Interested in learning about workflow management?
Managing a project is no piece of cake.
Among the endless list of tasks and activities, it’s easy to feel confused about what you need to do!
Kind of like this scene from the movie The Devil Wears Prada:
To avoid such chaos, all you and Miranda (the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine) need is some workflow management.
But what is that?
More importantly, how do you implement it?
In this article, you’ll learn what workflow management is, its 5 key benefits, and how to implement it easily.
We’ll also highlight the best workflow management software in 2020 to help you get started immediately.
This Article Contains:
- What is workflow management?
- 5 reasons why you need workflow management
- How to implement workflow management in 4 simple steps
- The best workflow management tool in 2020
Let’s get rolling!
What Is Workflow Management?
Workflow management is the process of creating and optimizing workflows to boost your team’s coordination and efficiency.
But what’s a workflow?
A workflow is a series of activities that you complete to achieve a specific goal or result.
For example, the process of recruiting new employees at Runway Magazine is a workflow. That workflow includes activities such as creating a job description, sourcing talent, screening applicants, etc.
The goal is to hire employees who meet the criteria of Miranda and her team!
If Miranda implements workflow management here, she’ll be able to stay on top of the recruitment workflow process — especially when hiring remote employees.
So this is like your regular business process management, right?
Kind of! Workflow management is actually a subset of business process management!
The main difference between them is that:
- Workflow management focuses on organizing people or instructions to ensure that you follow the correct steps for a task. For example, streamlining the recruitment process at Runway Magazine falls under workflow management.
- On the other hand, business process management is a high-level approach that focuses on coordinating all business processes in a company to improve efficiency. This is like ensuring all of Runway’s activities (and not just a single business workflow) are executed properly.
But wait… how do you implement workflow management?
By using a workflow management system!
A workflow management system is software that helps automate and manage your workflows easily. (We’ll go into detail about this later on, but if you want to check out the section on workflow software right now, click here).
You now know exactly what workflow management is.
But why do you need it?
5 Reasons Why You Need Workflow Management
Sure, workflow management sounds great.
But we’re sure that you aren’t going to be sold on the idea just because it “seems great”.
I mean, even Miranda wouldn’t do something unless she knows that it has some benefits.
So here are the five key benefits of workflow management:
1. Streamlined processes
In workflow management, you map out the processes in a specific workflow to get a high-level overview.
How does that help?
You’ll be able to spot unnecessary or repeatable processes that just waste your team’s time and productivity.
Runway has a workflow, where:
- A design team sends the layout for the Fall issue of the magazine to a project manager
- The manager asks the team to make some changes (approval process #1)
- The team makes the changes, the project manager checks again and submits it to Nigel (Runway’s art director) for review (approval process #2)
- Nigel sends his feedback via email to the manager
- The manager shares the feedback with the team
That’s a lot of back-and-forths, right?
Instead, with workflow management, you could streamline the process this way:
- Have the project manager edit the design directly, rather than asking the team to do it
- The project manager sends it to Nigel for review
- Nigel could CC the team in his email to let them know his feedback
With these changes, the five-step workflow process becomes a three-step process — saving tons of time and productivity in the long run!
2. Reduced manual work and human error
Let’s say Miranda has to keep track of her design team’s assignments.
Using a spreadsheet for this is a manual process — where you have to spend time manually updating the file each day!
Not only is this tedious and time-consuming, but it also increases the potential for human error. From wrong deadlines to misspelled task names, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
And when that happens, any project manager is going to be like Miranda here:
But with a workflow management system, you can automate such processes.
So instead of spreadsheets, Miranda can use project management software to keep track of her team’s tasks automatically.
As most data needs to be entered just once, this decreases the chance of any human error. Moreover, it also speeds up the workflow process, boosting your company’s productivity.
3. Better transparency and accountability
Most workflow management systems highlight all the data related to a workflow clearly.
For example, a project management software shows you:
- What tasks your team needs to do
- When should each one be finished
- Who’s assigned to a specific task
Miranda only needs to check her process management tool to know what’s happening in that workflow. At any time, she’ll know exactly how everything is progressing, which also helps her identify any potential roadblocks.
(Okay Miranda, maybe not everything.)
And as you’ll know who is responsible for a particular activity, there’ll be better accountability throughout the team. Say goodbye to micromanaging your team!
4. Effective communication
Another benefit that comes with workflow transparency is effective communication.
When there’s better visibility over what to do, it’s easy to have everyone on the same page about the task or project. This helps team members better understand each other’s concerns and questions quickly.
Additionally, workflows make it super easy to keep track of each team member’s tasks.
