Why you should consider workflow management

Published on

By Peter Hilton

The value of workflow management and the benefits you can achieve

This article follows on from the previous article, which introduces what workflow management is, and illustrates how your organisation can benefit from applying workflow management.

You should consider introducing workflow management to your organisation because of the value it can add to the way people in your organisation work. This value translates to concrete benefits in the short and long term.

How workflow management adds value

Workflow management adds value by introducing two things: better communication among people working together on shared tasks, and visibility of how the work works.

Better communication

Communication isn’t a problem if you only work with the person sitting next to you, but many kinds of office work rely on email. It could be worse (paper memos, telephone or fax) but email is a mixed blessing, too much email is a common problem.

A large part of many kinds of work that involves a number of people is in the communication between them. They need to communicate to agree who works on what and in what order, and to keep each other up to date with progress, new information about the work and, ultimately what’s done.

Workflow visibility

Talking to each other isn’t everything that people need to work well together. They also need to be able to see what is going on so they can know what to do without always having to interrupt each other. Being able to see the work requires visibility.

Visibility adds value because it provides the information that you need to identify and solve problems, and for continuous improvement, and transparency that builds trust within a team. Workflow management creates visibility of the work’s:

  1. type – what tasks there are
  2. volume – how much there is to do
  3. assignment – who is doing what
  4. rhythm – how long things take and where waiting happens.

What these four kinds of visibility have in common is that they are are visibility of how work ‘flows’ between tasks and people. This is literally what we mean by ‘workflow’. Crucially, workflow visibility adds value when it is a natural by-product of doing the work. Other management approaches could generate the same visibility, but only at great cost and inconvenience. The time and motion studies of last century deserved their unpopularity.

Key benefits of workflow management

As a management approach, workflow management offers a number of benefits. In practice, many of the benefits come from the combination with workflow software, such as Effektif, that automates most of the team communication and workflow visibility.

Reduced costs

Workflow management enables teams to reduce costs by spending less time on:

  • duplicate tasks
  • reading and writing email
  • getting new employees up to speed on common tasks
  • fixing errors and on ‘failure demand’
  • coordinating and supervising work.

Better service

Teams can also offer better service to their internal or external customers by completing work more quickly, as a result of:

  • identifying and avoiding unnecessary work
  • finding and removing bottlenecks
  • performing certain tasks in parallel
  • fewer delays caused by abandoned or forgotten tasks
  • faster handovers between colleagues.

Better results

Additional benefits include:

  • higher quality results as a result of reducing variation in how work is done
  • the ability to hand incomplete work over to a colleague
  • an affordable audit trail of work activities
  • the opportunity to identify imbalances in team composition
  • data about workflow performance that enables process improvement
  • more flexibility to roll out process improvements consistently
  • less paper.

Together these benefits reduce costs, increase team productivity and delight customers. These benefits are highly likely to help you achieve your business goals. That’s why you should consider workflow management in your organization.

This blog post is part of the Workflow management for beginners white paper.

Photo: Sebastien Wiertz / CC BY 2.0