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What is workflow management and why should businesses use it?

By: Jill Huettich

If there’s one single thing that can completely transform a company—increasing its productivity, streamlining operations, and saving money—it may just be workflow management.

Consider this … according to McKinsey Quarterly, about 60% of occupations could have 30% or more of their operations automated—meaning that the vast majority of businesses would experience major benefits from workflow automation. And, as you might imagine, you can’t have workflow automation without workflow management!

Workflow Management 101

Workflow management is the administration of multiple steps or tasks within a business process, undertaken with the goal of maximizing efficiency by reducing the time, expense, and resources needed to perform a specific process.

Furthermore, those businesses that don’t take advantage of workflow management suffer the consequences. For instance, it’s estimated that organizations lose 20-30% of revenue every year due to inefficient processes.

To explain why that is, we’re going to delve deeper into the topic of workflow management. So, in this introductory guide, we’ll cover what workflow management actually is, as well as discuss the benefits of effective workflow management.

 

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What is workflow management?

Workflow management can be defined as “the administration of multiple steps or tasks within a business process.”

So, a business that practices workflow management analyzes how work flows from task to task and from person to person. Workflow management is undertaken with the goal of improving operations—cutting down on the time, expense, and resources required to perform a specific process.

To simplify workflow management, most businesses opt for a workflow management system. This type of software makes it easy to set up and oversee a workflow, so inefficient processes can be uncovered and subsequently eliminated.

While workflow management adds value to virtually any organization, it’s particularly useful for businesses that utilize complex processes, requiring a lot of back-and-forth among various departments.

Why is workflow management important?

The benefits of workflow management cannot be overstated. Here are some of the main ones:

Efficiency

When a workflow is clearly defined, it becomes easy to see where in a process things become unwieldy, confusing, or just plain time-consuming. Once these issues are pinpointed, companies have the opportunity to streamline operations, resulting in greater efficiency.

Better decision making

The best business decisions are made with a clear understanding of the way things are done currently. When company stakeholders have the opportunity to view workflows in their entirety, they can more easily identify procedural bottlenecks. As a result, stakeholders develop a clear understanding of what needs to change and why, which naturally results in better decision making.

Competitive advantage

Because workflow management presents the means for easily analyzing key business processes, companies have a roadmap of sorts for improving operations. And, all things being equal, a company that streamlines its activities has a distinct advantage over competitors that take a more haphazard approach.

Consistency

Without a well-defined workflow, companies run the risk of doing things differently each time they’re confronted with the same decision. Unfortunately, the need to “return to the drawing board” slows activities down, decreasing productivity.

Clearer work responsibilities

The larger an organization gets, the more important it becomes to determine which departments are responsible for specific processes—and where in a workflow they need to become involved.

One big benefit of workflow management is that once these responsibilities are clearly delineated, employees have a better understanding of what’s expected of them and when. Because their roles are quite clear, they’re unlikely to become stressed, agitated, or even angry–as they might if they had to deal with unclear and ever-changing responsibilities.

As a result, companies that practice workflow management are more likely to have higher employee satisfaction and reduced turnover.

Cost savings

Most businesses derive significant financial benefits from workflow management. For instance, not only does streamlining operations save organizations money, but there are also other financial gains to be realized in the form of reduced labor costs, higher employee retention, faster turnarounds, greater market share, and increased customer satisfaction.

More time for strategizing

When an organization is constantly forced to put out fires, there’s no time to figure out the next best step. Workflow management resolves this issue by keeping operations running smoothly and efficiently, so more time can be spent strategizing for the future.

How do businesses use workflow management?

There are a number of different ways to use workflow management, however, here are some of the most common ones:

Onboarding

Whether you’re training new employees or explaining to customers how they can get the most from your products and services, workflow management is great for defining and simplifying the onboarding process.

Customer support

How should customer complaints be handled? When should they be escalated? These are questions that workflow management can answer, improving your support team’s efficiency while enhancing customers’ satisfaction.

Marketing

Marketing is most effective when it’s done strategically, rather than on an ad-hoc basis. Workflow management allows businesses to establish a (repeatable) marketing process that guides prospects through each stage of the buying lifecycle, so companies can maximize their sales and profits.

Content management

As more and more businesses attract prospects with content—in the form of blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and white papers—it becomes increasingly important to manage the content creation process.

Who will write the content? Do subject matter experts need to approve the topic? Who will sign off on the content before it’s posted? Does the legal department need to review the content prior to publication?

With a workflow management process, businesses can develop a clear content management workflow. This cuts down on confusion while reducing the likelihood of unapproved content making its way onto the Internet.

As you can see, workflow management plays a critical role in improving operational efficiency.

MindManager can help improve your overall workflow process thanks to easy to create workflow diagrams like  flowcharts, concept maps, timelines, and business diagrams. Additionally, task management, cost tracking, and project management tools in MindManager help you stay on top of each individual job within your workflow. As a result, your organization improves its efficiency, while realizing significant cost savings.

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