The Ultimate Guide To Workflow Management
A workflow can make or break your success.
11:28 07 September 2021
All businesses and even individuals have at least one workflow, and depending on how efficient and effective you execute, this workflow can make or break your success.
This is why taking the time to identify, map, manage, and optimize workflow is very important if you want to improve your productivity and efficiency. This is where workflow management comes in.
Thinking about optimizing your workflow but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place.
In this ultimate guide to workflow management, we’ll learn together all you need to know about workflow management, including:
- What is a workflow?
- What is workflow management?
- The benefits of optimizing workflows?
- How to implement workflow management on your day-to-day operations.
What Is Workflow Management?
As the name suggests, workflow management is the effort of managing and especially optimizing a workflow so that it’s as efficient as possible.
So, what is a “workflow”?
We can define a workflow as a set of sequential tasks that, when performed, will:
- Transform raw material(s) into processed goods and/or
- Process raw data into a processed format (i.e., report)
When these tasks and required steps are finished, we’ll either successfully or unsuccessfully achieve a specific objective.
The term “workflow” is often used interchangeably with “process” or “business process,” but although they are closely related, they aren’t the same.
To understand the difference between the two, we have to understand that there are three main types of business workflows that we’ll discuss below.
Different Types of Workflows
Business process workflow
This is the “process” we’ve talked about. We can call a workflow a process workflow or business process workflow if it is repeatable and predictable.
Meaning, when given the same inputs, the workflow will always produce the same output (at least, with minimal variations).
For example, let’s use a marketing agency as an example. The workflow of calculating the billable hours and creating an invoice is repeatable and predictable. It is a process. A process is designed to handle an unlimited number of inputs, and so it’s relatively easy to automate a process.
Business case workflow
In a “case,” the exact steps required to finish the case are not predictable at the start, and you’ll only know the next step once more data about the input is gathered. The output of the workflow is also not predictable.
Using the same marketing agency example, handling client support can be considered a case. We wouldn’t know the exact steps needed to handle the complaint, but the path will reveal itself as the client provides more information.
A business case is not repeatable. Total automation is generally impossible, as you’ll need a human supervisor to discern the right path. Advanced AI, however, might be able to replace this human user and perform automation.
Business project workflow
A “project” has structured and predictable steps, just like a process, but typically a project is one-off and not repeatable.
Again, in a marketing agency, designing an advertising campaign for a specific client is a project. It is one-off, and although the path is structured and predictable, it won’t always generate the same output every time.
In most cases, “workflow management” refers to managing and optimizing business process workflows, although the same principle and techniques can be applied to managing cases and projects to some extent.
The Benefits of Workflow Management
Implementing workflow management to manage and optimize your workflow can provide the following benefits:
- Improved access to information: a core aspect of workflow management is visualizing the workflow into a workflow map/diagram. This will provide us with a bird’s-eye view of the whole workflow to monitor and review critical tasks in real-time. We’ll have an easier time finding inefficiencies and bottlenecks so we can fix the issues ASAP.
- Transparency and accountability: with a well-documented workflow map, it’s easier to communicate the workflow to stakeholders, clients, and team members. Everyone can understand who should be working on what, and accountability will translate into productivity.
- Reduce risks: workflow management ensures the workflow is standardized to prevent workplace hazards, ensure products are delivered according to standards and stay compliant with regulations.
- Audit trail: especially with a workflow management software solution by Aproove in place, records are well documented so we can easily track who had executed specific tasks, when it was done, what changes were made, and more.
- Automation: workflow management enables automation, which will further improve the efficiency and productivity of the organization.
- Relieving employees from administrative tasks: workflow management ensures we can eliminate bottlenecks and automate repetitive tasks, so employees and managers no longer need to use their valuable time for repetitive and redundant administrative tasks. They can focus on their core competencies and contribute more to your organization’s success.
How To Implement Workflow Management
While the actual implementation of workflow management may vary depending on the workflow itself, it always consists of three key steps:
Visualizing the workflow into a workflow diagram, typically in a flowchart format. In this step, we should:
- Pick a workflow to manage and optimize
- Strategic: a workflow that will provide the most impact on your business’s goal
- Reactive: a workflow with clear inefficiencies and issues
- Customer-centric: a workflow that will offer the most impact on customer satisfaction
- Gather as much data as you can about the workflow, for example, by interviewing team members
- Map the workflow into a workflow diagram. You can use the workflow builder tool included in your workflow management tool like Aproove for this purpose
2. Workflow analysis
Once the workflow is mapped, we can perform analysis to:
- Identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and redundancies
- Checking the accuracy of the workflow map whether it has included all the tasks and steps
- Assessing whether there are any steps that could be substituted or eliminated
- Based on the workflow analysis, develop an optimization plan on how we should optimize the workflow.
3. Workflow optimization
In this step, we implement the changes according to the optimization plan developed in the workflow analysis phase. Invite stakeholders/team members to also monitor these changes. Check whether there are any actual improvements. Remember that workflow management is supposed to be a cycle rather than a one-off process. If necessary, go back to the workflow analysis phase and adjust the optimization plan.
Workflow management is ultimately about three things: mapping/visualizing your workflow, analyzing your workflow to identify inefficiencies, and fixing these inefficiencies.
By ensuring your workflow is as efficient as possible, you’ll also improve your organization’s overall productivity and efficiency in achieving its goals.