Do you often find yourself looking for answers to questions like:
How can I optimize my workflows so that the business keeps growing?
Which techniques can I rely on to increase productivity?
Can I adapt my workflows to suit my employee/project needs?
If yes, you’re most likely a business owner of a small firm who’s trying to control costs and save time on processes. Or, you might be a workflow manager at a relatively large firm who’s tasked at increasing efficiencies of the process.
The straightforward answer to your questions is workflow management. While there are a few techniques you could employ, remember that there is no one solution that fits all. What works for one business might not necessarily work for yours. That means you need some innovative ideas to better monitor and manage your workflows.
Before you go on reading about the techniques to manage workflows, it’s important you first understand what workflow management means.
The process of identifying, organizing, and coordinating a set of tasks to produce a certain predefined outcome is called workflow management. If you are responsible for managing work in a way that leads to the required output, your job necessarily entails identifying and arranging tasks, which need to be done sequentially and parallelly.
Managing workflow simply means clustering related tasks and coordinating the use of available resources such as people and machines. As a workflow manager, your prime aim is to remove bottlenecks and streamline the process so that it leads to maximum efficiency, no errors and minimum cost.
Business owners, managers and executives spend a lot of their time managing operational processes, which can be repetitive and time consuming, every day. Some of these tasks are answering emails, taking calls, responding to messages and queries, attending and leading meetings, etc.
Automating such processes and tasks can decrease the time it takes to execute workflows. As per several reports, workflow automation can improve a team’s working capacity by 35-50%. Moreover, automated workflows have less dependency on humans, which helps speed up processes and reduce costly errors. As a result, companies can become more cost efficient with savings ranging between 25% and 50%.
The time and money saved can be used to make actual business decisions that positively affect the growth of your company.
When the process was first launched, it might have been perfectly suited to what you were hoping to achieve. But as time goes by, processes need to be updated. There could be a lot of time wasted that can be saved and used on other processes by simply managing workflows.
Here are a few things you can do to manage your workflow processes to ensure they are running as you need them to be:
Make a complete list of all the business workflows that are operating in your organization. This will give you an idea of how many workflows you have, and how many you’ll need to revisit to check on their performance.
It doesn’t make sense to try and optimize every workflow since there’s bound to be certain processes that rank a lot more on priority than others. So, rank all your workflows according to how important they are to your business. Once you’ve done that, you can work on streamlining them based on the importance they hold.
Understand what each step of the workflows does, and see which areas can be improved. This will provide a microscopic perspective into the workings of each process. Once you’ve done that, implement the new changes in a test environment and see if the changes have the effect that you desire on them.
The people involved in the process are the ones who know the workflows from up-close. You’ll get good feedback from them, since they’re going to find which features and processes are easier to work with than others. They can clearly see which aspects of the workflows impact them the most.
Ask for feedback because it helps you to further optimize and streamline your processes. A good start is to document process performance so that you can use the information to improve it later.
Automating these tasks can help you save time that your staff would need to dedicate to this. You can automate this through form automation as well. Check out some of the best form automation software that can be utilized to do this.
We’ve been talking about workflows and your business operations all this time, but there’s an aspect that we haven’t mentioned yet. Apart from all of these mechanical aspects, your team members are the ones who are actually going to be down on the ground and executing those processes.
How they interact and work with each other will ensure how effective the process is. If your team doesn’t work as a single unit and has issues working seamlessly together, then they won’t be as productive and efficient as you need them to be. That’s precisely why team workflow management is an important aspect that you should pay attention to.
Employee engagement and satisfaction is key to any happy and productive work environment, and understanding and connecting with fellow team members will ensure you can achieve that.
Whether you’re developing a new module for an existing workflow or a new workflow entirely for a process that you’re about to implement, it’s always a good idea to test out a new addition before you roll it out.
There’s a lot more to this than just testing for potential flaws. You also get an idea of how efficient it is, and get feedback from the testing staff about if it could be improved further. It could show how you improve your model so there are less resources used and more time saved.
You might also want to try two or more ways of doing the same task and take feedback from your executives on which works best for them. This is probably the best way to include your workers in decision making and customize processes based on the ground staff. Again, it’s a great way to improve employee engagement and enhance satisfaction.
It’s great to test and implement new additions to your processes, but it’s also important to know if they have made a difference. So, analyze and inspect how a newly introduced workflow management solution has made a difference.
Has it improved the productivity of your staff? Has it brought the returns that it promised? Has it reduced the overheads that were present before?
For example, Adam owns a factory where cars are manufactured. He’s optimized the painting section of his factory, so that they take less time to finish painting a car. Sure, that saves time.
But how has that time saved made a difference in terms of revenue? He can find out if he’s shipped more cars to the customers. That directly translates to revenue for the company. You can use the workflow management software with monitoring features to keep track of your activities and their potential impact.
Your customers are keeping you in business, so your top priority should be to make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to make sure that their concerns are addressed and they’re satisfied with the service you’re giving them.
See what processes you have in place for customer service. Do they make a difference in how fast and effectively their issues are resolved? See if your workflows can make a change in how your customers view your service towards them. A single customer who has a good experience with you is a lot more powerful than marketing campaigns trying to win over new customers. Their words are raw and honest. This can be a lot more convincing for other people to become your customer.
You’ll need to constantly work on your workflows to make sure that they’re performing according to how your business is growing. What worked for your organization when it was fledgling could be woefully outdated as time goes by. Workflow software can help create workflows and have them updated as you keep your business growing.
Business process management is one step ahead of workflow management. While workflow essentially means a sequence of tasks completed to reach the end goal, business process management means managing multiple workflows. As your organization grows and expands, consider investing in the business process management software to effectively manage multiple processes together and get a high-level view of the functioning of the firm.
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