What is a Workflow?

What is a Workflow?

Your Next Steps to Business Productivity and Profitability

Processes and procedures, written as a collaborative checklist, turn into automated workflows. Task assignees and details can be added.

What is the simple definition of workflow?

Workflows are the steps through which people get things done.

Learn more about workflow for you business

In this guide to workflow documentation and automation, you’ll learn:

  • What is a workflow?
  • What is workflow software?
  • What are the benefits of workflow automation?
  • Which type of workflow software is best for my business?
  • How to document and automate workflows faster with TeamworkIQ.
  • Your next steps for more intelligent workflow design.

Workflows can be as simple as a few steps, or may have many potential paths from start to finish.

What is a workflow? Image of a workflow diagram and a procedural checklist.

Standardize and document your workflows to make sure work gets done quickly and gets done right. Create and share documented processes to train and guide employees in your business’ best practices. Repeatable workflow processes will enable your businesses to grow. When team members understand and follow optimized workflows the resulting productivity gains, high quality work, and avoidance of costly errors all add up to increased business profits.

Businesses use workflow software to actively coordinate, monitor, and manage workflow processes from start to finish. Workflow software automates work that would otherwise be done manually. Accordingly, workflow software saves businesses more time and effort while avoiding the cost of additional labor and errors.

The ability to repeatedly provide products or services to customers in a systematic way enables businesses teams to get more done with existing staff while keeping quality high and costs down. As a result, workflow software directly expands profit margins.

There are many ways to automate workflows processes. Some are simple. Others take more time, effort, and may require more technical skills. Different kinds of workflow software serve different business needs.

What is a workflow?

A workflow is a series of steps one or more people perform to complete an objective, process, or task.

A workflow can be documented as a simple list of steps. Or, workflow documentation can be used to detail processes which include many procedures, steps, and tasks.

Often, workflow steps and tasks are completed in a specific order to guide workers through the optimal process. Accordingly, workflows can be represented using numbered outlines, “box and arrow” diagrams, and checklists. Once a workflow has been documented, it can be shared with team members to convey the company’s standard operating procedures.

What is workflow software?

Workflow software actively coordinates and monitors the execution of a workflow processes from start to finish to reduce the time, effort, and cost required to complete the process. Specifically workflow software automates these work activities:

  • Coordinate each step of a process
  • Assign tasks to people or roles
  • Prioritize work
  • Track progress
  • Remind people about due dates
  • Gather and share data through forms, comments, and file attachments
  • Transition work from one person to another
  • Facilitate decisions, reviews, discussions, and approvals
  • Detect and escalate issues when necessary
  • Provide process and standard procedure documentation
  • Keep records for compliance, analysis, and future process improvement

What does a workflow look like?

A simple workflow can guide team members to get things done right, get work done efficiently, avoid costly mistakes, and deliver high quality products and services to customers. There are many ways to document your workflow. Flow diagrams, standard operating procedures (SOP) documents, and checklists are popular formats. However, of these, only checklists can be used simultaneously for process documentation and actively tracking the execution of the process.

What does a workflow look like? Comparison of Kanban board, Workflow diagram, Procedural checklist.

Examples of Common Business Workflows

What is a workflow? Image of a workflow diagram and a procedural checklist.

Repeatable Workflows

Here are several examples of workflows which occur repeatedly throughout the year:

  • New Customer Onboarding

    New client onboarding is a core process for nearly every business and it often takes more than one person to get it done. Information about the customer need to be collected and put into CRM and billing systems. Care needs to be taken welcoming the customer to the business, understanding their needs, introducing new team members to the relationship, and starting to produce results for the new client.

  • New Employee Onboarding

    Employee onboarding is another essential process for every organization where many people must be involved. Management, HR, accounting, facilities, and IT staff all need to be involved early to get paperwork done, payroll, office space, access to email and other systems all set. Training needs to be scheduled, first assignments prepared, and the employee’s early months on the job managed to a successful outcome.

Recurring Workflows

Many workflows that repeat on regular daily, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, quarterly or yearly schedules. Here are a few examples:

  • Accounting Procedures

    Monthly accounting procedures require the same set of steps to be done every month, usually with a target completion time by the 15th day of the following month. Data must be collected from bank accounts, sales records, invoices, payroll and expenses, then entered into accounting systems. The numbers must be reviewed to assure they reconcile. Different managers want different reports to understand the financial status and performance of the business.

  • Daily Operations

    Daily checklists for healthcare clinics, restaurants, manufacturing, or retail locations require steps for opening, preparing, cleaning, closing and securing the business. These steps are essential everyday. Missing any of them can severely impact the customer experience, regulatory compliance, and the business’ property.

  • Facilities and Equipment Maintenance

    Weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual property or equipment inspections and maintenance are important processes to complete on-time. In some cases regulations require evidence of such inspections. In general, keeping equipment and property maintained extends the life of those assets and helps identify issues that need attention early before more costly system failures might occur.


Benefits of Systematized Workflows and Automated Processes

Regardless of the price tag or type of workflow software that’s right for you, any type of system that lets you put repeatable workflows and standardized processes to use leads to immediate and long-term benefits for your business.

Managers who have embraced workflow automation software have realized the following economic benefits for their business:

High Quality Services and Products

Repeatable processes make sure your high-quality services or products remain high-quality

How?

  • Documented standard procedures ensure team members understand your best practices and procedures.
  • Automated workflows systematically guide team members though the process steps and standard procedures.

Results

  • Stronger brand reputation, increased brand loyalty, and reduced customer churn.

