- Business managers can use different types of workflow to streamline processes.
- Workflow management can increase accountability and eliminate redundancy.
- Effective execution of workflow management helps employees focus on critical tasks.
- Here is how workflow management contributes to business success.
What’s the most effective way to get things done in business?
In a perfect world, every business manager would appreciate the value of workflow management and seamlessly implement it to achieve success. But workflow management still remains a topic of contention in several industries.
The good news is it’s never too late to get started. How exactly does workflow management contribute to business success? Keep reading to find out.
What is workflow and why is it important?
What makes ‘workflow’ critical in the world of business?
Since every business involves a combination of complex, repeatable tasks, most business managers prefer to set up workflows as part of their quality management strategies.
“Workflow” refers to a series of tasks that need to be carried out without fail in order to accomplish business objectives. To put it more simply, it’s the flow of work from one stage to another, as it moves from initiation to completion. Workflow can involve a single employee to multiple employees and clients.
What are the different types of workflow?
With the right approach, employees won’t have a hard time focusing on important or immediate tasks. Business managers can leverage three kinds of workflow to achieve this.
1. Sequential workflow
Sequential workflow is applied in situations where one step/task depends on the completion of the previous step/task. This workflow is strictly sequential; the steps are completed one after the other until the end goals get accomplished.
It’s ideal for any kind of process in which the steps remain the same. For instance, if you are a business manager who manages a procurement department, you don’t pay the invoice until after your quotation is made and your purchase is approved.
2. State machine workflow
A state machine is an event-driven workflow that consists of states and transitions. It’s used to complete multiple tasks at the same time and can progress only when all these tasks are completed.
While a ‘state’ is the fundamental unit in this workflow, ‘transition’ refers to the relationship between two states in a state machine. The states are added to an activity in the state machine workflow and transitions regulate the flow between states. This workflow has one initial state, one final state, and several states in between.
The states in between should mandatorily have at least one transition.
3. Rules-driven workflow
Rules-driven workflow is an advanced version of the sequential workflow. The progress of the tasks in this workflow is determined by a set of rules. It’s mostly used in projects that have clear objectives but have varying sets of rules.
For instance, the finance sector uses rules-centric workflow systems. Some of the common rules in such workflows would be:
- If the credit risk is lower than 50 percent, offer a loan.
- If the credit risk is greater than 50 percent, refuse a loan.
What is workflow management?
Workflow management is the organization, optimization, and automation of workflows to do away with repetition and errors.
Do you want to organize your business for long-term success? If you are, then workflow management is a process you need for your business.
Is workflow management the same as project management?
No. Project management is all about tending to a project from its initiation to completion, which involves multiple workflows and people. Each project is a one-time event.
Workflow management focuses on a defined set of repeating tasks.
Why is workflow management crucial for business success?
Imagine helping your employees reclaim as much as 11-12 hours every week. That much extra time allows them to focus on critical tasks and operations.
Here’s why you need to leverage workflow management for success:
1. Workflow management eliminates redundancy
The absence of workflow management forces some of your most valuable employees to waste time on mundane tasks instead of critical work that requires their attention and skills. In reality, most of these tasks can be automated; some of them can even be eliminated.
With proper workflow management, you can identify these redundancies and handle them accordingly. You can allocate the tasks to the right resources, automate them, or stop activities that don’t add any value to the organization.
2. Workflow management ties time to action
All business processes and activities are time-bound; to increase productivity, you need impactful time management strategies.
To make sure your business processes are on track, you need to evaluate their trajectory. This is why workflow management is important—it gives you insights into the progress of your processes, the personnel involved, and, most importantly, how effectively your deadlines are met. It’ll also help employees track their timelines and turn in their assignments in time.
3. Workflow management increases accountability
Keeping your employees motivated to accomplish their tasks is no easy feat. But one way to do so is by encouraging them to take accountability.
At the end of the day, who’d want to be micromanaged? Rather than constantly nagging your team about their tasks, entrust them with the full responsibility for it.
Let them complete their job, then you can evaluate the quality of the work. A solid workflow that details tasks and who they are assigned to encourages people to step up.
Best workflow management practices
There are several ways to ensure you can make the most of your workflow management system as you set it up. Apart from keeping tabs on important metrics and reassessing your methods, here are some effective strategies you can use:
1. Prioritize your time and goals
Before you come up with complex protocols for your business processes, sit back and ask yourself this question—what is your organization’s top priority?
Brainstorm with your stakeholders and team members. Encourage them to address the bottlenecks and identify major challenges, then build your workflow by accommodating these factors. That’s how you create effective solutions.
2. Always document your workflows
The ultimate goal of creating effective workflows is to do away with time-consuming repetitive business tasks. How do you do that? It’s simple, but it’s by no means easy.
- Study your existing workflows and identify the shortcomings.
- Ask your stakeholders to sketch workflows for the tasks they take care of.
- Make sure they note down the most complicated steps of their work, including the ones that are more prone to errors.
- Draft supporting documentation for their workflows.
Your workflow needs to be the epitome of effective business communication; try your best to explain what a task entails, who handles it, and which tools are used.
3. Automate your workflows
By 2023, the workflow automation industry is expected to attain a value of $18.45 billion. Letting your team be overwhelmed by repetitive tasks is a recipe for disaster. Automation lets you accelerate your workflows by unlocking their full potential.
Wondering when you should automate your workflows? The following are some telltale hints.
- You burn more money than you need to.
- You receive excessive customer complaints.
- Your projects are never finished.
- There’s an unmanageable amount of repetitive tasks across departments.
- Your team uses spreadsheets and actual paperwork.
- Employees are almost always burned-out.
- There are so many roadblocks in payrolls and scheduling.
Make sure you accommodate the requirements of each team when you automate processes.
4. Choose quality workflow management systems
Quality workflow management software can transform the way you handle your business operations. By converting your repeatable manual tasks into intuitive workflows, you get real benefits faster. Some of these systems allow you to reuse workflows—you won’t need to send emails or set up documents every single time you revisit a task.
An effective workflow management system can increase your productivity through better collaboration. Employees and stakeholders can raise requests through custom forms in workflow management systems. This way, the organization can secure its sensitive data while attaining business agility and collaboration.
Here are some points to keep in mind while choosing your workflow management system:
- Make sure your workflow management system ensures seamless collaboration between employees and stakeholders
- Pick a workflow management system that allows easy reporting
- Make sure that the interface is basic and effective
- Look for a system that easily integrates your existing tools
5. Leave legacy solutions behind
Is your organization held back by inefficient legacy solutions? If your answer is yes, then it’s time to lose them.
Legacy systems are problematic. They cost more, have non-flexible functionalities, and have long implementation processes. Most importantly, switching vendors in legacy solutions is hard—so if you feel the need to try something different, you’ll find that it’ll take a lot of work.
Choosing a state-of-the-art workflow management solution has so many advantages: they are flexible, modular, and easily deployable.
Streamlined workflow management results in higher productivity and, eventually, great employee and customer satisfaction. It’s empowering to have proactive control over your business processes, rather than watching them go awry.
Workflow management can bring in more agility, scalability, and flexibility to your organization by improving collaboration and accountability. Employees won’t feel burned out, and not only do they get more work done, but they also get to tackle critical tasks that are right up their alley.
Originally published Jan 17, 2021, updated Jan 30, 2022