What is Workflow Management? A Quick Guide
What is Workflow Management? Why is it important to understand its definition?
Workflow management focuses on the structure of work within organizations, and how various teams collaborate to complete this work. The process involves mapping, planning, and coordinating all the different parts of an organization’s structure.
‘Workflow’ can be defined as a sequence of tasks that are part of a larger task; the objective is to achieve a specific result, and workflow management aims to achieve better results according to a particular set of goals. Workflow automation can streamline and automate repetitive business tasks, providing numerous benefits to an organization. Workflow management includes identifying redundant tasks and bottlenecks and mapping the workflow in an ideal state, reducing room for error and increasing overall productivity.
Although workflow management primarily focuses on the work done by the people in an organization, tasks can be automated by computer software. This means workflow management may include IT systems integrations to share information and data between workflows and other IT systems within a single organization.
In 2016, the workflow automation market was valued at $4.26 billion – by 2023, this number is projected to increase to $18.45 billion. That’s over a 400% increase as more organizations realize the advantages of workflow management and automation and jump on board! So, how can workflow management benefit your organization?
What is a Workflow Management system?
So what is a workflow management system, exactly?
As defined by Science Direct:
Workflow management systems (WMS or WfMS) enable automated and seamless execution of workflows. It allows users to define and model workflows, set their deadline and budget limitations, and the environments in which they wish to execute. The WFMS then evaluates these inputs and executes them within the defined constraints.
While WfMS are often used interchangeably with business process management (BPM), they are distinct. BPMs focus on the organization’s entire set of processes as well as individual ones, while workflow management systems focus on clearly defined tasks that make the overall big picture possible.
The best workflow management systems today are SaaS solutions that easily automate workflows, providing you with the benefits listed above.
The benefits of Workflow Management
Improved accountability and collaboration
Mapping out your workflow in a clear manner may be more beneficial than you would expect. Miscommunication and micromanagement can cause employee dissatisfaction and, as a result, overall inefficiency.
As Forbes mentioned in a recent article:
When supervisors micromanage employees, they diminish employee performance and underutilize available employee talent. This means that the organization doesn’t get the benefit of hiring great people with experiences, skills and creativity. Employees tend to shrink in their roles when their bosses micromanage them by doing this.
A large part of this issue can be eliminated by having a clearly laid-0ut workflow. Every employee knows what task needs to be completed, who is responsible for it, and when it needs to be done. With this increase in accountability, the chances of micromanagement are significantly reduced, which results in better relationships between managers and their teams, and higher employee satisfaction.
Along the same lines, workflow management enables greater collaboration among stakeholders across the organization. Real-time collaboration improves teamwork as employees can simultaneously contribute to projects, edit documents and more.
The right solution can provide flexibility and make the processes faster, while keeping sensitive information secure.
While worker morale can increase productivity, another powerful benefit of workflow management is increased transparency into your processes.
In terms of employees, sharing the steps and flow of your internal processes can help everyone understand what is being done at a given time, who is in charge of the task, and what happens next. This can help build trust both within the employees and between them and the organization as a whole, can help make employees feel empowered and can encourage them to take a more active role in their work.
However, by mapping out your workflow, you also have the opportunity to understand where the weaker points of your organizational processes may lie. Greater insights allow you to identify which parts of your processes are delivering results, and which could be improved to be more efficient and profitable.
A workflow divides business processes into smaller steps, which can then be passed to or divided up for various employees (or, in some cases, for people outside the organization). This can involve a lot of paperwork and back-and-forth before it moves onto the next stage.
By implementing workflow automation, you can use software to streamline the process, accelerating your workflow, mitigate risk by reducing human error, and increase your ROI. The right software can embed best practices and compliance into every workflow to ensure you’re taking all the necessary steps to comply with relevant regulations. Tracking and monitoring your workflows and checkpoints ensures that information is not incorrect or omitted.
All of the benefits mentioned above work together to lower your organizations’ costs. By improving employee relationships, workers have higher job satisfaction and deliver better results. Automation reduces human error and ensures employees are not spending excess time performing redundant tasks, and streamlining work processes increases efficiency and bolsters your ROI, delivering more value to all stakeholders.
Features of an effective Workflow Management system
The best workflow management systems should be easy to use, whether you’re creating simple workflows, such as launching an NDA form, or more complex ones. They should ensure compliance while driving efficiency and standardization, enable stakeholder collaboration throughout all workflow stages, and track and report across all workflows.
Different workflows will optimize different projects, depending on the level of complexity. This means an effective WMS will offer flexibility in creating workflow patterns, allowing you to define, organize, and change the workflows so they are best suited for that project.
An effective work management system will send you customized notifications as required, without needing you to follow up or put in additional effort. Whether they are email notifications or push notifications, the WMS should remind you of upcoming tasks and approvals to ensure smooth sailing.
Integration with existing systems
According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of software apps deployed by businesses around the world has increased drastically over the last few years. Today, the average business uses more than 129 apps across the organization.
Workflows don’t operate independently from other processes, which means it’s crucial that your work management flow system easily integrates with your existing tools and apps. This allows you to create and implement workflows while using best-in-class tools and not having to change your existing tech stack.
Without clear, easy-to-use reporting capabilities, the benefits of a workflow management system could be wasted. A good WMS should have intuitive dashboards that simplify processes and make it easier to share information, while being customizable and flexible. Set up with the right key metrics, your workflow management system will help you make better business decisions that rely on analytics and the subsequent insights.
Customizable access permissions
Workflows often involve people outside of the employees of an organization, such as vendors, customers and partners. A good workflow management system will allow these external stakeholders to make requests without allowing full access to your organization’s system and keeping your data secure.