What is a Workflow Process? And the 5 Most Valuable Ways to Use Them
Using the right workflow processes can drastically improve your business’s productivity and efficiency. In this article we discuss the 5 most valuable ways to use workflow processes for maximum impact.
What is a Workflow Process?
A workflow process is any series of tasks that, when carried out, complete a larger outcome within a business. In most cases, these processes are made up of activities that one or more people complete. Coordination of the workflow actions and transitions between people takes place either by manual communications among team members or through workflow automation software. Whether actions are automated or not, workflow processes rely on data, rules, and uniform tasks. Like the name suggests, this allows the work of a process to flow smoothly from task to task with a host of benefits.
Why is a Workflow Process Important?
Fundamentally, workflows create structure within a business process. By identifying who needs to do which task, how it needs to be done, and when it needs to be done, the structured workflow process yields highly consistent, predictable results. You’ll find repeatable processes that yield quality results at the core of any successful business.
Even if a business process is documented and well understood, if the workflow among team members is coordinated manually a number of issues can arise. These issues usually stem from communication problems and delays. One person may complete their work, but forget to notify the next. Assignments started via email might omit important details that cost more to correct later on. Communications about next steps that get sent to someone’s inbox may get overlooked among the hundreds of other email messages the average worker gets every day. This is where automated workflow management can add significant value.
By breaking a process down into a formal, documented workflow, you can be sure that everyone knows their role, what needs to get done, how to do it, who else is involved, and the expected timelines. However, when you automate the coordination of that workflow, you greatly can reduce the inefficient manual communication, stop wasting time in progress coordination meetings, and eliminate costly errors when work gets done wrong or late. Accordingly workflow process automation frees up your time and your team’s time so that everyone can focus on growing the business, operating margins, and profits.
The highest cost component of any business process that has not been partially or fully automated is labor. Therefore if your team can get work done faster while sustaining or increasing the quality of your product or service, the cost savings quickly add up to increased profits, competitive advantages, and more profitable growth for your business.
In fact, in 2018 business spent over $5 billion on workflow process automation software. However, by 2026 analysts expect that number to be nearly $30 billion. Why? Workflow software used to be designed for just big companies with big IT budgets. Now simple, easy to use, online workflow software as a service (SaaS) is available to businesses and teams of any size.
How Can I Begin Using a Workflow Process?
Workflow processes have a number of features that, when used effectively, have unique benefits. Here are 5 valuable ways that your business could begin integrating workflows for instant results:
The terms ‘workflow process’ and ‘workflow automation’ often go hand-in-hand. And for good reason. While having a blueprint is, in itself, incredibly useful for improving the quality and speed of a process, when parts of it are automated, these advantages are magnified dramatically. With the workflow automation market expected to reach double digit billions in the next 5 years, it is not surprising that businesses of all sizes are beginning to integrate it within their regular processes. There are three key areas where workflow automation is most often incorporated:
- Assignment and delegation
- Progress tracking and alerts
- The automation of tasks
While the automation of tasks is perhaps the best-known advantage of workflow automation by removing work that needs to be done all together, the automation of tracking and delegation are equally beneficial in streamlining processes. This is because, while some tasks are straightforward enough to be automated, many will still require a team member to carry out and thus, they must spend more time ensuring the work gets done. From coordinating work over email or tracking it within various spreadsheets, significant portions of time can be spent trying to keep on top of what is being done. Automated workflow processes can significantly reduce this. From delegating tasks automatically to remind team members of upcoming deadlines, automation can mean less energy wasted on time-consuming managerial tasks while ensuring consistency.
