Workflow processes can eliminate wasted time, save company resources, and avoid a lot of stress that comes through tedious or unclear tasks. Simply having a workflow, however, is only half the equation. Effectively implementing it is just as important, and not as simple as it may seem at first. Below is a list of 5 things that maximize workflow effectiveness, but are all too often neglected in small to medium sized businesses.
- Plan your Workflow Before You Start Building it
Figure out exactly what you want to do with your workflow before you start building it. You can eliminate tons of redundant work by having an idea of where you are heading before you start the implementation process. Here is a great article about how to create a diagram for a workflow. Lay your steps out ahead of time and it will save tons of time. Metaphorically speaking, don’t build your house without making a blueprint first.
- Use Notifications Only When Necessary
One of the most common questions that comes up when speaking with customers about their workflow needs is, “Can I send a notification at this point?” The answer is almost always “Yes.” With the immediate follow-up question of “Do you actually need a notification right here?” Notifications are an excellent tool for helping your employees to complete a process in a timely and organized fashion. Unfortunately, if you send too many of them, people stop paying attention and the important workflow notifications get ignored right along with the unnecessary messages. Too many reminders will make people forget.
- Make Your Notifications Meaningful
More annoying than too many messages are messages that mean nothing. When creating a workflow, do not assume everyone knows exactly what they should be doing, because usually they don’t. Users can end up with hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of documents in their workflow cue, and unless they have a photographic memory, they probably are not going to remember every step of every process for every document they are working on. “Get this done now!” is not a very helpful message when an employee has 500 documents sitting in their queue.
- Don’t Overuse Workflow
If the process you are working with is only a few simple steps, in some instances workflow can actually slow down productivity. Many companies want to use workflow for these processes and end up spending time creating a workflow process, which the employees do not use, and end up completing the tasks manually anyway. If the workflow is not necessary to keep track of the stages of a process and employees can complete the process easily without causing any issues down the road, a workflow may be unnecessary. Don’t use it just because it is there.
- Make Sure Your Employees Use the Workflow
If you do create a workflow, make sure your employees actually use it consistently. It may seem that workers will obviously use a workflow system if one is available, but this is not always the case. Things can get confusing in a hurry when employees are not following the specified best practices for managing documents in a workplace, and when they don’t follow them at all it usually ends in disaster. It may take some reminding at first to get employees in the habit of using their workflow daily. Designate time for training so they have a more clear understanding of what is expected and what benefits will accrue from habitually using the workflows. Eventually the training will become second nature, but it will not take place without concerted effort on the part of management to initiate.
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