If you need a workflow management system in your business, try these key steps to improve the odds that you'll get the support you need from upper-level management.
A workflow management system is a great way to improve productivity and communication throughout your workplace. (Just getting started with business process management? Check out our guide here.) Unfortunately, your boss might not be on board — and you may find yourself struggling to provide that key justification. If you need a workflow management system in your business, try these key steps to improve the odds that you'll get the support you need from upper-level management.
A workflow encompasses all the pieces that are necessary to complete a task: the processes that must be completed in order to successfully complete an assignment. In many workplaces, workflows are fairly consistent. You know what is necessary in order to complete a specific assignment, and most of the time, the various members of your team know how they fit into the picture. (The decision tree framework can help with this, too.)
In some cases, however, workflows may become disjointed. Employees might not know what the next step in the process is, or they may struggle to move from one portion of the assignment to the next. Workflow management software, on the other hand, can help guide and direct employees. Whether a particular process requires one employee or an entire department, workflow management software can make it easier to pull it all together.
The Limitations of an Organization Without Workflow or Process Management
Not having a true workflow system in place can cause a number of key problems for your organization. Consider some of these key issues:
If you're relying on email or another, more traditional method to handle your workflow management, you may find that communications are missed or never sent out. Some people may fail to open their emails or to check them before they begin work on a project, which can leave you struggling to fill in missing pieces or lead to misunderstandings.
Over-emailing the same request
Let's face it: you end up with more than enough emails in your inbox every day already. In order to create documentation, however, many people will go ahead and send that email...and then the next person will send it. Before you know it, your inbox is constantly over-stuffed and begging for your attention, which takes time and focus away from the other tasks on your schedule.
More time spent on repetitive tasks
With workflow management software, it's possible to minimize repetitive tasks, giving employees more time to dedicate to the other, more complex tasks on their list. Without it, on the other hand, each employee may need to complete those tasks separately, and it may take much longer to accomplish them. Workflow management software can even automate many of the tasks required to keep your business running efficiently.
Time lost obtaining approvals
In many organizations, some approvals are mere formalities. They can be taken care of quickly and efficiently, but unfortunately, that means lost time for both the person seeking approval and the person who must give it. In an organization with workflow management software, on the other hand, approval is simple--allowing both parties to return to their other job responsibilities faster.
Lost time tracking things down
Who has that specific piece of paperwork? Who actually knows the answer to your question? You can spend half your day trying to track down the person who has access to a specific piece of information, or you can turn to your workflow management software, where that data will be readily accessible.
Inability to work from any location
With great workflow management software, employees can work from anywhere. Their mobile devices and computers are enough to quickly and effectively pull up the data they need, keeping them inside the system whether they're working from home, at the office, or on the road. Without that, employees may struggle to effectively complete tasks outside the office.
Evaluating Your Company's Approach to Process Management
You know that you need a system in place to help manage common process throughout your organization. Before you get started, take a moment to evaluate the current processes already in play throughout your company. Ask these key questions:
Are there processes already in place that need to be optimized? You may already have processes in place that move well enough, but which would benefit from streamlining. Consider how your existing processes could be made easier with a single workflow management system or other simple alterations.
Is it a free-for-all at your company? At some companies, there are no processes in place at all. You may struggle to know what is expected of you or constantly have to ask questions in order to effectively complete a task--and in many cases, that leads to disorganization, inefficiency, and even poor customer service.
What approach do you need to take within your organization? Think about your coworkers and the current management. Will they buy in to a workflow management system, or will you need to argue every step of the process? Carefully consider how you might more effectively approach the need for a workflow management system.
What if you need to start from scratch? If you're creating a workflow management system for the first time, you may need to do more research. What processes are other organizations in your industry using? Is there a software program that will help automate necessary tasks and provide templates to help make your life easier?
How to Put Together Your Action Plan
Once you've considered what software is most likely to work for your organization, it's time to put together an action plan, make your case, and get that software approved. Follow these steps to make approval easier.
Start by doing your research
Step outside your own department and consider what your organization really needs in a workflow management tool. Who will be using it? Chances are, your workflow management system will be used by more than just a single department. What does each one need in order to function efficiently? Are there specific tools that would be used by one department? Do you need to manage permissions? Take a careful look at the software options available to you. Consider which ones best meet your specific needs, ideally without excess tools or documents that you don't need, which could slow down overall productivity.
Define your need
How will this improve efficiency across your department or company? Make a clear, compelling case for how this new software has the potential to improve efficiency, whether you want it approved for your department alone or across the company as a whole. (Check out our guide What Workflow Automation Can Do For Your Business for more ways to demonstrate the value here.)
Consider what key performance indicators you'll be tracking in order to determine the software's overall success. Is there a specific amount of time you would like to save? A specific type of communication--email, for example--that you would like to see reduced?
Before you dive in with a new project and give it your wholehearted endorsement, give it a chance to prove itself. Sign up for a free trial. Use the system to determine whether it really improves efficiency. If possible, see if there is anyone else in the office who will be willing to try it out with you. You want to be able to give a full, unbiased report, rather than jumping in with the first piece of software you have the chance to try.
Consider the timing
If you want to have new software approved, pay attention to your timing. When should budget requests normally be made? Is there a time of year when you are more likely to get budget requests approved? You may, for example, need to issue a request close to the beginning of the quarter, or there may be a wait time in order to meet budget requirements. If you know budget approval will be an issue, consider if your department could pilot the software for a lower cost without having to go through the formal approval process.
Create a one-sheet summary
Once you've decided on the resource that's at the top of your list, create a one-sheet resource that has everything your supervisor needs to make a decision. Include:
- The software name
- The goal of using the software
- The problem the software solves
- Any specific features, including why you chose this software over the others available on the market
- Budget specifics, including an itemized cost: this could be per user per month, or it could be an annual cost
- How you'll implement the program
- What resources are needed to implement the program
- How long it should take to start using the program efficiently
- The expected benefits to your department or to your company
Schedule a meeting with your boss
Give them time to review your proposal before the scheduled meeting. Then, sit down and discuss it. Answer any questions they might have or provide more information as needed.
If you don't hear back from your boss, follow up with them! Remind them of the efficiency that could be increased by taking your suggestion, and ask if they've had time to consider it. Come back with the answers to any questions that you couldn't answer during your initial conversation. This is one of the most effective ways to ensure that it stays in your boss's mind.
Once you've made the proposal, stick with it! Follow through with your organization. Provide key support as you implement the program, and help drive user adoption.
Workflow management software has the potential to transform your business, increasing efficiency and making it easier for employees to communicate with one another.
Are you ready to get started? Check out our workflow management system and start a free trial today to discover how it can help you meet your goals.