Did you know there are at least 130 parts in a simple mechanical watch? More complex watches can contain over 1,000 tiny pieces all working conjointly to deliver time, date, moon phases, etc. The same principle applies to businesses, entities composed of several departments with their own functions and objectives but all working to reach a common goal: growth.
While the digital age and its plethora of software tools have greatly simplified project management, hiccups still happen. All teams are dependent on one another to get the job done, and a single wrench in the works can delay projects, halt production, impact revenue and affect customer satisfaction.
Soundly-built and regularly optimized workflows considerably alleviate the risk of issues cropping up at the worst moment and improve productivity company-wide and at the individual level.
What Are the Immediate Benefits of Workflows?
Workflows are not a cure-all technique to fix everything that is broken in the system. If the process is fundamentally flawed, automation and tools are unlikely to make a difference. It is then necessary to go back to the drawing board. That being clarified, workflows are sequences of steps designed to:
- Improve deliverables consistency
- Reveal weaknesses
- Deliver streamlined processes
- Improve productivity
- Increase visibility and transparency
- Eliminate unnecessary or redundant tasks
- Free up time to focus on more strategic activities
Tips to Optimize Business Workflows
These tips will help you better optimize your business workflows to enjoy the benefits listed above.
1. Identify challenges
Not all your workflows need a makeover. Take the time to survey the needs across the entire organization and identify the more pressing challenges. Is the production lead time over average? Are there important gaps in project management? Is the sales cycle longer than industry benchmarks?
2. Set smart goals
Remember, you are working toward long-term improvements. Once you have a tag on the challenges, consult with teams or set up a committee to prioritize and set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals. You’re not stopping all engines while you work on optimizing the workflow, so keep in mind people’s workload and diverse project deadlines.
3. Connect your systems
Companies tend to multiply the use of software systems that don’t talk to each other. Hunting for a solution that will build bridges between operations will increase visibility and eliminate unnecessary requests for updates.
4. Connect people
If a given workflow step creates an information and communication bottleneck, address it promptly. Everyone involved must be able to share information, comments, and notes at any time in the workflow.
5. Simplify approval processes
When a sequence is interrupted by the need to complete an approval step, delays can quickly snowball, especially when teams are working in different time zones. Change to approval request to a notification, which gets things moving while still keeping supervisors in the loop
6. Standardize processes and methodologies
All repeatable tasks should be mapped out in standard methodologies. Chances are, many of the projects follow the same principles but may be conducted in different ways based on habits and preferences.
7. Study the data
Because they are mostly automated, workflows collect a vast amount of data along the sequence such as costs, time, progress, success rates, and more. This data is a goldmine to implement a continuous improvement process and learn from past issues.
Workflows are becoming a mainstream tool in our daily work and are quite easily adopted when created effectively. Some of the many benefits of workflows include more efficient use of time, more effective use of resources, greater visibility on project progress, and company-wide increase of ROI.