Higher Scale at Lower Cost

Repeatable processes eliminate lost time by improving accountability, productivity, and timely transitions of work from one team member to another

How?

  • Automated workflows keep teams focused on prioritized tasks, keep work moving forward, and enable team members to get things done faster. According to psychologists, one of the key drivers behind employee procrastination is a feeling that the job they have is simply too overwhelming. Breaking tasks into smaller pieces can produce a significant increase in employee morale and efficacy.
  • Automated workflows when integrated with other software systems can further reduce operating costs, accelerate execution times, and reduce expensive errors by eliminating redundant data entry, automating some types of decisions, relaying real-time events to people or systems that need them.

Results

  • The business can deliver more products or services with existing teams, before hiring additional staff to grow the business.
  • The business can further increase profit margins and gain operational and brand advantages over competitors.

Controls and Compliance

Repeatable processes can include process controls to assure approvals, reviews, and quality checks are performed every time before subsequent steps are taken.

How?

  • Add efficient review and approval steps to your processes to provide checkpoints along the way.
  • Add conditional logic to flag or handle different cases in the best way possible.
  • Keep a complete audit trail showing how standard procedures have been followed to easily meet company policy and regulatory compliance requirements.

Results

  • Meet compliance requirements with less time, cost, and effort

More recently and through newer forms of workflow software, the following benefits of become attainable to businesses of any scale:

Process Agility

To remain efficient, business teams need to continually refine and adapt their workflows. Many businesses now use more agile workflow software to better meet their needs. The cost and time it used to take to adapt processes to achieve greater efficiency or comply with regulatory changes has also significantly dropped. Whereas classic workflow software would require long planning and development timelines, today’s more agile workflow process software enables changes to be made faster and at lower cost.

How?

  • Choose workflow automation software that can not only be quickly deployed but quickly adapted when needed.
  • Workflow software that includes easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, easy-to-learn concepts like checklists or Kanban tend to be far more agile and adaptable.
  • In some cases, live processes can be adapted to meet special cases which may arise during a process.
  • Workflow systems which depend on a collaborative process between business and technically trained team members tend to require more work to define and verify requirements, develop, test and deploy changes.

Results

The more agile the business software, the time and overall cost it takes to adapt processes when needed will be lower.

Telecommuting, Real-time visibility, Awareness and Action

Only recently could any company on the planet combine a global network (the Internet), cloud computing, AI, and mobile device technology in order to gain real-time insights to business operations anywhere. The result it that teams can operate together more easily even if they are geographically dispersed.

How?

  • Today’s workflow software-as-a-service (SaaS) keeps team members, regardless of their location, connected, working in concert, and in constant communication.

Results

Operational costs for physical space can be reduced or employees can work from multiple locations including their home without missing a step in the process.


How can I keep workflow management and automation simple?

The cost and time it takes to streamline your business operations with repeatable workflows varies greatly depending on which approach to workflow documentation and workflow automation you choose. Approaches which require that business users and technical staff collaborate to turn business needs into workflow models will inherently cost more and take longer since more effort and specialized skills are required. Documentation of workflows in standard operating procedure documents provides useful reference material, but by itself fails to provide the benefits of workflow automation. Workflow software which can turn the effort you put into documenting your workflows into automated processes inherently provide the least resource intensive, most cost effective way to get your business process and workflow needs met.

How TeamworkIQ makes workflow automation and documentation simple

Watch the video to see how TeamworkIQ is the easiest way to document and automate workflows.

How does it work?

The video above best shows these simple steps to document and automate your workflows:

  1. First log in to TeamworkIQ or sign up here.
  2. Create a template for your process.
  3. Outline what needs to get done as a bulleted list of process steps, tasks, and subtasks.
  4. Use numbered bullets for any work that should be done step-by-step.
  5. Assign tasks to roles like “Supervisor” or “Marketing Manager” or, assign them directly to people by name.
  6. Add smart due dates like “due in 1 week”, “due Dec 31, 2019” or relative due dates such as “due 1 week after {process start date}”.
  7. Add forms, instructions, videos, images, links or other content as needed to each step.
  8. Publish your process template to make it available for use.

Now the published workflow process can be used to start as many workflow as you need.

To start a new process from your template:

  1. Click “Create new checklist from template”
  2. If needed, assign people to roles and set key due dates.
  3. Click Start.

As soon as the workflow starts, TeamworkIQ handles all the next steps. It assigns tasks at the right time, transitions work between people, tracks due dates, sends reminders to people, and notifies managers if issues arise.

The My Assignments inbox, In Progress dashboard, and other views give task assignees and process managers real-time views into what needs to be done, what’s in process and what remains to do. Daily reports, timely reminders, and alerts for critical issues keep everyone aware, accountable, and focused.

Your Next Steps with TeamworkIQ

Discover why TeamworkIQ is the fastest way to document and automate workflows.


Sign up for TeamworkIQ today and experience how workflows can streamline your business processes, boost the quality of your products and services, save everyone time and effort, reduce costly errors, and increase the profitability of your business.

Automate processes in minutes

TeamworkIQ is the easiest way to create and automate processes, workflows, collaborative checklists, and procedures.

  • Document your workflow simply by outlining it as you would in a doc.
  • Start multiple new workflows from your workflow doc.
  • Track the progress of each workflow and get immediate results.
Processes and produceures, written as a collaborative checklist, turn into automated workflows. Task assginees and details can be added.
many hands in the air holding mobile devices with TeamworkIQ logo on them