What is a workflow?
A workflow is a list of repeatable tasks that need to be performed in order to achieve a particular business goal. A workflow documents the procedures and processes that form an organization’s “assembly line,” so to speak—the order of steps that need to be performed to get from start to finish.
Documenting the order of steps (workflow) that an organization needs to perform provides a number of opportunities to enhance and improve an organization’s business operations.
Note the following background concerning Toyota’s success with implementing workflow. When Toyota adopted Ford’s assembly line techniques in the 1950s, their leaner workflow produced these exceptional results:
- Productivity increases between 300% to 400%
- Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year
- Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
- Cost of quality cut by over 60%
- Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%
In addition, as this study by Nora Conrad notes, when you hire someone to take over your system, you don’t need to do such intensive training. You can simply deliver your workflows to them. When you’re swamped with work and stressed or exhausted to the point that you’re making mistakes, you can use your workflows as a step-by-step guide to ensure you don’t miss anything. In addition, creating a workflow forces you to examine your processes and discover flaws in them.
In general, experience has shown that workflows are a critical tool for business.
Workflows can be in digital trail format or in paper trail format. The current trend, however, is to take advantage of various workflow technology that leave a digital trail. Digital form workflow can offer the following advantages, as noted here:
- Paper trail is replaced by a digital trail: People who manage warehouses full of files find that the paper-based system often leads to a morass of paper, cabinets, lost or misplaced documents — and stress. Workflow software keeps digital copies of files, automates the routing of tasks, alerts those who need to take action, and keeps a record of everything relevant to the process.
- No stopping for signatures: Digital signatures on e-forms allow for fast approvals (including executives on the go) and the reduction in time lost as a result of waiting for paper-based signatures.
- Greater insights: Your business processes are meant to deliver results. You should know what is happening within your operation at any point in time. Workflows give you regular insights into what is occurring within your processes, the people involved, and a sense for how effectively your organization meet its deadlines.
- Automation focuses on activities: Business process automation software and automated workflows allow you to set up processes, then let them run. The majority of work that occurs within processes can be automated, freeing up time and allowing you and your team to focus on more strategic activities.
- Workflow never forgets: Every activity in digital workflow is tracked. Whether you need information for compliance purposes or to review how your organization operates, the ability to quickly see the ‘who, what, where and how’ of your processes provides important insights.
Other Reasons Why Workflow Is Important for Your Business
As TallyFly observes, there are other reasons why workflow is so crucial:
1. More Insight in Business Processes
Mapping out your processes in a workflow allows you to get a more clear, top-level view of your business. Even if you have a well-established set of business processes, do you really know if they are delivering you results? Workflow is important because it gives you greater insight into your processes.
2. Identifying Redundancies
In many businesses, there are tons of unnecessary and redundant tasks that take place daily. Once you have more insight into your processes, you can determine what activities are truly necessary.
Identifying and eliminating redundant tasks has, of course, countless benefits – it creates value for your business. Instead of wasting time on a useless task, your employees will be able to focus on what’s important, and what does contribute to the business. As such, the more useless processes are eliminated, the better your business will perform.
3. Increase Accountability and Reduce Micromanagement
Studies have shown that micromanagement is often cited as the biggest reason for quitting a job. By clearly mapping out your workflow, everyone knows what tasks must be completed, who will be completing them, and when they need to be finished by. When the workflow process is clearly laid out in this way, managers can spend less time micromanaging their employees.
4. Improved Communication
Another big reason why workflow is important is the increased visibility of processes and accountability which can increase workplace communication dramatically. This communication will reduce employee turnover and make day-to-day operations smoother overall.
In conclusion, if you are considering implementing workflow we highly recommend that you don’t put the project on the back-burner. Get started as soon as possible so that you can begin to reap the rewards from your efforts. The key is to make the project a high enough priority so that you end up with a top-notch product.