The business process and workflow management application industry is on the cusp of digital transformation. As organizations experiment with automation to drive digital services for customers, the industry has seen a substantial leap in efficiency.
Workflow management solutions have evolved through various operating models to deliver immense value to organizations across the globe. Successful businesses recognize that well-defined processes result in more predictable outcomes, facilitating the delivery of high-quality services. If you're looking to boost your organization's productivity and efficiency, an intelligent workflow management tool is essential.
What is the purpose of a workflow management system?
A workflow management system (WMS) helps businesses analyze, structure, and model new business processes. The primary objective of a WMS is to provide employees with a more productive and collaborative environment to:
Minimize routine manual processes through automation.
Automate follow-ups on unresolved tasks and send periodic alerts.
Present a summary of tasks, along with analytics to forecast blocks and make strategic operational decisions.
Challenges in choosing the right workflow management system (WMS)
Choosing the right modern workflow management system for your organization can be tricky, despite the range of options on the market. If you’re running an old legacy BPM solution, you may be missing out on critical features that you need to remain competitive in the digital age. The right solution can improve efficiency, reduce bottlenecks, and increase productivity.
Many effective workflow management systems come with a steep learning curve, making them difficult to adopt. Your employees should be able to use your new workflow management software today—not after months of intensive training. Complicating matters further, the term "workflow solution" applies to an extensive range of apps, from Kanban boards to spreadsheets, many of which lack the advanced features a modern business requires.
Picking a solution can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know which features are essential to your business. To help you choose the right solution, we've compiled a list of features that every business workflow management app should offer.
9 Essential features for every workflow management system
Implementing a solid workflow management system promotes continuous process improvement and optimizes task management. If you're building (or buying) a workflow management system for your company, you'll want to look for these key features:
1. Intuitive, simple workflow designer
The ideal workflow designer provides advanced tools for complex operations, while remaining straightforward and easy to use across departments. If a workflow designer platform requires advanced technical know-how, it will only benefit developers. With a visual workflow management system, you can build and automate your workflow using simple, linear models, without worrying about complicated code and elements. That means your finance team can map out a purchase order workflow without depending on IT.
2. Drag-and-drop form designing capability
It is essential that you be able to easily create forms that look and work great for your business, without dealing with long lines of code. A straightforward web-based WYSIWYG workflow designer with drag-and-drop functionality and comprehensive data capture options is essential to this process. Users should be able to easily create and customize dynamic forms with sophisticated layouts (multi-column, tabbed, tabular, multi-page, etc.).
3. Supports third-party integration
Integration with other apps is an indispensable feature for workflow management. Business workflows don’t operate independently from other processes that drive your organization. Documents, reports, and other business data should flow smoothly from your workflow tool to other applications, like your HR system and CRM. If your workflow management system isn’t easy to set up and integrate with other tools, you'll lose valuable process time.
4. Role-based access control and authentication
Many business processes involve sensitive information that cannot be shared with everyone. Your workflow management system should allow you to control what each user can see and modify. The ability to define granular, role-based access protects confidential data by making it available on a need-to-know basis.
5. Automated data validations
Employees lose a lot of valuable time correcting errors, such as missing or invalid data on forms. Workflow software should have automatic data validation functionality to prevent these errors. Well-defined workflows with automatic validation result in fewer mistakes, faster processing times, reduced training time for employees, and rapid approvals. Validation types include pre-built form fields that check data and flag errors, pre-populated fields, automatic and dynamic routing based on the data, and more.
6. Centralized workflow dashboard
Companies usually have several business processes running simultaneously. A workflow management system should behave like a centralized dashboard to provide a bird's eye view of all the processes running in your organization. SLA indicators can inform you of the status of your processes at a glance so you can prioritize tasks. Color-coded WMS dashboards draw your attention to the most high-priority workflows.
7. Analytics and KPI reporting
Your WMS is a great place to analyze your workflows and data. This data, combined with user feedback, can be used to improve your business processes. Your business will also benefit from real-time information about bottlenecks and errors. A KPI-based reporting feature in your WMS helps you track issues and tells you when to add or remove tasks for an efficient resolution.
8. Notifications and reminders
In a process workflow, tasks are assigned to individuals or a specific user role. For prompt action, it is essential to notify the right person or group of upcoming approvals and other deadlines. Automated notifications and reminders are key to making sure automated workflows are running smoothly, without personally following up. An effective business WMS generates customizable alerts via email or text message for upcoming events.
9. Cloud-based platform
For organizations looking for a digital advantage, cloud technology and services provide important benefits, like centralized data storage, easy collaboration, minimal downtime, and accessibility from any location.
Even if you already have business processes and corresponding workflows in place, you can benefit from refining and improving them. Inadequate workflows negatively impact your business operations. This is why it's necessary to keep in mind some best practices for workflow management.
Workflow management best practices to follow
Workflow management is a company-wide procedure that should be implemented on priority. Workflow management practices are typically applied to routine activities, like processing sales orders. Here are some basic workflow management practices to follow:
Map your workflows: In most organizations, there are numerous business workflows spread across various departments, systems, and tools. Identifying and mapping out your workflows helps you visualize each step and determine areas needing improvement. This is a necessary step for adopting automation.
Prioritize workflows: It's crucial that your customer-facing workflows are agile and running optimally. Subsidiary workflows that complement these primary workflows should have next priority. For example, design request workflows from marketing should be scheduled right after the sales workflows.
Automate wherever possible: Look for repetitive tasks that can be automated. This can free up time for employees to focus on high-priority tasks.
Identify stakeholders: Identify the individuals responsible for specific tasks in a workflow.
Monitor and regularly optimize: The first draft of a workflow, however data-driven, will usually be inadequate. Regular monitoring and optimization are necessary to develop highly efficient and effective workflows.
Find redundancies: Mapping out a workflow helps you identify redundant tasks. Work with stakeholders to identify redundancies and avoid duplicating work efforts.
Monitor KPIs: Track KPIs to ensure your processes are running efficiently. Monitor metrics to measure the effectiveness of any changes you make to a workflow, and identify areas needing improvement.
Choosing a workflow management system that does not meet your business's needs can be expensive and wasteful. When you’re building a workflow management system for your business, don’t settle for a product that can’t keep up. To manage your workflow, your WMS needs to be robust, flexible enough to scale, and customizable to your unique needs. Given how customer expectations have evolved, it makes great business sense to invest in a good workflow automation system.