Workflow management is one of the buzzwords that float around in business these days. The idea behind workflow management is that by using appropriate software a business can increase productivity. The increase of productivity is the result of less delays in the series of steps that are needed to accomplish a task. While most buzzwords are something to avoid, workflow management is something every company should be interested in.
Various approaches have been used to try to improve workflow, beginning with Gantt’s and including Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and Theory of Constraint. Each of these approaches have proven successful in different situations. Workflow management has been widely recognized as a way to improve the quality of products, reduce overhead, and increase profits.
The goal of accomplishing workflow management can seem overwhelming for a business that is just beginning the task. Most traditional approaches are geared toward very large organizations. Approaches such as Sigma Six, Total Quality Management are exceptional, but they also require a lot of study and time away from the actual job to master. For the smaller company this time is normally just not something that is available. Nor is the ability to have one person dedicated to workflow management an option.
For those companies that do not have the size or the structure to give much time to developing workflow management in house the best option is to purchase software that addresses this requirement. The use of workflow management software enables a company to acquire the benefits of a better workflow throughout the organization, while not needing to start from scratch. The proper software can give a company the benefits of management, without the loss of time spent developing them on their own.
Managing workflow is an important concept in the workplace. Modern businesses can often gain large rewards by finding and using the right software. When the various processes involved in a business can be automated, they can be made faster and more responsive. Workflow management is something that must be addressed to ensure the highest level of productivity and best profits.
The main issue for these companies is applicability of the software that they choose. Where the right fit of software to company can have many benefits, the wrong fit can create chaos. It is vital to a company to find software that fits their structure and organization as is. When a software package is chosen due to it being part of a trend, or without investigation into how it works, a company is often left trying to hastily go back to their original methods.
A business must be careful not to select software that was not intended for their specific needs. This is especially true the more technical or specialized the business is. Broad based solutions do not work well with specialized tasks and workflows. For these situations, such as surveyors, there needs to be a focus on the normal tasks and jobs that occur.
Considering the application of a Workflow Management System is something that requires an in depth study of the current workflow. Only after seeing where there are problems, or constraints, as they can be called, can a Workflow Management System be used to address them. Applying a solution without research leads only to more disarray as workflow that was without any constraint is disrupted.
Additionally there is a very vital component that business leaders must keep in mind, employee buy in. Total Quality Management proposes the idea that without worker buy in to a new idea that the idea is doomed for failure. The best laid plans, the best software on the market, are all for nothing if the individuals who must use it do not buy in to the concept.
Employee buy in is an important step in workflow management. This is true of either management through software, or process improvement. Without this buy in an organization is just creating paper, or buying software that will never be used to its full potential. A business does well when it includes the “rank and file” in decisions that affect workflow.
Most high level managers are focused on results, not the actual day to day processes involved. When someone who is not conversant in the day to day operation begins to change workflow, it often results in a loss of productivity. What looks right on a higher level, may often be more labor intensive at the working level.
To truly make work flow smoother, and more responsive the company is better served by asking those who do the work what they feel should be changed. After collecting all of these suggestions a business can then find the right method, or software to address these changes. This information gathering step yields dividends far greater than any loss of time.
Looking closer at what workflow management can do for a company we find several benefits. Workflow management can impact the productivity of employees, the amount of information obtained as work is done, and of course the overall profitability of a company. These benefits are obtained through the clarification of processes, and finding ways to increase the speed they occur in, and simplifying them to reduce administrative time.
Employee productivity is increased with Workflow Management through making tasks easier to both record, and hand off to the next worker. Examining the processes involved, and then applying necessary changes to improve them gives each individual worker more time to complete the tasks at hand. Many of the workflows involve the sharing of information, the easier it is to record, and share this information the more productive an employee can be doing the actual work.
Information is the life blood of any business. Management needs to know certain pieces of information as work progresses. Often this requires workers to take time away from the jobs they must do, to record this information. Workflow Management can ease this burden, the right software can simplify record keeping. Workflow Management software that fits a business should not be overly distracting from the task at hand, and allow the worker freedom to do what they are specialized in, not attempting to create something to do this task.
The goal of workflow management is to get the employee back to working on what is important, in a manner that supports the goals of the business. Software can assist in this goal by giving the employee a quick, easy, and readily available method for record keeping that is consistent throughout the business. Each process can be made easier through the application of the correct technology, resulting in greater employee productivity.
As we have seen, workflow management can be a complex and overwhelming topic. However, if done correctly, workflow management can make a business faster, and more profitable. The goals of the company must be supported by any system, and the employees must buy in to its use. When all of these things come together, a company will see growth in both productivity and profit.