Planning a project, setting up a schedule and assembling a skilled team only sets the stage for productive work. To make sure everyone works at capacity and keeps things moving forward, you need to implement workflow management.
If you want to manage work effectively and efficiently, you need to understand workflow tools, such as workflow management software, and set up a workflow system that lets you continue improving the workflow process.
What Is Workflow Management?
Workflow management is when managers identify, organize and coordinate tasks that lead to a specific deliverable to optimize and automate processes. Doing this increases outputs, gets rid of redundancies and reduces errors.
Tasks, people, systems and machines can all be included in a workflow. The coordination of these elements is crucial to prevent bottlenecks. A bottleneck stops or slows down production and backs up everything preceding it.
In general, a workflow can be broken down into three main components:
- There are predefined steps or tasks, which explain what happens each step of the way until the end. These steps can be either linear, branched or a blend of both.
- In the context of a workflow process, stakeholders are those on the team who are responsible for executing the tasks. They can be assigned to one task or the entire workflow.
- Finally, there are conditions, which are the rules for the workflow. They define when one task is done and another can begin.
Workflow Management vs Project Management
Workflow management is part of project management, but they’re not interchangeable terms. Project management is done over a specific duration of time that ends with a deliverable, either a product or service. Workflow management, on the other hand, is optimizing a sequence of tasks or processes necessary to complete a task.
That doesn’t mean that the two are completely different—in fact, the two are complementary to one another. Both serve to deliver a specific outcome. Workflow is part of any project, and without workflow management to keep that process running smoothly, projects will fall behind schedule and costs will balloon.
While there are similarities between workflow management and project management, there are also differences. Projects end, but workflow repeat, as it’s a function within an organization. It can even be a standalone process, such as creating documentation or scheduling appointments.
Projects are about plans, overseeing processes and teams and managing tasks, while workflows are focused at the task level, connecting tasks to optimize the process and deliver greater efficiency. But both can be served with project management software.
ProjectManager is cloud-based work management software that helps manage workflow. Our task list shows your team what they need to complete, the status of their work and lets them make comments to foster collaboration. Try ProjectManager free today!
Workflow Management vs. Business Process Management (BPM)
Though workflow management and business process management (BPM) are similar, there are differences in the type of process management. A workflow management system is a tool that helps you set up and monitor the execution of your tasks. It’s usually formatted like a flowchart. It’s often not detailed, but clear enough for teams to follow.
Think of workflow management as a less involved form of BPM. Workflow management captures the workflow process, and some tools will even let you automate basic workflows. You can use this for a variety of workflows, such as onboarding a team or document management. Workflow management tools are people-focused rather than process-focused. BPM tools are more process-oriented.
BPM is about capturing and improving business processes. It’s used to improve the efficiency of an organization. First, you need to identify the current state of the business processes and document these actions. Once the company’s full processes are mapped out, you can analyze the BPM. This should expose bottlenecks in your process and help you reduce cost and improve processes by making insightful changes.
The difference between workflow management and BPM is that the former is more geared towards organizing people and documents, following the right steps at the right time. The latter is about business processes and how to improve them. Workflow management coordinates people and software systems, while BPM coordinates how resources in an organization interact. BPM systems are more complex and involved in continuous improvement, while workflow management tools just automate steps in a process.
What Is a Workflow Management System (WMS)?
A work management system is how a workflow is set up and monitored in a project or organization. A WMS is made up of procedures and tools that are used by an organization to identify, run and improve workflow. It will involve some manner of workflow software, but can be more than just using a tool.
Therefore, WMS organizes company policy, procedures and software tools to better manage the workflow process of the organization or project. It includes everything from form modeling, role-based accessibility, reporting, notification, cloud-based storage and more.
What Does a Workflow Management System Do?
A workflow management system gives people the opportunity to define the different workflows in their project or organization as it applies to tasks or processes.
A WMS also allows repetitive tasks to be automated for greater efficiency. Some can also make sure that an uncompleted task in the process is not forgotten. It does this with notifications that keeps your team in the loop.
Using a workflow management system is a good way to have one source of truth. Rather than having teams communicate with one another on Slack or email, they can respond at the task level and keep the communications inside the app. It also lets businesses move away from static spreadsheets. When too many Excel spreadsheets are shared, it can be difficult to know which one has the most current data.
What Is Workflow Software?
Workflow software is part of a workflow management system. It’s a tool that shows tasks you need to complete, tasks that are being executed and their status. It also shows steps that you have completed. A WMS lets you give assignments to team members that have detailed descriptions of the work.
