The term, “workflow management system” has been cropping up everywhere; on business blogs, YouTube ads and maybe even in your very office, but the phrase, despite being thrown around by many is usually only understood by a select few.
Sick of reading of the myths and wading through all the jargon we thought, being the lovely people that we are, that it’s only fair that we share our knowledge and write this nifty guide, so you’re all up to speed.
Workflow & Management – The “Official” Definitions
According to dictionary corner, the definition of a workflow is “the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion” and management is “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”. Which means that workflow management is just the art of guiding a process through the correct steps, not so complex see?
Now, “Where does the system bit come in?” I hear you say. Well, over the years several systems have cropped up here on the world wide web, which has been created to help people such as yourself boost efficiency and streamline the day-to-day processes, so you to save £££s.
Let’s give you an example to help you visualise the phrase.
Bob the Builder
So let’s say that you now have your very own construction firm. A typical workflow might be what’s shown in the left-hand column, whereas the right shows how the process could be drastically sped up.
|No Workflow Management System||With Workflow Management System|
|1. You receive an email from a prospective client enquiring about a potential job, you drop them a reply letting them know that their request’s been received and you’ll be in touch shortly, you forward this onto to the correct team member, they’re busy making a brew but when they eventually return the let the client know that they’ll send over a questionnaire or give them a call shortly– 2 hours||1. A prospective client submits an enquiry through your website. Which will automatically create a new client within your system and the details provided such as name, phone number and email address are automatically uploaded into your database. The client will automatically receive an email letting them know that their request has been received and containing their initial questions – No time at all|
|2. You chase the client until you get get a response and a back and forth dialogue ensues with the client over the course of a few days in an attempt to get project details and information regarding budget and timings – several days to a week||2. You don’t need to do anything, you can get on with your day-to-day tasks, knowing that your client’s received the correct questions and they’ll receive an automatic chaser email if they’re being lazy – no time at all|
|3. You track down your client’s address, work out which members of your team are needed for the initial survey and check their availability. You eventually locate the correct paperwork either in a filing cabinet (if you’re really old school) or on your computer. You head to the site where you take some photos on your phone, jot down some measurements and assess the task at hand. You go back to the office and type up a lovely document with the specifications and contract then email it over to the client to read and sign – 1 – 2 weeks||3. You’re automatically told which team members are free for the job and they receive an email/text notification letting them know the time/location of the survey. You arrive on site and complete the survey form in the software and use your phone to upload any pictures with the info shared with the applicable team members. You get back to the office, go to your document template and have the contract and survey automatically populated with the correct information and is uploaded to the client portal with an email notification sent – 1 day|
|4. You sit and twiddle your thumbs whilst you wait to hear back from the client. You start wondering how long you should leave it before you pester them, you ring and ring to no avail and start to think “Did I even send the email?”. You eventually here back and they’ve forgotten to upload the signed contract – 1 week||4. The client checks their email, see’s an email from Bob the Builders containing a link to the portal. They click it, download the paperwork, sign on the dotted line and reuploads – 1 day|
|5. You grab your phone and track down the various suppliers that you like to work with, you call them for a quote and get bogged down making small talk for 3 hours and they promise to send over the order summary the second they hang up – 1 day||5. All your supplier details are already in your system, and you can have emails templates sent out at the touch of a button, all you need to do is note the quantity required – 1 hour|
|6. You check the calendars or your team members, geographical location and assess their diverse skillsets to send the best men/women for the job – 1 hour||6. The task’s automatically allocated to the individual who’s best qualified for the job based on their skillset, geographical location and availability – No time at all|
|7. You break ground and commence working through the steps of the job ticking off each task once complete, and have to deal with naggy clients call for an update on a minutely basis – 2 weeks||7. Your workflow will already know what step’s next so you can add information as you go and keep your client in the loop with automatic email and text updates – Still 2 weeks but you get a half day on Friday|
|8. You’ll wrap up the project at long last and send an invoice to your happy smiley client – 2 hours||8. When you mark the final stage of the project’s completed, your invoice template is autogenerated with the cost and client information and have this is emailed out with a button within your system which you can use to mark as paid – 5 minutes|
|9. You client’s a little bit lazy so you may need to send them a few strong worded chasers emails – 10 minutes over the course of a few weeks||9. If you don’t mark your workflow as paid, you can configure your system to send out reminders – No time over the course of a few weeks|
|10. You get back in touch in a couple of months time to check that they’re happy with the work undertaken and hope they get in touch for any future work – 15 minutes||10. You can have a follow-up survey send out a set period after the task is completed. – 5 minutes|
So if we break the above table down, an intelligent system will be able to:
- Have a clearly defined workflow which you can work through to end to end without worrying that a step’s been skipped or not been documented for auditing.
- Have the option to create new workflows or amend pre-existing ones from the comfort of your desk; there shouldn’t be any need for you to email your provider for changes or heaven forbid, code.
- Have a definitive list of all your clients, suppliers and employees past, present and prospective with the details easily accessible to those with the correct level of access within your organisation.
- Upload all your documents into a secure, cloud-based location so you can easily access files and have relevant information auto-populated.
- Have automated SMS and email reminders and notifications.
Now, I know we’ve been pretty heavy on the perks of using a system such as Swiftcase, but there are a few things you should be aware of before you dive head first:
- Make sure you have the opportunity to try out the platform before you commit to a contract. Most Workflow Managment Systems offer either a demo or a trial period to see if it’s the best fit for you.
- Look for the best deal, as this type of software is usually subscription based and are billed on either monthly, annually or 3 years basis with minimum terms detailed in the T&Cs. I’d suggest paying the steeper for the first few months while you find your feet then select into a longer-term contract when you know it’s the system for you to knock back the costs.
- Some systems can do a billion different things which, if fully utilised, can provide incredible insight, but this might not be right for your team of 10, not 10,000. Some platforms allow you to select the degree of complexity that you need, so you only pay for the features which apply to you.
If you think a workflow management system would be a handy addition to your company, please can request a demo and a member of our lovely team will be in touch shortly to walk you through the system and get your trial account configured!