Perhaps when you think of workflows you might think of the sequence of business tasks that are carried out on a regular basis. For example, document approvals would come under that umbrella.  However, what about a workflow tool or software? In short, these are systems that help you automate these processes. But that may leave those who are perhaps new to automation in the dark a little, so let’s explore…

The challenges of old

One of the challenges that many organisations have faced is trying to make their processes efficient, with room for few errors. A lot of time can be spent in achieving this and once improvement has been made, enforcing employees to follow through with the changes is like a mountain to climb. Old habits die hard when everyone is used to the ‘old way’. Also, think of the time spent when trying to monitor the new improvement by making sure everyone is doing everything according to the new process – holding their hand so to speak.

How do Workflow tools work?

New adjustments to a workflow are made by making changes to the process through a software platform. Change notifications are then sent to employees, enforcing the new process, leaving no room for mistakes. Changes to documents can be tracked, calendars can be integrated, form building can be automated allowing your organisation to be transparent and streamline any issues into well-documented tasks.

The amount of time/cost that is saved is well documented. Payroll staff, for example, no longer have to dispatch and manually respond to requests because a workflow tool can automatically take care of it.

IT service requests are another area where a workflow tool can provide efficiency. Timely and appropriate responses to requests enable IT support to focus on other more specific needs.

Notifications can be issued informing us of missed targets making sure that everything is on track allowing you to have a contingency plan in place in case of missed deadlines, etc.

Pick the right workflow tools

There are some essentials that a workflow tool should include. I’ll just highlight three of them:

1 – SLA status indicators

You could have more than 20 workflow processes running at any given time, displaying a huge list on your software dashboard. So there needs to be a way of viewing the most pressing tasks first and the ones that can wait a while – last. SLA status indicators will do this for you perhaps using colour codes or something similar to attract attention.

2 – Notifications

 A vital key to any workflow tool is automated notifications; the need for the process to keep going without anyone needing to intervene. Push or email notifications are sent, reminding us of upcoming approvals needed, with the ability to configure the type of notifications that are received.

3 – Cloud-based

Cloud-based technology now is a must. Having your workflow management tool in the cloud is essential if you want to get some real benefit for your team. With the cloud, you can access your data from any location, view updates on maintenance and compliance issues when needed.

Cloud workflows enable stakeholders to access files without the need for just stand-alone technology because everything is stored in a centralised secure database. Any changes will be visible to all stakeholders in the process chain.

Choosing the right tool is a difficult task with many factors to take into consideration. But I hope some of the information above can be of use as there are so many features of workflow software out there that can confuse matters. But just highlight your needs before making a choice and research the remaining essential features of a workflow tool.

Note: All images courtesy of appian.com and kissflow.com

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