Pinpoint Your Bottlenecks with a Workflow Map

You are proud of your business’s reputation for getting things done. But lately, getting them done has become more difficult. Something is slowing down processes, and these bottlenecks are hurting efficiency. What can you do? Do you need to call in a high-priced corporate efficiency guru?

Workflow

Process users are often the key to determining the best way to fix a bottleneck.

Probably not. You can identify bottlenecks with a workflow map that shows processes and sub-processes in detail. With the help of the people who perform these processes, you can ensure your workflow map is accurate, and you can identify precisely where things are slowing down so you know where improvement efforts should be concentrated.

The Workflow Map: Breaking it Down

There’s no one “right” way to create a workflow map. There is software that can do it, or you could start with a pencil and paper. It’s a graphical representation of a workflow that shows in sequence each step required to complete the process. It also shows the routes between steps, as well as a launch step that triggers the entire workflow. A launch step could be something like “An order arrives,” or “Someone new is hired.”

Simple processes result in simple workflow maps, and complex processes often result in complex workflow maps that may include several sub-processes, each of which can be broken down into its own workflow map. A workflow map is essentially step-by-step documentation of “What happens when this triggering event occurs?”

Identifying Bottlenecks Requires Input from Several People

Creating an accurate workflow map, and then identifying where bottlenecks occur requires the input of the people who actually carry out the processes. A “high level” view of a workflow risks omitting steps which may not appear important, but make a real difference. Asking people who use a workflow, “Where do you get bogged down?” is extremely helpful. One process user may tell you that the network is slow, so using his software takes longer than it used to. Another may say that her warehouse team is picking twice as many orders as last year despite not having hired any additional staff. This is the kind of input you need to determine solutions to these bottlenecks.

What Happens When You Identify a Bottleneck?

When you identify a bottleneck, speak with the process users and ask them what would help. If the company network is slow, speak with IT and find out if your ISP can deliver more bandwidth. If someone has to type information from hand-completed paper forms into a database, consider a pilot project for making those paper forms electronic. You may find that there’s only so much you can do to automate or accelerate a workflow without hiring more people, but in those cases you can be confident that you’re hiring people in positions that will make a positive difference.

Improving Workflow Maps

Improving workflow maps is ultimately about improving workflows themselves. Once you have identified and addressed a workflow bottleneck, adjust your workflow map accordingly. The very process of identifying and addressing bottlenecks is often enough to help you (and other process users) recognize other opportunities to improve workflows. If your pilot project to make a paper form electronic is a success, you could expand it to other manual workflows and experience improved productivity throughout your organization. Having the “right” workflow map isn’t nearly as important as having one that is useful to the organization and to the people who use the actual workflows.

Who Has the Time?

If you’re buried in work, naturally you don’t feel like you have time to map out a Workflow Application. But even if you can find time to map out one part of a workflow, you might find glaring inefficiencies that can be rectified without a lot of trouble. Form Software like PerfectForms can help. PerfectForms is workflow management software for creating electronic forms and workflows, and it uses a convenient drag-and-drop interface for both form creation and workflow creation. And you don’t have to know how to program to use it. It’s fast, and can start you on the road to improved workflows right away. We encourage you to get in touch with us any time to learn more. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.

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