At this point, most companies know that it is crucial to automate processes and use some sort of workflow management system to manage their workflows for increased productivity. However, there are still a handful of enterprises that do not have a clue what a workflow management system is and how it could help with increasing business productivity.
What is workflow management?
Workflow management creates and optimises the data paths for completing items in a given process. Workflow management involves finding mundane tasks, mapping the workflow to an optimal outcome, automating the process, and identifying areas for improvement or bottlenecks.
A workflow management system (WMS or WfMS) is a software tool designed to help improve performance by streamlining repetitive business processes. Workflow management systems include developing a data-keeping structure and automating a linear task direction for the data to follow before it is processed in full.
The use of existing corporate systems such as Microsoft Outlook or Office 365 can also boost productivity when used together with a workflow management system. A better approach would be to incorporate efficient, specialized workflow tools to create versatile workflows.
Main functions of a WMS
• Enables people to automate repetitive processes
• Automatically follows up on unfinished tasks in the process
• Gives a description of the overall workflow and efficiency metrics
Some features every workflow management system should have
1. User-friendliness for people who cannot read code
The workflow management system should be able to cater to everyone in the company, including those who do not know coding languages. It should be as code-free as possible and easy to use since not everyone using this system is technically inclined especially to computer science. It should aim to integrate and encourage staff of all departments and levels to use it as a common platform rather than intimidate those who are not familiar with coding. Simply put, it should be straightforward enough for Lehman to use and understand.
2. WYSIWYG form designer
Following up with point 1, “what you see is what you get” type of form designer is most ideal in a workflow management system. This is again to ensure that all staff could use and understand it easily without having the trouble of consulting with the IT guys constantly. They have to be drag-and-drop with all the different types of fields such as text, numbers, maps, estimates, and drop-downs. The form designer should be simple yet impressive, and most importantly gets the job done.
3. KPI-based reports
Lots of workflow tools will allow you to build a simple workflow out there. But if you’re serious about actually achieving a new level of productivity, some solid reporting features will be necessary. When you automate a workflow for the first time, you enter a testing ground. What you thought was running smoothly could take a lot longer than you had anticipated. A reporting function based on KPI in your workflow management system will allow you to see and analyze where the bottlenecks are and where your attention should be focused.
4. Cloud-based technology
Cloud-based technology for your workflow management system would allow any staff to access data from any location. In addition, maintenance and updates would also be made easier with cloud-based storage.
5. Integration with other work processes/applications
Most of the time, processes in the company do not operate independently of other processes. Documents, sales reports, cash-flows, calendars, and contact details should all flow smoothly from your workflow tool to your customer management system, calendar, email, financial software, and more. The workflow management system is about integrating all your workflows into a central platform whereby you could oversee and manage different processes. It also increases accessibility and saves you tons of time.
6. Notifications and reminders to respective stakeholders of task
An effective workflow management system will send notifications to your mobile via email or push notifications to remind you of future approvals. You could allocate the different tasks to different users and the respective stakeholders of that particular task assigned would receive reminders of key actions when it is due. Users should also be in a position to customize the type of notifications they receive.
7. Role-based access control
Just like many effective customer management systems, Workflow Management Systems should also allow you to customize what each user can see and edit. This is to protect certain confidential projects and also to streamline tasks and devote attention solely to allocated tasks without the staff having to sieve through a chunk of information.
8. Service Level Agreement status indicators
With many processes running in the company at any one time, a good workflow management system would allow you to view all of these processes on a dashboard, in an up-to-date manner whereby you could view the individual statuses of tasks. This helps you sort out priority tasks by using a visual representation on your dashboard such as color codes.
Questions to ask before you choose a workflow management software
1. What are your workflow needs?
Every enterprise has different workflow needs based on many factors such as company size, type of industry, traditional practices, or simply the way of doing things. There is no one-size-fits-all workflow management software, and your workflow management system software should be tailored to your appropriate business needs. The best way to do this is to lay out a process map and communicate your most important needs and processes to your workflow management system software provider.
2. How many users will you have?
This depends on your enterprise size and if you want the entire company to be using your workflow management system, or just a selected few to carry out the projects. Halfway through projects, do you foresee yourself adding more people into the software? Do you want to include external users? This should also be made known to your provider clearly.
3. How soon do you want to implement the software?
Are you looking to only automate a single critical process that is part of your entire business? Or do you want multiple processes to be integrated and coordinated in a short amount of time? Depending on the complexity of the business process, sometimes the implementation of the software could take some time and staff would also need time to learn and adjust to the new usage of the workflow management system. Allow for ample time to implement the software into your enterprise and open communication would allow your provider to give you time estimates and work toward a faster implementation.
4. What are your non-negotiable features?
Based on your industry and field of business, there may be some forms of features that you cannot go without and you need them crucially. You have to work it out with your provider and let them know about these particular features.
If you want to get started on a quick consultation on workflow management systems and get one that is tailored to your business needs, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free consultation.