Three Essential Building Blocks to Great Workflow Implementation

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Think what you could do with the time efficient, automated workflows could save you.

Implementing workflows intrinsically sounds like a smart business decision. Why wouldn’t a business want to standardize processes that produce strong results? Why wouldn’t they want more efficiency and easier documentation of workflows?

But you can’t just buy workflow automation software, assign someone to create workflows, and expect everything to magically improve. Software merely offers you workflow tools. While those tools can be powerful, tools of any kind that are misapplied can cause bigger problems than those they were designed to solve.

To build great workflows that raise efficiency, reduce costs, improve consistency, and help your company conform to applicable regulations, you need three critical building blocks: innovative workflow design, excellence in workflow documentation, and the establishment of workflow ownership and accountability.

1. Innovative Workflow Design

Work processes that are predictable and repetitive are excellent candidates for workflow automation. Creating an automated workflow is similar to setting up a domino chain, where setting the workflow in motion causes all subsequent “dominoes” to fall in turn. Many parts of workflow design are asking and answering, “When this happens, what comes next?” You have to break down workflows into discrete steps, all of which must be accounted for.

Even the tiniest procedures, like “Notify Al that his signature is required” should be declared as steps. When you see all the steps laid out end-to-end, you can sometimes see where bottlenecks occur. For instance, if dozens of people at once have a “Notify Al” step, then perhaps it’s time to determine if someone else can pick up some of the slack.

2. Excellence in Workflow Documentation

The right workflow automation software serves as its own workflow documentation, in that you can always go back to it and see all the components of a given workflow. This alone is powerful, but when you build specific documentation steps into your workflows, you can more easily comply with regulations or reporting requirements.

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If your company is ever audited, you’ll be glad you designed documentation steps into your workflows.

Suppose you run a business that is subject to HIPAA privacy rules. Violations can be prohibitively expensive, so you need to prevent them. A step in a workflow documenting, for example, that a customer electronically signed a form stating they have read and understood your privacy policy can make all the difference if your company is ever subjected to an audit because workflow tools let you retrieve critical documentation at any time.

3. Workflow Ownership and Accountability

Some workflows are small and simple enough that having a single “owner” for that workflow makes sense. With larger or more complex workflows, you may assign ownership to individual steps rather than the workflow as a whole. Either way, pairing up workflow steps with the person responsible for them helps ensure consistently superb results and makes it easier to find and fix workflow problems.

Say Tabitha in Finance is responsible for steps in a travel reimbursement workflow that involve reviewing employee reimbursement requests. When designing the workflow, you need to inform her of which workflow steps she’s accountable for. An automated email alert sent to her workstation or mobile device when an electronic reimbursement form is submitted can prompt her to take care of her steps once she’s back in the office, or even on her mobile device if the workflow is mobile-friendly.

The Right Workflow Automation Software Brings It Together

Workflow tools are available at all price points and all levels of sophistication. It’s up to you to determine which choice in workflow automation software meets your needs in terms of power, flexibility, ease of use, and total cost of ownership. You don’t have to use one type of workflow automation software for the IT department, another for the secretarial pool, and a third for facilities management because the best workflow automation software packages allow you to work across departments seamlessly.

PerfectForms offers workflow automation tools that are so easy to use that your non-technical workflow users can create innovative, customized workflow designs. It also allows easy email alerts at any step of a work process and collection of information for making reports and demonstrating compliance with regulations your company is subject to. Plus, it lets you build accountability into workflows so that no one will be able to say, “I didn’t get the form.” We encourage you to read over some of our case studies so you can see what the building blocks of outstanding workflows looks like in action.

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