Running a business can be hard work. In fact, it takes so many people (besides you) to establish efficient business management environment. With that said, you might still have some concerns, including:
- ➡ Whether or not your business is running at its best
- ➡ The factors that might be keeping your business from thriving
- ➡ How production is holding up in your business so far
- ➡ How team members are ensuring efficient production
As a result, you’ll need to create an effective workflow management system that allows your company to not only run smoothly, but also achieve success.
This article will go into detail on what workflow management is, why it’s important to implement in your business, and how you can do so in 7 tips. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into what a workflow management system is.
Why Workflow Management?
A workflow management system (WMS or WfMS) is a software tool that allows groups, organizations, and companies to streamline their routine business processes to ensure optimal efficiency. In other words, every process can be put into automation, if you don’t want your employees to slave over doing so many things manually. When things are done through this software tool, processes can run well without the fear of being sidelined, delayed, or cancelled for any reason whatsoever.
Essentially, a business’s workflow management system acts as a to-do list for them. With the software, business personnel can:
- ➡ “Check off” completed tasks
- ➡ Highlight pending tasks (or any tasks of importance)
- ➡ Encourage tasks to be done in a certain order
- ➡ Automate any tasks that need to be automated, AND
- ➡ Process data based on said tasks
As you can see, tasks listed and monitored in workflows may be done by a human (manually), or by a system (automated) – There’s no right or wrong way to implement this system. With so many options at your company’s disposal, tasks can easily be distributed to employees to ensure a faster and more effective production process. As a result, you’ll be creating and optimizing paths for employees to take to complete items as dictated in your company’s “to-do list.” That means that you can do the following with ease:
- ➡ Find redundant tasks (either remodify them, or throw them out)
- ➡ Map out what system-triggered workflows should look like
- ➡ Automate any processes, AND
- ➡ Find any areas that need attention and or improvement
Basic Workflow Components
When it comes to workflows, they’re essentially made up of 3 basic components:
- ➡ Predefined Steps
Such steps are predefined, and are meant to be the framework of tasks in the workflow. They clarify what happens at each operation stage until your team reaches the end of a task. Whether steps are manual or automated, or if they’re branched or linear (or both), that will depend on the workflows you and your company take on.
- ➡ Stakeholders
Stakeholders are the people that carry out specific tasks in the workflow. They’re also tasked to either each step of the workflow, a group of steps, or to the workflow as a whole.
Now, whether you automate workflows, or do so manually, that can affect how stakeholders operate in your company. If workflows are automated, then stakeholders are usually less active. However, if your workflows are implemented manually, stakeholders are more active, since they’re needed whenever specific conditions or any other problems arise.
- ➡ Conditions
Conditions act as a set of rules that a workflow must follow. As such, they tell you when a particular step is completed, and what the next steps look like. For example, an IT manager can trigger an automated workflow when a company-owned device is out of a specific geographic range.
Now, conditions are set as needed in workflows. Whether conditions are approved or skipped is up to you and management to decide.
So far, workflow management involves everyone in a company; and, they should be handled and overseen by every CEO, every supervisor, and anyone else in leadership roles. Therefore, you’ll need to keep in mind these 3 basic workflow management practices:
- ➡ Clearly-defined Workflows
Since many workflows can stem from each team and department in a company, management should be able to untangle each task and make a clear path for them. That means that everyone should be aware of what each person is doing, and what they’re responsible for. This is called a clearly-defined workflow.
Such workflows are effective for exhibiting a good workflow management system. When everyone is aware of each other’s tasks and roles, that allows the company to automate the right tasks. Plus, this allows the company to document the right things at the right time. As a result, all tasks are more visible and clearer to everyone involved.
- ➡ Prioritized And Streamlined Workflows
No matter what, workflows will have their own priorities. However, if you’re streamlining your workflows, then prioritizing your workflows is essential to ensuring a healthy business ecosystem. That means that agility and goal orientation are at the forefront of prioritization.
Speaking of ecosystems, you’ll notice that subsidiary workflows will run inside primary workflows, depending on how you structure them in the workflow management software. Essentially, your primary workflows will be front and center (or on top, if listing them), while the sub-primary (or the second most important) workflows follow – You create a web or list, depending on how you structure them.
For example, for marketing workflows, creative request workflows should be prioritized behind important sales workflows. In other words, important sales workflows will be at the top, while creative request workflows follow. As a result, these tasks are prioritized and streamlined.
- ➡ Regular Monitoring And Optimization
Monitoring and optimization are key to having highly efficient workflows. Remember: Your first attempt at building a workflow won’t be perfect; and it won’t be human either. Don’t worry! Workflows are meant to be imperfect and human when run in real-time. That’s where monitoring comes in.
If your organization needs to manage multiple Android devices and tablets, automated workflows help allow you and your employees reach all business goals more efficiently. You can further trigger security-related workflows to protect your device data when you are physically away from the tablet. These features can all be a competitive advantage..
