Your Step-by-Step Guide to Improving Office Workflows
When you first start a business, you often develop processes based on necessity. Funds and staff may be limited, and workflows develop on an ad hoc basis. This is fine and necessary, at least at first. But as your business gains traction and begins to grow, those processes may become the standard for accomplishing tasks for no reason other than habit.
In some instances, your employees know on some level that a workflow is flawed, but modifying a workflow can be difficult in a busy environment when there’s no time to take a hard look at what’s causing problems. Unfortunately, “the way we’ve always done it” sometimes carries disproportionate weight, and far more efficient workflows are simply not considered. But periodically evaluating workflows to see how they can be improved is a worthwhile investment of time. Here’s how.
Evaluate Baseline Workflow Speed
It’s hard to know where to go if you don’t know where you are now. Suppose your process for creating invoices is taking long enough to affect cash flow. You have a set way of making invoices – one that you and your original business partner came up with. It was perfect when there were only two of you serving a handful of clients, but now you have a staff of ten and your client load has grown significantly too. Break down your invoicing process into discrete steps and define the reasoning for each step.
Determine how long your invoice creation process takes. You could do this by recording the date the invoice process begins and the date it’s completed. Or you could have each and every person involved in the process record the time and date of their action on a piece of paper attached to the form. The goal is to obtain a baseline measurement of your workflow speed.
Identify Bottlenecks and Their Causes
There may be steps in your process that could be combined or omitted altogether. Other steps may be automated with workflow designer software. For example, rather than departmental approval requiring a paper form signed by hand, an automated form could be generated, along with a notification email for the department head, who can then sign the form electronically from her desk, phone, or tablet.
If physical processes based on paper take too long due to your workforce being on the move much of the time, mobile-friendly electronic workflows can free up this type of bottleneck significantly. If one person in a process is overwhelmed by the step he is responsible for, it may be time to consider adding staff or hiring an assistant for that person.
Use Workflow Tools to Streamline and Automate
With the right workflow tools, you can create your own custom electronic workflows rather than being locked into pre-defined workflows that may not be ideal for your organization. Workflow designer software doesn’t have to require programming expertise to totally transform your business processes. With today’s workflow tools, you can create sleek, efficient processes based on the needs of the people who use the processes every day. And since the workflow users can create their own workflows, you can be more confident that the workflows will meet everyone’s needs, and not just the IT department’s.
Evaluate Gains and Modify Workflows Accordingly
Once you have modified and / or automated a workflow, it’s time to compare its performance to your original workflow. Have the bottlenecks been widened? Have error-prone manual steps been automated? Are key people notified automatically when their input is needed? How long does the process take from end to end now, compared to before?
Workflows rarely get into one groove and stay there permanently, because customers, staff, regulations, and many other factors change. Therefore, once you create a smooth-running workflow, you will still have to evaluate it periodically to be certain that it still meets your needs.
PerfectForms is the workflow designer that doesn’t require any programming for the creation of custom electronic survey forms and workflows. Furthermore, you can make your forms and workflows mobile friendly, so your team members don’t have to be sitting in front of a computer to take care of their tasks. Imagine how much faster business travel reimbursement could be if your employees who travel frequently could submit expenses conveniently, right from their mobile device. We would love for you to take a look at some of our case studies, to see exactly how PerfectForms revolutionizes workflows, and how much it can save organizations in terms of time and money.
Tags: workflow tools