How to create a workflow: the productivity booster you need

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Discovering ways to improve productivity and optimize tasks in a company is an everyday challenge, right? When you learn how to create a workflow, it becomes easier to organize tasks, and reduce errors. 

Your employees are going to benefit from this as well. They will be able to count on tools to allow them to keep track of their daily activities, create priorities, and avoid losing time with figuring out what they have to do. 

What’s the definition of workflow?

The image shows a workflow diagram

A workflow can be defined as a series of fixed tasks designed to accomplish a goal in a company, including all the steps from beginning to end. It is set by predetermined rules to help guide the team and prevent any problem. 

A workflow was usually made on paper, but nowadays, there are several workflow software where it is possible to develop the processes and follow them up online. It allows the employees to visualize and understand the workflow much better. It is simpler to adjust it when necessary and test new methods. 

When you automate the workflow, you make sure that everyone will be reminded of their tasks, setting alerts, deadlines. All of your team will be able to self-manage by using a workflow tool, and the managers will spend less time keeping track of each activity.

A workflow can be implemented in different areas. It’s possible to create personal productivity workflows, for example, to organize your tasks by priority and the steps to complete each one of them. This way you can identify how you can focus better on important work, identify and eliminate useless processes. 

A meeting can be optimized by a workflow too by breaking the activities related to it into steps. For example: set the date to the meeting, send an invitation to everyone who is going to participate, develop a meeting agenda, have the next steps well defined by the end of the meeting, and send a follow-up email after it. 

If your company uses the Agile methodology, then you are already acquainted with workflows since it creates several of them. Once more, to optimize time and increase productivity. 

Why is it worth creating an automated workflow?

Improve productivity

One of the main benefits of learning how to create a workflow is seeing how using it has a significant impact on individual and team productivity. While creating a workflow, you will identify the tasks that take more time, what is slowing them down and what can be done to optimize them. 

According to a report made by Asana, knowledge workers spend 60% of their time on “work about work”, which are activities like communicating about tasks, looking for documents and managing priorities.

An automated workflow helps you save time on those things. You can, for example, set documents to be automatically sent when ready. It’s also possible to create an alert to notify when a task it’s complete and you can move on to the next step.

Increase accountability

With automated workflows, managers can assign tasks to each member of their team, create a schedule for them; follow up everything, and develop forms to update the activities progress, all in one platform.

If there is an incomplete task, you can identify what’s lacking to be done,  try to understand what was the problem that delayed it, and offer help.

Assigning each task makes clear who is responsible for what, helping to increase accountability, and also diminishing the need to micromanage. Everyone is going to be independent to do their own work. 

Diminish the risk of human error

Imagine, you work at the sales team of a company, and you have a list of leads to get in contact with every day.  Without having a process to keep track of who you have already sent a message to, it’s difficult to not forget someone and easy to send the message twice to the same person.

This kind of error can damage a brand’s image, showing to the consumer that there is a lack of attention. When you implement an automated workflow, you can create a checklist with the leads to be contacted, including their information, and just click “done” when you send an answer to each one. 

CRM software in this case can be very helpful to optimize the workflow. In other processes, you are going to find many methods and online tools to help improve it as well. As you understand the workflows, the easier it is to find ways to make it even better. 

Automated workflows can be used for different purposes

As you probably have realized by now, workflows serve different purposes and can be applied in many areas of your company.

For example, to keep track of project expenses, instead of writing down all the bills and sending them to the company later, with an automated workflow, the employee could immediately register them online, speeding up the process of being reimbursed.

Another example of a process that can be optimized by a good workflow is the purchase request when there is the need to require approval from the finance department to complete it. You can have a digitized form making things simpler for both sides. 

It’s possible to set an alert to notify the employee when the request is approved or to remind the financial department to take a look at the request and prioritize this task if it’s an urgent one. 

A workflow is useful even to register incidents at your company, for example, if an employee suffers an injury at work or if there is a problem with a piece of machinery.

Create a form to be fulfilled on the workflow platform when something like this happens, to be sent to the department responsible for investigating it and, then, taking the necessary actions.

Having a workflow can also speed up the process of signing a contract. Instead of sending a paper to all the ones involved, you can make it digital, collecting all the signatures and documents online.

8 Steps on how to create a workflow

The image shows a puzzle, in 3 pieces in the middle it's written: "think, plan, act".

1. Map your business processes 

The first step on how to create a workflow is mapping out all the processes that are included to complete a task. You need to evaluate how it’s currently done, who are the people involved in it, and what files, documents, protocols, and procedures it includes.

For example, if you are developing a workflow for the financial team to control expenses regarding purchases requests. First, talk to your team to comprehend how they do it now, ask them what tools would be useful on an online platform, and which steps can be automated. 

Knowing the needs of each department, and having a complete view of all the processes will help to create workflows that are truly effective, and that are adaptable to your business reality. 

Try to answer these questions:

  • What is the sequence of steps to make a task?
  • Are any of the steps optional or do they depend on any business criteria?
  • Who are the people involved in each step? What are their responsibilities?
  • How long does it usually take to complete each step?
  • How can an automated workflow help to improve the processes?
  • What are your employees’ observations?

2. Choose an automated workflow tool

You are going to find many platforms that allow you to create automated workflows, pay attention to the features they offer, and analyze according to your business needs and priorities. Then, select the one that suits you best, and go deep on studying how it works, to be able to make the most of the tools provided.

Present the platform selected to your team, give them time to know the interface, and understand how to use it. If necessary, create a training program, some platforms have very useful tutorials that can also facilitate getting used to them. 

3. Use an existing workflow template or develop a new one

After choosing an automated workflow to implement, you are going to see that many of them offer pre-built templates models.