- ➡ Creating An Efficient Workflow Management System
So, now that you’re considering investing in a workflow management system, it’s time to learn how you can implement it into your company’s day-to-day operations. While you might now know the basics of implementing such a system, it’s still important to do so effectively, so that you and your company can run smooth workflows, and then reap the benefits of them.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways to create an efficient workflow management system for your company:
#1 Educate Your Team On Workflow Management
Just because your company decides to establish a workflow management system, doesn’t mean that everyone in your company will be fully aware of it. As management, you’ll need to educate your team about the standing workflow management system, or any changes to the current one. When educating your team about the system, be sure to talk about the following:
- ➡ How the workflow management system will make everyone’s jobs easier
- ➡ The benefits that the system has to offer to each team member, AND
- ➡ How everyone on the team (and in the company) can use the software effectively
#2 Integrate With Other Cloud Apps
Back then, integration with other cloud apps wasn’t a have-to. But nowadays, integration is treated as a have-to in workflow management. Why? Because workflows can’t function by themselves. In fact, they’re very dependent of other processes, which involve the following:
- ➡ Documents
- ➡ Cash flows
- ➡ Sales reports
- ➡ Calendars, AND
- ➡ Contact details
Such processes will need to flow smoothly from your workflow tool to the following destinations:
- ➡ CMS
- ➡ Calendar
- ➡ Financial software, etc.
So, if you haven’t done so already, make sure that your workflow management system is integrated with other cloud apps. If your system doesn’t integrate with said apps, then chances are, it’s outdated. Therefore, if it’s outdated, then update it right away, or consider switching to a better workflow management software. But then, let your team know of any changes or news regarding the software.
#3 Give Team Members Access To Workflow Management
When you let your team members know about the workflow management system, make sure that they have access to that system. This is especially crucial, if your team is scattered in different locations around the world. Let’s face it: No business wants to be static, when it comes to workflows.
By allowing each team member to access the software, they’re able to streamline their business workflows in ways that they see fit. Just keep in mind: You’ll need tools and platforms that are cloud-based for better access for team members no matter where they’re located.
#4 Collaborate With Others
Nothing makes business operations run smoother and faster than being able to collaborate with team members, as well as other companies. The power of working together has stood the test of time in allowing people to work towards a common goal. This should be the framework for workflows.
So, when looking for workflow management software, make sure that it’s seamless for multiple team members (and companies) to collaborate to work towards any goal. If a software puts collaboration at the forefront, then it’s a good software to invest in.
#5 Have A Workflow Designer
A workflow management system needs an intuitive, code-free workflow designer. Now, when designing a workflow, you’ll get two different outcomes:
- ➡ A process owner (without coding experience) will typically create a workflow that’s only a straight line drawn to show key steps in a process – each requiring input, approval, or denial.
- ➡ A programmer tasked to make software for a workflow will typically create it to where it has so many branches with inputs, approvals, and denials mapped out effectively – thanks to some help from coding.
Which is better to have for a workflow management system? One that separates simplicity from the complex. While all the complex stuff stays in the background, simplicity is front and center.
#6 Document Progress And Any Changes
As mentioned before, all workflows should be documented, when it comes to progress. Since workflow management systems are expected to be accessible for all, management should supervise documentation of workflow progress, and then identify areas in the company that need significant improvement.
As you can see, documentation is essential for businesses, since that affects how tasks are created, and how they’re distributed among personnel. With that said, keeping an eye on technological advances is just as important. With technology evolving every day, there will be better systems that can make your current one obsolete. Once that happens, you’ll need to update your personnel on any changes, and how they can help contribute to any transitions. This allows you and your company to operate workflows more seamlessly.
#7 Look At Pricing
Finally, pricing is just as important as features. When investing in a workflow management system, which would you want?
- ➡ A software that’s costly and effective? OR
- ➡ A software that’s cheap and ineffective?
So, when looking at software, look at pricing. While the cheap price tag may seem enticing, you’ll still need to see if the software has the features you need or not. Plus, while the expensive price tag might look intimidating, it might have the features that you need. When you align price with the features, you and the company can make an educated decision when investing in a software.
Also of note: The best Workflow Management Systems have a monthly pay-as-you-go model, meaning that the fees are all-inclusive of running costs, where you only pay for how many users are using the system.
Now, if a workflow tool doesn’t show you the cost of it when you search online, that means that they want to learn how much they’ll get out of you based on your size and reputation. Be careful when investing in such tools.
Ultimately, investing in a workflow management system comes with plenty of research and consideration in your company. So, when shopping for a workflow management system, here are some of the features that you’ll need to keep in mind:
- ➡ Allowing individuals (i.e., your team members) to automate repetitive tasks
- ➡ Being able to spotlight uncompleted tasks automatically, AND
- ➡ Allowing companies and groups to see the overall picture of workflows, along with their performance metrics
As you keep these 7 tips in mind, don’t settle for less, and don’t get caught up in the complexity. Learn to see what features are right for you and your company. our company will be able to run seamless workflows for many years to come.
Elizabeth Hines is a writer and editor at Academized. As a business writer, she writes articles about business management and workflows. As a tech writer, she runs blogs that are specialized in coding and the latest tech trends.