Many business owners and operations managers will be familiar with the process of workflow management but, to begin with, let’s explain the meaning of this term which is becoming something of a buzz-phrase in business practice, for everyone’s benefit.
Simply put, business workflow refers to the paths and processes that are required in order to complete a specific process. This can be literally any process within any business, for example consider the stages required in a hypothetical ecommerce business, from receiving an online order, to fulfilling and mailing the order to the client. The order needs to be verified, the stock checked, the payment needs to clear and be confirmed, then the order needs to be passed to the store, picked, filled, packaged, labelled and then shipped. None of this is particularly complex but in this one example there are quite a number of stages to successfully negotiate before the product order can be successfully fulfilled.
Leading the development of workflow process software Australian companies are creating customised system to help analyse, improve and optimise the paths that that any business process follows in order to improve the reliability of that process, reduce the cost, cut out the unnecessary stages, and identify the most problematic aspects in the chain where problems tend to arise most. As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and in a production line process, when bottlenecks occur, then they slow down the total capability output of the department. Workflow process management systems help to identify areas for improvement.
Often companies tend to start using workflow process automation to help manage their business processes when they decide to grow their productivity and upscale their manufacturing processes. These tools help to simplify and streamline existing business process to achieve optimum efficient and the potential that they hold to give businesses significant competitive advantage means that business owners are turning to these systems to reach new levels of efficiency.
There are many systems available but, to the shrewd operator, there are some key factors that should be considered above all else when helping to identify a solution.
Consider your immediate needs: The scope of the workflow solutions that you want to address is a key factor. Having a system that will cater to your whole organisation is one thing, but when you’re paying for a top end solution but only using a fraction of its capabilities to focus on a limited number of aspects of your own business, then you’ll be paying much more than you need to. Choose wisely.
Specific requirements: Forward planning should enable you to identify your fundamental needs in order to narrow your search down to the most appropriate solutions. Where the system might be hosted? How detailed are your reports likely to be? Will the system enable the growth of your use in the immediate future if required? These are all factors that will help to focus on what matters, and whether it’s best suited to your business needs.
Number of users: A core consideration is whether everyone in the business will need to be able to access the workflow process system, or whether just a handful of people in your management team will be using it the most. Licence cost, upper usage limitations and optimum usage performance must also be questioned.
How quickly do you want to see the benefits: Like it or not, new systems in any business require time before their benefits start to become realised. Staff need training, kinks need ironing out new workflows need to be developed and refined.
All of these things take time so don’t expect to see the benefits from day one. Plan for the mid to long term and you will see the improvements to your business or organisation as a result of your investment.