The Eight Reasons why you should use Workflows and the Four Ways to implement them!
If something is done once in any organisation, it is a project – if it is repeated it is a process and will provide benefit in terms of productivity increases and cost savings by being made digital.
To do this each business process should be mapped as a workflow.
This article introduces workflow technology to Owners and Senior Decision Makers of Small and Mid-sized Enterprises
A workflow is a sequence of industrial, administrative, or other tasks, through which a piece of work passes between individuals from initiation to completion. A workflow can also supply real-time reporting of where jobs are at any time.
To implement a workflow takes two stages,
1) ‘Process Mapping’ when a process is documented and agreed, often called Process Discovery
2) ‘Implementation’, when the mapped process is executed as described in the second part of this article.
Part One – Reasons to Use Workflows
Yesterday’s operating model will not deliver tomorrow’s wins!
The most cost-effective way a company can improve its business performance is to ensure that its existing employees can introduce innovation (better ways of doing things!)
Workflows give you regular insights into your processes, the people involved and a sense of how effective your business is in meeting its goals.
With workflows, staff are guided to repeat business actions and tasks as a process.
You boost productivity and reduce wastage making more profit!
Reasons to Use Workflows 1 – Process
Having an agreed way of completing a set of tasks, in an agreed order, leads to best practice and consistent results that can be easily scaled.
With a workflow, compliance with an agreed method is guaranteed and can be readily audited and tracked.
Sometimes the fact that you document or ‘map’ a process leads to insights as to best ways of reaching objectives quickly.
Workflow mapping can sometimes expose ‘unofficial’ methods being used by staff which could cause quality issues or counter intuitively can show a better way of doing something.
Reasons to Use Workflows 2 – Better Communication
With a workflow in place people know what they need to know, when they need to know it.
All information they need to process a task will have already been provided at the start of a task.
Reasons to Use Workflows 3 – Staff Guidance
Using a workflow, staff can be given a pre-selected range of options and outcomes for any task, helping speed up performance and reduce stress.
Reasons to Use Workflows 4 – Compliance
Following a process controlled by a workflow means that all actions and tasks are completed in order and that in the case where compliance needs to be enforced, the process can be monitored in real time and the results made available for audit.
Reasons to Use Workflows 5 – Training
When a company uses a workflow, inexperienced staff can be brought up to speed faster, as they will be guided in what they do in a task by the options provided by the workflow.
Workflows can also include training and help guides.
Reasons to Use Workflows 6 – Teamwork
Workflows ensure all the team members are coordinated.
Tasks can be set up so that any member of a team can undertake the task, but once the task has started the originator must complete it.
Workflows enable real time reporting showing progress or delays.
Reasons to Use Workflows 7 – Escalation
Workflows enable you to identify quickly when things are not as expected.
Workflows can be set up to generate reports or alerts when deadlines approach.
Reasons to Use Workflows 8 – Work on a business not in it!
Workflows remove the owner from being key to a business.
Removing this constraint makes it easier to sell the business for a higher value or rapidly grow the business.
Part Two – The Four Ways to Digitalize Workflows
Method 1 – Buy off-the-Shelf Software
To provide task guidance and achieve efficiency gains, many companies think the only solution is to buy off-the-shelf software.
Wrong! It's a compromise! Which at best will only provide a partial solution.
Users will have to change what they need to do, to fit what the software requires, which will add additional unnecessary complexity
Off-the-shelf software is someone else's process which will never do exactly what is desired.
It will also restrict what can be done.
Worse, the software provider can take the software in a different product direction making it less suitable for use subsequently.
Companies need to own their own processes so that they can provide the best service with minimum effort.
Method 2 – Custom Software
This should deliver exactly what you want but is the most expensive solution, costing upwards of £50,000 and will take time to develop.
Custom software is designed for an individual company and will need to be specified in detail.
That company will require a comprehensive contract to ensure they get what they expect.
Custom software requires ongoing support from the developer and will be costly to modify.
Method 3 – No Code Solutions
The new generation of No Code software enables the user to construct their own workflow using plug and play elements.
Superficially this may seem to be a low-cost custom approach, but the constraints are hidden, as these systems can only configure from their existing elements.
Most smaller organizations will lack the workflow process expertise to model a complex workflow, or have the time available, to use this method effectively.
As Bill Gates put it “automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency “.
Method 4 – Use an Automation Expert
Use an Automation Expert, such as my company Grumpy Viking, who can provide both the workforce to assist clients with process mapping and the expertise in process optimization, to create a completely custom workflow.
Grumpy Viking works in a flexible way, collaborating with the client in a phased implementation of their desired workflow.
Development time is rapid, with both the capability of custom software and the pricing of a No Code solution.