No matter the scale at which your business operates or the type of product or service you push to the market, internal workflow management can make a world of difference. The way you handle incoming projects, ongoing research into new products and services, as well as customer support and marketing all speak volumes about your brand as a whole.
According to studies published by Red Hat, 65% of surveyed business leaders have stated that proper workflow management has helped their overall efficiency, versatility and customer satisfaction. This is further proven by the fact that 93% of the surveyed businesses had some form of workflow management improvement project underway, solidifying the current need for adequate internal process organization.
But how do you begin to grasp how your teams and departments handle individual projects and everyday workflow in order for you to organize them into roadmaps? Let’s take a look at how to do just that.
Benefits of Proper Workflow Management
Before we get into the transformational workflow management, let’s also discuss the benefits of organizing your internal processes beforehand. Veronica Wright, CEO of Resumes Centre spoke on the matter recently: “Without planning or direction, any project is doomed to fail regardless of its budget or innovation. Make sure that a clear roadmap is present before actual work is done to ensure easier tracking and data accumulation down the line.”
Remember that it is important to look at workflow management as a helpful tool instead of a corporate trend that is a necessary evil. With that in mind, let’s jump right into it:
One of the biggest benefits attributed to workflow management processes is the fact that they effectively cut down on workflow downtime. Project teams often lose entire hours due to planning or “unexpected” situations which could easily be covered by contingency plans in the workflow roadmap itself. Less downtime per day will translate into projects being delivered sooner, cutting down on the production time and ensuring that clients and customers are more satisfied with the service received.
Better Morale & Productivity
Morale often suffers due to a general lack of direction in terms of project management or proper workflow organization. Individuals who are tired of waiting for the right instructions to be passed down often take matters into their own hands and projects get sidetracked fairly easily. Workflow management can lead to better productivity and employee engagement during work hours.
Lastly, workflow management organization does take some time and resources to get just right. However, it should be viewed as a future investment just like office refurbishing or computer upgrades have become a norm. Even if you work in a small startup, chances are that you will face fast and furious situations in which you won’t have time to think and improvise on your feet. Don’t write off workflow management as something unnecessary and take some time to evaluate your processes for a better tomorrow.
What to Do
So what should you do? Here are 6 steps you can take to master workflow management.
Brainstorm the Workflow
The first part of the workflow roadmap creation process should be to gather your staff and team members for a brainstorming session. Don’t think about step-by-step mapping or descriptions of each stage of project management you employ. Instead, think of intuitive and stress-free ways to handle each incoming client, customer, and project from scratch.
While it is useful to lean on past experiences, try to think of new ways to handle workflow which were not employed in your company previously. If you don’t have a writer or a content creator in-house, you can use platforms such as Write Load and Evernote to organize your notes and brainstorming results in legible writing. Once every department has said what could be done better to make workflow more manageable, you can move on to the problem-solving portion of the process.
Most companies turn to workflow management processes due to problems in everyday work activities. As such, the process is designed to help you identify and eliminate productivity bottlenecks which might impair your staff and company. Don’t be shy about expressing exactly what problems you and your colleagues face on a daily basis in terms of managing incoming work. Even seemingly mundane things such as “poor lunch break timing” can have drastic effects on the way you perceive your everyday work.
Make sure to give everyone a voice to express their own bottlenecks in terms of workflow and try to draw parallels between what affects individuals and the entire office staff. That way, you will quickly find out which problems are subjective nuisances and which ones can truly hurt your company in terms of output and revenue.
Define Situational Branching Workflow
What most organizations fail to grasp is the sheer volume of possibilities presented by workflow management. For example, if you create a crisis management roadmap for emails that arrive past the official work hours, you should create branching choices for your employees. In this case, you can create a path A in case the email comes from a recurring client and path B if it’s a promotional or cold email. This type of versatility is very welcome when it comes to workflow management as it will allow your employees more freedom in tackling each activity.
Samantha Briar, a senior team leader at Onlinewritersrating spoke on the matter briefly: “It’s important to have outlines of workflow management present for different circumstances. This is especially true if you delegate important work to junior employees or individuals in career transition who may not be able to think on their feet.”
Eliminate Obstructive Processes
One of the toughest parts of workflow management creation process is eliminating unwanted, time-consuming and obstructive processes. It’s no secret that some processes serve no purpose other than to pad out a project’s production longer than necessary. These processes can be merged with other, more lenient ones or redefined into more effective activities.
For example, there is no need to type out dozens of emails by hand and then send them manually during a promotional campaign. Platforms such as Mail Chimp, Flash Essay, and The Essay Typer can alleviate much of the time-wasting and frustration in that aspect. The same logic can be applied across the entire company, so make sure to be on the lookout for activities that make employees groan with dissatisfaction to identify your obstructive processes.
Create Actionable & Measurable Processes
There is little point to creating a workflow management roadmap if you lean on abstract terminology and unspecified instructions. It’s good practice to only include actionable words and phrases into your workflow management chart, especially when you outline processes targeted at junior employees.
Each process segment can be fitted with a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to make it easier for individuals to guide their way towards successful actions. Don’t lean on heavy jargon or industry-specific wording to make sure that your workflow is as clear and understandable as possible to a large segment of your staff.
Lastly, it’s important to iterate on the workflow roadmap you created initially and add new, innovative elements to it frequently. Don’t be afraid to update your processes from time to time as you gain tangible feedback and input from your staff. Creating a working workflow management process is a team effort, one that will take time and patience to refine adequately.
However, you should avoid changing things for the sake of changing “something” in your everyday workflow. Don’t fix what works well for your colleagues and focus your efforts on the betterment of the entire workflow management chart as a whole.
Mistakes to Avoid in Workflow Management
Workflow Management in a Bubble
Now that we have a clearer idea of how to create a workflow roadmap, let’s highlight some mistakes you should avoid while doing so. For starters, you should never create a workflow management system in a closed circle. A project team should be created for the final roadmap creation but every department and (optimally) employee should have a say in how the workflow will be defined.
The goal of creating a workflow management system is to increase productivity and output across the board for your company – not the other way around. If you notice slowdown and bottlenecks as a result of workflow management implementation, something has gone very wrong in your roadmap creation. Keep testing different builds for your roadmap until your coworkers and individual departments are satisfied with the final product.
Forgetting the Workflow Management
Finally, your workflow management system should be in active use at all times without exception. Make sure that your teams are aware of the system and that they are learning about how to use it effectively for the betterment of their own work. There is little point in spending weeks of precious time and resources on workflow management if you won’t implement what you have created.
Mastering workflow management takes some trial and error to get just right. However, with proper communication and objective planning, you will be able to transform your current processes into more concrete, actionable phases. As a result, your productivity, cross-department collaboration, and overall revenue will grow over time – not to mention the spike in employment satisfaction that comes with it.
Authored By Guest Contributor Amanda Sparks