Andy, Miranda’s assistant, won’t have to keep guessing what her boss wants her to do anymore! She only needs a glance at Runway’s task management system to know her assignments.
5. Easy scalability
Let’s say Miranda has decided to use an employee onboarding tool to streamline the onboarding process.
Each time a new employee completes a step, the tool automatically guides them to the next step in the process.
But how does this help with scalability?
The onboarding workflow remains mostly the same regardless of the number of employees joining Runway (“mostly” because the process could be tweaked anytime for better usability).
Additionally, in an automated workflow, tasks no longer fully depend on any individual.
For example, Miranda doesn’t have to rely on her HR managers to onboard each employee entirely — the process management software will do most of the heavy lifting.
This, in turn, frees up your staff and other resources for activities that actually require their input.
How To Implement Workflow Management In 4 Simple Steps
If you’ve been with us so far, you’ll probably want to implement workflow management in your business.
So how do you go about it?
Luckily, it’s not as hard as running an A-grade fashion magazine like Runway!
Here’s what you should do to manage your workflows:
1. Determine repetitive processes
As your goal is to create an automated workflow, the first step is to identify repeatable processes in your workflow.
But what classifies as a repetitive activity?
Repetitive processes are tasks that meet at least two of these criteria:
- It’s performed regularly (on a daily, weekly or monthly basis)
- Mostly done as a manual process
- More prone to human error if performed incorrectly
- Executed by following fixed steps
For example, here, Andy’s using sticky notes to keep track of Miranda’s schedule every day:
- A regular activity
- Time (and paper) consuming
It makes sense for her to use a calendar management tool and create an automated workflow for it. All she needs is to enter the data into the calendar once a day, and Miranda will be updated once she logs in!
Similarly, you can use those criteria as a checklist to find repetitive processes in your workflow.
2. Identify who’s responsible for each stage and visualize the workflow
Some tasks move automatically from one stage to another, while other tasks need to go through an approval process for that.
In Nigel’s example we discussed before, the project manager must review the design team’s plan before sending it over to Nigel. That’s an approval workflow right there!
You need to identify the people accountable for each stage to clarify roles and responsibilities. This way, you’ll also know what information someone needs to complete the task quickly.
And the quickest way to go about this is to use a workflow diagram.
What’s a workflow diagram?
A workflow diagram is a visual layout of how tasks flow and who’s responsible for each stage in a workflow. Usually depicted as a flowchart, these diagrams make it super easy to analyze your team’s workflow structure.
While you can create a workflow diagram manually, it’s best to use a workflow management system to do this. After all, you’re looking to optimize things here — not create another manual process!
3. Train your team
What do most of us hate?
No Andy, we’re not talking about changing ourselves.
We’re referring to changes in business systems!
When you’re used to doing something a specific way, you’ll be hesitant to change it up. Likewise, your team could be reluctant to shift gears into the new workflow system (even if they’re part of the planning discussions).
So what should you do?
Help your team understand how the workflow management system will make their lives much simpler.
And how do you do that?
Conduct a training session to help your team familiarize themselves with the workflow system before they even start using it. That’ll make the transition smoother for everyone involved!
4. Implement the workflow
Once your team’s comfortable with the new processes, you need to implement the workflow.
However, instead of changing everything in a single stroke, it’s best to do so gradually.
After all, some of us could be like Andy here:
(And there’s nothing wrong with that!)
Additionally, it’ll help you test each phase separately to ensure that it flows smoothly — which would be hard to do if you implemented the whole workflow system at once.
But how do you implement this?
Simple: by using a workflow tool!
Let’s now find out more about that…
The Best Workflow Management Tool In 2020
From a fashion magazine to a software development firm, workflow management software can help businesses automate and manage multiple workflows easily.
But when there are hundreds of process management tools out there, which one should you go for?
For Miranda, it could be as tricky as choosing between Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce & Gabbana for the Runway models!
It doesn’t have to be, Miranda!
To help you decide, here are a few things you should look for in any workflow tool:
- Workflow automation: the whole point of using the software!
- Deadline tracking: to set deadlines and track them easily
- Performance management: to monitor your team’s productivity (after all, you need to know if the new workflow is actually efficient)
- Tons of integrations: to help manage workflows across other workplace software
- Low pricing: another obvious factor — no one wants to shell out money unnecessarily, duh
Luckily, there’s one workflow tool that ticks all these boxes and more when it comes to process and project management — ClickUp!
But what’s ClickUp?
Used by 100,000+ teams in companies from startups to giants like Airbnb, Netflix, Google, and Nike, ClickUp has everything you need to automate and manage any task.
And the best part?
This management software is FREE!
