A business’s efficiency or productivity is determined by how efficiently its workflows are executed: an efficient workflow will use fewer resources and take less time to achieve results, which will ultimately improve the business’s overall performance.
Workflow management is the effort of mapping, documenting, analyzing, and optimizing the workflow to ensure it is executed as efficiently as possible.
If the business only involves a single workflow, then implementing workflow management may be relatively simple. However, in reality, most businesses deal with multiple workflows that are intricately interconnected to each other, and optimizing them can be easier said than done.
In this post, we will discuss what workflow management is and how to effectively implement workflow management in your organization, and let us begin right away.
What Workflow Management Is
First, what is a workflow?
We can define a workflow as a sequence of tasks that when executed will achieve a specific objective, and actually, there are several different types of workflows.
Types of Workflows Based on Tasks Execution
- Sequential workflows: sequential workflows occur when each task in the workflow depends on the completion of the previous task. For example, in a restaurant, the head chef must approve the dish before it can be served to customers.
- Parallel workflows: in a parallel workflow, multiple tasks are performed in parallel. For example, an IT manager may request the purchase of a software solution to the finance team while simultaneously requesting contracts for the software vendor from the legal team.
Whether a workflow is sequential or parallel (or sometimes, a combination of both) in nature can dictate how the workflows should be managed and optimized.
Types of Workflows Based on Repeatability
The term “workflow” and “process” or “business process” are often used interchangeably, they aren’t one and the same. In fact, process workflow is just one of three different types of workflow based on repeatability:
- Process workflow: a process workflow has predictable steps/tasks and is repeatable. In a restaurant business, for example, the workflow of preparing the restaurant’s signature dish is a process workflow: there’s a standard recipe so the steps are predictable, and given the same input it will always produce similar results (repeatable).
- Project workflow: a project workflow has predictable steps, but is non-repeatable. Using the same restaurant example, a workflow to develop a new dish is a project workflow since it’s not repeatable.
- Case workflow: a case workflow has unpredictable steps and is non-repeatable. The steps will only reveal themselves when more information has been gathered. Handling a customer complaint is an example of case workflows in a restaurant.
Anatomy of Workflow Management
Workflow management, as discussed, is an effort of managing and optimizing a workflow to ensure it’s executed as efficiently as possible.
Workflow management is facilitated by a workflow management system to define and control the tasks within the workflow, and in practice, the workflow management process is divided into three distinct phases:
- Workflow mapping: visualizing the workflow in the form of a workflow diagram and documenting the workflow. Workflow mapping has two important functions: standardizing the workflow to ensure consistency and facilitating workflow analysis via an accurate representation of the workflow.
- Workflow analysis: analyzing the workflow diagram as well as data of the workflow’s performance to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. The goal of this phase is to develop an optimization plan detailing how the workflow should be improved.
- Workflow optimization: implementing the changes planned in the workflow analysis phase and monitoring whether the changes made have actually improved the workflow’s efficiency. If necessary, another round of analysis and optimization may be performed.
Why Is Workflow Management Important?
There are two main purposes of workflow management: mapping and documenting workflows to ensure standardization and optimizing the workflow to make sure it’s executed as efficiently as possible.
In turn, these will offer so many benefits to the workflow’s execution and the organization’s performance as a whole, including:
1. Standardizing workflow execution
Ensuring each task within the workflow is executed the right way every time, minimizing confusion between different team members and preventing disputes. Standardization will also minimize risks of errors to ensure compliance.
2. Improving morale and productivity
An accurate workflow mapping will improve transparency and accountability of the workflow, so all stakeholders involved in the workflow will know exactly what their roles and responsibilities are, which task should be performed by who, and what’s expected of them. In turn, transparency and accountability will improve the morale of the whole team.
3. Improved efficiency and productivity
Workflow management ensures the workflow is executed as efficiently as possible while removing bottlenecks to improve productivity. The organization can get similar (or even better) outputs while using fewer resources in a shorter time frame.
4. More effective communications and collaborations
Comprehensive workflow management solutions like Aproove, for example, can provide the whole time with automatic notifications when task statuses change. Again, this will improve the workflow’s transparency and accountability of every stakeholder in the workflow, which will ultimately improve collaborations across teams, departments, and the whole organization.
5. Better alignment
By automatically sending notifications for deadlines, updates, and statuses changes, everyone involved in the workflow can have better alignment with the workflow’s objectives and the organization’s overall mission.
6. Easier evaluation of performance
A proper workflow management solution can offer visible metrics with analytics and dynamic reports, so managers can more easily evaluate the performance of each workflow. With the ability to monitor the workflow’s performance in real-time, we can more quickly identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies and fix any issues ASAP.
7. Facilitating automation
While automating workflows can be beneficial, it’s crucial that we should only automate workflows that are already efficient, or else automation will only amplify the inefficiencies. Workflow management’s main purpose is to ensure the efficiency of workflow, which in turn will facilitate automation.
Workflow management can ensure standardization of workflows, while at the same time will help organizations in optimizing the workflow to be as efficient as possible. In turn, workflow management will improve the organization’s overall productivity, employee morale, and allow the organization to achieve more results with fewer resources and in less time.