Select the one that will make it easier to create, organize, and follow up each task. The workflow template needs to be simple to understand, allowing to visualize all the processes, so everyone involved can use it intuitively. 

That’s why mapping out your business process is so important, it’s going to help you to identify the best template model to use according to your company and the departments’ characteristics. The templates are usually fully customizable, but you will encounter workflow builders as well, to create them from scratch.

4. Organize who does what and assign tasks

Once you have selected the template for your automated workflow, it’s time to start implementing it by assigning tasks, defining who is responsible for what, and including the team in the workflow.

Set the tasks that can be automatically sent to the next step and the ones that depend on someone’s approval or review to move forward.  Each member of the team must be able to easily access the platform and quickly visualize what are their responsibilities.

Remember everyone to follow up on the platform. Stakeholders must be aware of how some tasks depend on them to advance. If they aren’t supervising to authorize a request, for example, it can delay the entire workflow. 

One of the advantages of the workflow is that it becomes easier to see how everyone’s role is fundamental to complete the work, and also to realize how it may affect others. 

5. Make tests to perfect the workflow

When you create a workflow, it doesn’t mean you can’t make any changes after implementing it. On the contrary, it’s important to test to see what actually works in practice and what doesn’t. You can, for example, get inspired by studying other companies’ workflows and methods, and try to use some ideas.

Instruct the managers to follow up closely when there is a change in the tasks’ steps, to see how it’s impacting the results, and also to offer support to help on the employees’ adaptation process.  

Perfecting the workflow is something continuous, the tasks and the steps required to complete them are going to change as you update your business and as it grows. Workflows must be reviewed constantly not to become outdated and to help to expand the business.

6. Train your employees

Your team must understand the benefits of having an automated workflow, and know how to use it.  Include them in the whole process, from mapping out the current tasks to defining who is responsible for what and assigning responsibilities, by being included they will be able to understand the changes in an easier way.

Present the workflow software that is going to be used, be available to offer help when needed, train the team to learn how to use the digital tools that they are going to have access to. Instruct the managers and head of departments to help with this implementation as well. 

A good training program will be very useful to guide your employees through the adaptation and to help to lose the fear of the unknown. Changes can always cause hesitancy, but by offering support and emphasizing that everyone is on this together,  they are going to feel safer. 

7. Be open to feedback 

Hearing the people who are applying the workflow every day is essential to understand its impact, along with following up the metrics that have been set for each department. Highlight that you are open to receive their feedback and encourage them to do it.

Your employees certainly can offer valuable insights on how to improve the processes. When you hear what they have to say, you show that they matter to your company and that you want to create a work environment that meets their needs. 

Professionals that feel part of their team and see they are valued tend to feel more stimulated to give their best, which will increase productivity, for sure. 

8. Analyze how to improve and make optimizations 

By hearing the employee’s feedback, reading the heads of departments and manager reports, analyzing the results on revenue and other metrics, and following the workflow, you will be able to understand which tasks can be optimized.

The workflow will make it easier to see what are the weak points and to define what needs to be done to change the situation, eliminating processes that are useless and take too much time. Use the workflow to your advantage, learn with it how to increase productivity and save time.

5 workflow tools to help you effectively

1. Kissflow

Kissflow's logo

Kissflow is a platform focused on helping you empower your team to build their workflows. With an easy-to-use interface, you will have a dashboard updated with real-time information about every process, presented in an understandable summary format.

You can create your own workflow, customize it the way you want, and make changes whenever is necessary. It’s also possible to generate reports and get an immediate digital or print paper trail of every step of the process. 

Highlighted features: 

  • Agile deployment
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Automate assignments
  • Integrate with third party systems
  • Document sharing
  • Smart alerts

2. Asana

Asana's logo

With Asana, you can create a timeline to organize the workflow, and separate the tasks using boards, following the Kanban method.  On every board, you will be able to divide the steps, assign each of them to a member of your team, attach files and observations, and set a deadline. 

Through the shared calendar, everyone, who you choose to give access to that feature, can visualize how the work has been done, checking the progress of every task. Asana also allows you to submit and manage work requests on the same platform, besides it has a mobile and desktop version of its software. 

Highlighted features:

  • Kanban boards
  • Shared calendar
  • Desktop and mobile apps
  • Assign and group tasks
  • Set deadlines
  • Attach files
  • Custom templates

3.Nintex 

Nintex's logo

Nintex is an easy-to-use process platform that empowers you to quickly standardize your workflow and automate several tasks. Used by more than 10000 organizations, Nintex allows you to plan, map your business processes, and manage them.

You can reduce the number of paper forms by creating virtual ones,  generating documents, and enabling e-signatures with DocGen and eSign. Use data visualization to analyze the workflow and identify what can be improved, and integrate with several other business apps. 

Highlighted features:

  • Map your business processes
  • Automate tasks
  • DocGen and eSign
  • Data visualization
  • Easy integrations

4. Flokzu

Flokzu's logo

Flokzu uses an international standard BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) and counts on a drag-and-drop tool to allow you to easily create a workflow diagram, customized to your company’s needs. 

You can create tasks, combine and assign them, set deadlines, include business rules, and add notifications. With the Form Builder, you are going to see how easy it can be to create different forms to be fulfilled in each step.

The assignees for each task will receive a message notifying them about it. It’s possible to add comments and attach files as well.

Highlighted features:

  • International standard BPMN
  • Drag-and-drop interface
  • Create and manage tasks
  • Form Builder
  • Custom reports

Implement the steps on how to create a workflow and boost productivity

Now that you have understood how to create a workflow, it’s time to put it into practice. Regardless of the size of your company, you are going to see how organizing its processes can save time, enhance productivity, and increase revenue.

Follow the steps and create processes always considering your business particularities and needs.

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