Approvals, Decisions, Conditional Flows
Managed workflow processes are also ideal for guiding and tracking decisions. Rather than replying on email, an approval decision process can make sure all necessary reviews and checkpoints are met and record the approved or denied action. Such decisions can also trigger conditional flows within a workflow process. Conditional flows change which steps and tasks need to get done depending on the data related to a decision. Thus the outcomes of decisions like approve or deny can direct the process to the follow-on steps required in the wake of that decision. For example, an automated workflow process for candidate tracking, may include a series of interviews that need to be successful to move consideration of the candidate into the next stage. By including decision points within the process, should a candidate not be confirmed to be successful in an interview by a certain date, the recruiter could be notified to let the candidate know they were unsuccessful. Decisions and conditional flows provide valuable guidance and efficiency to make sure things get done right and get done quickly.
Documented workflows give new employees guides detailing the best way to get work done. Step-by-step instructions and details make it much easier for new team members to be integrated into teams within the business as part of their training. Similarly, with the collaborative capabilities of workflow software, team members can quickly understand who they will be working with whenever they are doing work that requires multiple people to get done.
Similarly, when managers can attach files to workflows, they can provide graphs, images, resources files, and videos which employees can use for just-in-time training or reference materials during their work. This comes with the added bonus of helping new team members work independently which is crucial for progressing. With new employees able to situate themselves quickly within various processes, and the business more broadly, significantly less time will need to be spent needing to check up on them. This, like many areas of workflow processes, means that managers can find better, more productive uses of their time.
Another crucial way in which workflow processes are of remarkable value to a business is their reporting capabilities. By having every step of a workflow recorded in the same place, businesses can analyze this data and refine the overall process. By identifying frequent stopping points in a workflow process relative to other tasks, for example, and changing certain elements, such as who is performing the task or the instructions, processes can be continuously improved.
These tracking capabilities of workflow processes are also very useful way to monitor the performance of team members, meaning that their strengths and weaknesses can be identified easily. By doing this, you can more effectively delegate tasks to those that you know will be best-suited to carrying them out. As a result, this can mean that your team is not only able to work together more effectively, but that processes can be carried out to a higher standard.
Standardized Processes and Procedures
As the number of team members involved in a business process that is completed manually becomes greater, so does its risk of error. By making sure that your processes are standardized from the outset, the risk of misinformation or confusion can be reduced significantly. This is because, when it is clear how a task is meant to be carried out and which department or individual is responsible for its completion, there is less room for interpretation and, consequently, error.
Similarly, standardizing processes also means that they can be more easily analyzed and improved. It is for this reason that process standardization is often attributed as being a key way for businesses to upscale. When there are less factors changing within a process, it is easier to identify where the problems are and how they can be improved. For managers, this also means process standardization has the added benefit of saving significant amounts of time that is usually spent chasing team members to find the source of an issue.
Example: New Hire Onboarding Workflow Process
Once a new employee has been hired, it is crucial that they are clear on what their role requires and how it is carried out from the beginning. Having a new employee onboarding process not only has a beneficial effect on their performance, but their confidence within the role. When new employees feel unsure about what is required of them, it is easy to assume that the job isn’t right for them. This is why, having a process in place that breaks down their first week or two within the workplace also has a direct effect on employee retention. Below is TeamworkIQ’s new employee onboarding template which you can use instantly when you sign up today:
Build your own Workflow Process with TeamworkIQ
While there are a range of TeamworkIQ workflow templates that can be immediately integrated into various processes by managers, it is also possible to build your own within minutes. If you can use a word processor, you can use TeamworkIQ. It’s that easy. Just outline who needs to do what, when as a bulleted list. TeamworkIQ automates all the next steps and coordinates your workflows start-to-finish for you.
Automate processes in minutes, not months. It’s the simplest, fastest, and more affordable way to automate processes, workflows, and checklists. Sign up for your 14 day free trial to put TeamworkIQ’s remarkably simple workflow process software to work for you and your team today.
Automate processes in minutes. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
When typing up a process, simply outline who needs to do what. Reuse checklists as templates for recurring processes and standard procedures.
- Use numbered lists to outline step-by-step processes. Mix in regular bullets for work that can happen in any order.
- Add approval actions with one or more approvers.
- Attach files, capture and share data using form fields. * (coming soon)