A Guide to Business Process Optimization With Workflow Management
Does your business need process optimization?
You might think the answer is “no.” However, nearly every business can benefit from business process optimization. Workflow management can help streamline your processes, putting you above the competition.
Are your processes not running quite like you want them to – or are you not sure if your processes are as efficient as they could be? Then you need this guide. Keep reading to learn the simple workflow optimization methods that can make all the difference for your business.
What Does Workflow Management Mean?
Workflow management, or workflow optimization, means improving your current workflow. It can take a number of different forms. You might reduce your operating costs, find ways to get work done more efficiently or add new functions to your current workflow.
Workflow optimization can also help get work done in less time or make things more efficient in other ways. This optimizes your business processes so you can get more things done with less time and money, and gain an advantage over the competition.
But how can you make it happen? Let’s take a look at some of the top business optimization steps using workflow management.
1. Connect Forms to Master Data
One important process to streamline is purchase requests at your company.
The concept is pretty straightforward. Someone on your team needs to place an order with one of your vendors, so they fill out a form to get approved.
However, there are many ways you can streamline this process. If the team member has to manually enter all the data, including quantity, department name, and laptop names, this can slow things down a lot.
Manual errors can further delay the process. When information gets typed in by hand, there’s always room for an error.
And if the person doing the ordering isn’t sure how much of their budget for the month or quarter has already been used, they might make a request that’s too large for the budget. If the manager who approves the request also isn’t sure of the budget, you could end up with a serious snag down the road.
To streamline this process, you should link the ordering form to your master data. An automated form that’s synced with the necessary information can prohibit orders being placed from unapproved vendors. You can also have the fields automatically get filled with the necessary information.
This makes the process faster, reduces errors, and prevents many ordering issues from occurring.
You can also make a dataset for the quarterly or monthly budgets for each department. Link this information to your ordering form, so the person placing the order can see the budget that they have to work with.
2. Add Conditional Steps
If you have a business process that works most of the time, but still runs into some issues, adding conditional steps and branches can help.
For example, maybe you have to have certain members of your team sign off each time a new marketing strategy is implemented. This step is important and works well when a major new marketing push is being made. However, if you’re just adding a new section of blog posts to your online marketing strategy, waiting for those signatures is less important.
Instead of making the processes different for each unique situation, try making some tasks conditional. You’ll mark certain tasks as necessary only in particular situations, so you can bypass those steps when they aren’t really needed.
You can also create whole conditional branches of your workflow. For example, when creating a blog post, the process might always begin and end in the same way. But in the middle, some conditional branches might apply, depending on whether or not the post needs edits, for example.
Create multiple paths in the same workflow that can be applied as needed, and you’ll have a much more streamlined process.
3. Integrate Software into Your Workflow
Many companies use workflow platforms to help optimize operations. However, a lot of the work requires different types of software, such as admin, financial, and HR tasks.
To best optimize your workflow, try to integrate your current software with your workflow software as much as possible. For example, you might integrate the purchase order workflow with your financial software, so an invoice automatically gets created when the purchase is made.
4. Dovetail Your Workflows
When creating workflows, the problem many people run into is making them too big to really use.
For example, maybe you’re trying to create a workflow for the sales cycle, but you’re not really sure where it starts and where it’s finished. Does it start at the moment the marketing team finds a new lead? Does it continue through the customer onboarding process, or even through customer support efforts?
It’s tempting to think “the bigger, the better” when it comes to designing workflows. However, when it gets too big, you’re more likely to run into problems.
Try to separate your workflows into manageable pieces that flow together nicely. For example, you might have a customer onboarding process, a sales order process, and a sales quotation process. These workflows will be distinct, but when one reaches its end, it can trigger the next one to start.
5. Use Notifications Instead of Approvals
You don’t want to have too many approvals, but you need to be sure you have enough. You need the right balance of flow and control in your business process optimization efforts.
Make sure you’re keeping people in the loop, without holding things up, by using notifications instead of approvals where you can. Make a small change to your workflow so that email notifications get sent where an approval used to be. This still allows leaders to add their thoughts and insight if they choose to, but allows things to move forward faster.
Ready to Implement Process Optimization?
The more process optimization steps you can take, the more efficient your business becomes. And that efficiency translates to more profits, happier customers, and faster results.
Looking for more ways to improve? Check out our guide to essential workflow system features here.