information about the workflow, you can start mapping the workflow into an accurate workflow diagram.
The workflow diagram should be an as-is diagram. Meaning, it should visualize the workflow as it is currently executed (not an ideal version that would be executed).
With Aproove, you can use a drag-and-drop, code-free visual builder to easily map your workflow diagram.
Step 4: Workflow analysis
By studying the workflow diagram, you can consider questions such as:
- How long does it currently take to complete the workflow on average?
- Are there any unnecessary steps?
- Are there steps that can be simplified?
- Where do bottlenecks occur?
- Are any steps confusing?
- Is it possible to automate certain steps?
Develop a comprehensive optimization plan based on the answer to these questions.
Step 5: Workflow optimization
Based on the optimization plan you’ve developed in the previous step, implement the intended changes, and update the workflow diagram as needed.
Notify stakeholders of any change, including possible downtime for the workflow, and ask them to test the updated workflow. Review whether the changes implemented have indeed produced positive results or whether you’ll need to re-optimize the workflow.
There you have it: everything you need to get started with workflow management and improve your workflows to be as efficient as possible.
Improving your workflow’s efficiency will improve your organization’s productivity and overall efficiency and help improve your team’s morale and reduce your organization’s turnover rate.
By investing in the right workflow management software like Aproove, you can streamline the implementation of workflow management in your organization from start to finish, so you can concentrate on actually growing your business.