What is a workflow management system?
A workflow is a sequence of activities defined to achieve a business objective or task.
A workflow management system is a system that provides the organization with an infrastructure to facilitate monitoring, planning and steering the activities of the workflow through a sequence of computerized steps. Like any computer system, it aims to minimize the human errors boost performance.
Are workflow management systems optional?
In today’s work environment, speed and relevance of the workflow is not an option anymore, simply because it defines the competitive advantage of the organization.
An organization A is said to be more competitive than organization B if both can complete the same business objective with the same quality but A can do it in less time than B.
For example, If the business objective is the speed of coming back to the client with a business quotation. It is clear that if A can do it on the same day and B takes 2 working days, then A is seen more competitive and effective than B.
As the maturity of an organization increases, its awareness of its workflows and how competitive they are increases, however improving workflows don’t normally come in one shot. It grows with the organization as it gets mature with time. It is a major aspect of it’s learning journey and evolving capabilities.
Workflows automation, are they urgent?
Of course, the earlier the organization starts to deploy a workflow management system the more positioned it becomes to achieve its competitive goals by continuously tweaking and improving its processes and workflows.
What is the most important feature in any workflow management system?
As the organization evolves and grows, its awareness of its workflows increases day after day. What was wrong yesterday becomes most favorable today! The world is dynamic around the organization and so its internal workflows should be.
That is why the most important feature in any modern workflow management system today is its flexibility and ability to cope with the organization’s rapid workflows changes in minimal effort and cost.
2.Simple to implement
The old days have gone where the organization had to bring consultants from around the world to roll out a new system. Spend months and costs a fortune. This is no more an option in a world where entrepreneurs complete and outcomes long-established organizations and eats large parts of their market share in no time. In a world where social media opens the communication channels with clients evenly between large and small organizations and the one who is more ready to make use of it leads and makes more buzz and impact.
The days where workflow management systems were limited only to huge organizations are gone. Now it’s becoming easier than ever to benefit from state of the art automation tools and platforms.
A simple to implement workflow system doesn’t even need a fatal strategic decision. It could come as an initiative from one of its departments to automate a simple process using a cloud-based tool where no server is required or huge IT infrastructure is needed, it could be even for few bucks or even as a sandbag free trial.
Welcome to space where everything is easy, simple and self-service!
Wither we call him/ her an internal customer, employee, user, external customer, all of them are customers.
A customer is a reason for an organization to exists, similarly, an internal customer is the reason a department existed. Both services their customers.
Thinking service, thinking from the customer standpoint!
That is why when we think about our workflows, when designing them or try to improve them, we should first think from the customer perspective, put ourselves in his choice and take it from there. In fact, thinking this way makes a lot of room for improvement works as the Kickstarter for a workflow sample project!
A customer-centric workflow management system should support multiple feedback loops around the customer’s requests. Where it is not enough to take the feedback after the customer completed his request, “after the fact” but also provide him with the ability to continually provide feedback until his work is completed “proactive”.
See my previous article on customer-centric workflow system.
Old single feedback loops are no longer effective
Prevent issues before happening.
4.Supports the team’s voice
Is the customer always right?
If we looking for improving our processes and workflow, it is not enough to listen to the customer alone, our service teams voice is important too.
That is why while we are focusing everything around our customer and his satisfaction and expectations, we should not forget our technical and service teams, listen to their views, their advice and feedback. If anyone could tell the best ways to improve customer satisfaction, then he/she is the one that has the most experience working with the customer, the ones who are daily working with them and satisfy them. Our service teams!
That is why a good workflow management system should have room for considering the service teams voice as an integral core part of its feedback loops.
5. Provides a single version of the truth about the process.
As the process stakeholders vary, every one of them looks to the process from his own angle. It is very important that the workflow management system gives each one of them a view of what he is interested and expecting to see. Meanwhile, the source of these views should be one.
The workflow management system should enable us to drill down from the highest view to the lowest level as well as level up from the bottom to upper levels easily.
For example, an organization head (OrgHead) might be most interested to see which department has the highest level of customer satisfaction among the processes they execute. Meanwhile, he might be interested as well to get notified when a certain process gets stuck or the tasks in this process gets delayed.
On the other hand, from the customer perspective (OrgMemebr) the highest priority for him is to get his requests completed in time and to be aware of “where his request has reached” and to get notified when something goes wrong or gets missed to put it on track again immediately.
In both cases, both stakeholders are looking at the same thing but from a different distance. The OrgHead is looking at large summed numbers of the entire organizations requests and the OrgMemebr is looking at the few requests he filed recently.
While both have different standpoints and interests, the Workflow management system should enable each of them to get the view he is interested to see. Meanwhile, it should preserve the single version of truth by grabbing information from the same source and enable them to drill down to understand the root cause of issues or processes improvement.
At any point in time, each stakeholder should be able to put themselves in the choice of the customer and see the world from his eyes!