When you are first looking at workflow management systems, one of the most difficult questions to answer is:
Which tool should I use?
If you’re right at the start of this journey, we suggest you pause first. A better question for you right now is:
What do we need the tool to do?.
This means, unpacking your workflow.
Knowing your workflow does some great things for you. It can:
- Show you the extent of what’s required
- Show you the short, fast efficiency wins
- Make transitioning to a workflow management solution easier.
Can you visualise your workflow? If not, that’s where to start.
You will discover ways to lift efficiency
As you map out your process, you will find yourself asking questions like,
- what if we did THIS instead?
- Wow we actually DO that?
- How can we make it better?.
The process is itself a powerful way of refreshing how your team works.
Here are the key questions that will unpack your workflow:
- What starts the process? It might be a decision, an action, a phone call, or something else.
- What happens? If you’re asking someone else, phrase it as, tell me what happens…. This will encourage people to tell you the story. Sometimes there are details in the story that you won’t get if you just ask what steps are taken.
- Who is responsible? This will show you the people involved in the process.
- Who is accountable? This question will start to show you the kinds of permissions or sign-offs that are needed.
- Who should be informed? This will show you what kinds of notifications you need.
- How long does it take right now? This is a great benchmark for you because you can measure the change in time taken when your workflow system is in place.
- What happens next? Each workflow has a starting point, and an ending point. Often, the end of one thing is the start of another. Asking ‘what next’ is a fast way to uncover the entire workflow.
This is easier in small teams than it is in big ones
In a large team, with multiple departments, it can take weeks of work - and sometimes a full-time resource! — to quickly get through all of the processes.
But in a small team, it’s easier for everyone to pitch in.
If you’re in a small team, here’s what to do
Are you in a small team? You can simplify the process by asking each person to write down every step of what they do over, say, a week or two.
This is easier with the right framework. At the bottom of this article you will find a template that you can download and distribute.
Then, when everyone is finished, you can have a meeting to share each element. Pass them around, ask for comments, thoughts, and suggestions about anything that is missing. Within a very short period of time, you will have the majority of your processes captured.
The best workflow captures every tiny step… even your emails
Small details sometimes seem unimportant. But the small things take up a lot of time.
For your workflow management system to be most effective, you will want to automate simple decision-making tasks.
A great example of this involves what’s known as ‘action based notifications’, let’s say in a situation where a job is booked. When you have action-based notifications in place, the system sends an email to the customer with the booking details. When that customer phones to make a request, the system gives the user the most appropriate and up-to-date job information, so that the customer receives better service, faster. The information itself only needs to be entered once; but it can be referred to at multiple times and in different situations.
Just think: For every 5 minutes you spend in an hour looking for information or doing menial tasks, that is 40 hours every year. Imagine what you can achieve when you recover an entire week that you can use more meaningful things.
Now that you can see what happens to get the work done, look for the waste in it. What is double-handled? Where do you wait for things to happen? How many times do people touch each element?
Eliminate any that are unnecessary. You’ve just gained yourself an instant efficiency bonus! And that’s before you’ve even started looking at which tools are a great fit for you.
Your workflow maps will show you what you do, and what you need to support it. Now you’re in a great position to ask, which tool is best for me?.
Speak with a workflow expert at myFLO
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