It provides transparency into the workflow process, which lets managers catch issues before they become problems. They can then reallocate resources to the project and make sure that they resolve the potential bottleneck before it slows the team down.
There are also reporting features that collect data and calculate that information to show project metrics, whether in reporting tools or dashboards. All these features are designed to improve productivity and efficiency by streamlining processes, reducing paperwork and identifying bottlenecks.
Benefits and Features of Workflow Management Software
The benefits of using workflow management software should be obvious. The better your workflow, the better your project or organization. One of the ways WMS does this is by reducing the number of errors. Even if a few get by, which always happens, the software can tell you and you can set up procedures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Workflow management is also like connective tissue keeping people, software and work culture productive. Teams can communicate with one another, which facilitates collaboration. It also integrates different software systems to help them work better together, too.
There are so many pros to using workflow management software it’s hard to stop listing them. From helping you work on multiple tasks at the same time to increased control and transparency, workflow management systems also improve the work culture in an organization. Disorganization erodes morale.
WMS generally have features that show task status, reporting tools and email notifications to keep everyone on the same page. Some will also have resource management tools to reallocate resources and keep teams working at capacity without over-allocating their workload.
Choosing a Workflow Management System
Convinced that a workflow management system will help you run a more efficient project or organization? First, ask yourself this question – “how do I know which is the right workflow management system for me?”
Well, there are always going to be constraints beyond the tool itself, such as price, and what your organization is willing to invest to install new software. Outside of those things, you should look for software that has the following features.
- Cloud-based software to get real-time data and make more insightful decisions
- Notifications to keep you updated on changes to your workflow
- Multiple project views, such as Gantt, kanban, task lists, etc., to allow everyone to work how they want
- Monitoring and reporting tools to analyze workflow data and make better decisions on improvements
- User-friendly interface and quick onboarding
- Integrates with other apps that you use
- Collaborative communications to keep teams connected
Workflow Management Best Practices
Finally, once you’ve selected the workflow management software that fits your project or organization’s needs, here are five tips to get the most out of your workflow.
- First, have a workflow plan. But more than that, have one that is written out or, better yet, visual. It’s better to prepare ahead and having a visual representation of that plan makes it easier to share and grasp.
- It’s also a good idea to think about things that could go wrong in your workflow system and how you’ll respond to them. Risk mitigation is always good practice because it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. Try to figure out where there might be delays or bottlenecks that will slow down production and how to resolve them quickly if they should appear.
- If you’re using workflow for a project, it can be helpful to apply the same workflow management to the whole organization. There can be issues in your project that are outside of your purview and part of a poorly thought-out workflow in the organization of your company.
- Make sure you’re using workflow management software and that it has tools that fit with your project or organizational structure.
- Also, don’t rest on the workflow once you have one set up and running, even if all is going well. Also, take time to do an audit, review the process and come back with ways to improve it. Workflow is not a once-and-done process but an ongoing and constantly evolving system.
Why ProjectManager is the Best Workflow Management System
ProjectManager is a cloud-based workflow management software that organizes workflow, connects teams and lets you build efficiencies and boost productivity. Teams can collaborate wherever they are in real time and stay updated with workflow automation tools, such as email notifications and in-app alerts.
Work in Multiple Project Views
Having multiple project views means that teams can work how they want, whether they’re remote or in different departments. Experts and newbies alike can visualize the workflow on ProjectManager’s kanban board view. Teams can take control of their backlog and manage those tasks. Then they can work together and plan sprints, while managers can transparency into the workflow and can reallocate resources to clear bottlenecks before they slow down work.
Track Issues on Dashboards
Keeping an eye on the workflow is how you can catch issues and resolve them before they become problems. Using ProjectManager’s live dashboard is like having an instant status report. It captures project data in real time and then automatically calculates information in easy-to-read graphs and charts showing workload, tasks and more. Unlike other software that requires a lengthy setup, ProjectManager’s dashboard is ready when you are.
Improve Processes Through Reporting
To find ways to improve your workflow, use ProjectManager’s one-click reporting tools. They generate detailed data on time, cost and more. You can filter each report to let you focus on only the information you want to analyze. You can also share reports to keep your stakeholders updated.
ProjectManager is the best workflow software with resource management tools to adjust workflows fast and easily. Our tool integrates with most apps and can help enterprise workflow management with portfolio management features. Get organized and try ProjectManager today for free!