Here’s a closer look at how this project management tool makes the managing workflow process a cakewalk:
1. Automation to automate repeatable processes
What’s a workflow software without automation, right?
That’ll be like wearing a casual outfit while working in a fashion magazine like Runway.
ClickUp’s Automation feature lets you automate any repetitive task to help you save time and focus on activities that actually require your input.
At its core, an Automation looks like this:
For example, if Miranda wants to set up a workflow Automation to leave a reminder on Andy’s task when its due date is near, it could look something like this:
- Trigger: the due date is approaching
- Condition: is Andy the assignee?
- Action: leave a comment “Start immediately!”
This way, she doesn’t have to remind Andy every now and then!
2. Due Dates for tracking deadlines
Deadlines are super important for any task — whether it’s an Agile software development project or finalizing Runway’s 2020 issue.
And missed deadlines can have serious consequences (especially if your clients are like Miranda).
So how do you track project deadlines?
Just use ClickUp’s Due Dates!
For example, if you type in “next Tues at 3 pm” for a task, a Due Date will be set for that time automatically!
But that’s not all!
This task management software also lets you:
- Add Due Dates from anywhere in ClickUp
- Edit or delete a task’s deadline
- Filter tasks by Due Date
- Drag and drop tasks in the Calendar view to adjust deadlines
3. Track team performance with powerful Reports
If Miranda wants to know how productive Andy’s been over a given month, all she needs is ClickUp!
This workflow management solution gives you six accurate reports for detailed breakdowns of your team’s performance.
You get reports like:
- Task Completed Report: highlights the tasks each team member completed
- Worked On Report: displays the total number of tasks each member worked on during a specific day, week or month
- Workspace Points Report: gamify workflows to make them super fun for your Scrum team
- Who’s Behind Report: shows the members who have “work in progress” or unfinished tasks
- Time Tracked Report: displays how long your team spends on their tasks
- Time Estimated: view your team’s time estimates to plan future projects easily
4. Custom Status for varying task stages
Most workflow management software gives you default task statuses that can’t be customized according to your project needs. This can severely limit the flexibility you need to manage projects with varying changes — like Agile and Scrum projects.
I mean, who needs an “app testing” stage for the hiring process at Runway?
Luckily, ClickUp lets you create Customized Task Statuses to reflect your project needs accurately. For example, Miranda can create a “formatting” stage in the workflow for a Runway magazine article.
A glance at a task’s status is enough for her (or any workflow manager) to know what stage that specific task is in!
5. Integrations to manage work across various platforms
Your workflow software isn’t the only tool you’ll be using in your office.
You also have communication apps, file-sharing platforms, and more.
So how do you manage your workflows across these tools?
With ClickUp’s integrations, that’s not a problem!
This project management software integrates with tons of third-party apps to streamline your workflows across different platforms.
Some of its integrations include:
- Slack: virtual team communication app
- Google Calendar: schedule management platform
- Everhour: time tracking software
- Zoom: video conferencing tool for in-house and remote teams
- Google Drive: popular file-sharing and storage tool
So if Miranda wants to have a Zoom call to discuss project details with her remote team, she can host one instantly from ClickUp!
Click here to check out all of ClickUp’s integrations.
But wait… these aren’t all of ClickUp’s features!
This workflow automation software also gives you a wide variety of features like:
- Priorities: set task priorities to help your team know what’s urgent
- Dependencies: ensure that tasks are attempted in the right order
- Time Tracking: track how long each ClickUp work task takes
- Pulse: know your team’s activity levels on any given day
- Notepad: make quick notes or checklists for anything you need
- Assign Comments: create tasks out of comments to ensure that they don’t go overlooked
- Gantt Charts: track your project progress accurately with beautiful Gantt charts (most other workflow apps like Process Street don’t have this feature)
- Multiple Views: choose from various views according to your task management needs
- Mobile App: manage workflows from your Android and iOs mobile devices
Workflow management is a surefire way to boost your team’s productivity.
And if you’re looking to implement it, just use the process we listed here to get started quickly.
However, without the right workflow management tool, managing workflows can be as hard as keeping up with Miranda’s demands.
Luckily, all you need is a powerful workflow tool like ClickUp to automate and manage your tasks. From helping you assign tasks to track workflow progress, this workflow application can handle whatever you throw at it.
Sign up for ClickUp today and attain the insane levels of productivity other companies only daydream about!
Holly is a Coaching Program Manager at ClickUp, where she helps demystify how to set up Workspaces for max productivity. When she’s not thinking through complicated use cases and set up ideas, you can find her playing her harp or tossing a ball to her dog, Dingdong.