The increasing competition is making companies review their operations in terms of business processes as they have a direct impact on customers compared to the other traditional departments such as marketing, engineering, and manufacturing. Managers focus on cross-functional business processes which can link various teams and departments.
This is done in response to the rise in agility, dynamic response micro-marketing, and virtual organizations around the world. Each of these business processes is an instantiation of one or more workflows under specific conditions. The ability of the organization to analyze and adapt to workflow conditions depends on the responsiveness of its experts.
Markets, technology, customers, and monitoring of workflows are essential for a business to grow continuously. Demand for workflow automation and analysis tools has been significantly rising which is estimated at a global market value of $7 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to more than $16 billion by 2028. Keep reading to have a productive discussion on workflow analysis and how it can boost your company’s productivity.
What is Workflow Analysis?
A workflow refers to the series of tasks performed in order by various people to achieve a specific goal. It represents how the specific work is done, how the protocols have been established, and in what sequence the work has to be done.
Information technology managers should understand how each element of workflow functions and how they interact to make effective operational decisions. business processes and their associated workflows are modelled in different ways:
Information modelling – the informational entities involved in the workflows are modelled using this, including structuring those elements and their interrelationships.
Functional modelling – focuses on which activities are performed, how they are organized, and what informational elements are included in them.
Organizational modelling– focuses on the communication elements involved, who are all the team members, what type of resources are used in each task, and how they communicate with one another.
Transactional modelling – this one focuses on investigating the sequencing and control elements between the tasks involved in the workflows.
Workflow analysis can be characterized as an innovative way of analyzing your business processes and improving them. Each task in the workflow is completed and then find more ways to improve it in a specific context. Organizational efficiency is the most important objective, but what if the workflows that you create are not helping you get the desired results?
Many organizations rarely use workflow charts. They think it is a waste of time and resources and potentially no use to a business. However, a workflow chart can be an effective tool for workflow analysis. It will help you detail the process steps, identify issues, eliminate errors, and improves it with better options. For instance, reading business reports can be hectic, which many organizations avoid. But, a company that continues the tradition of creating reports by automating them into a simple form can save both time and resources.
When you are automating workflows and not achieving the expected efficiency, then it is time to do workflow analysis. It is essential that the business conducts workflow analysis as a part of understanding the competitive market. This knowledge will help organizations to get a steady gain of leverage on the efficient design of their workflows and organizational structure. Therefore, this is an important business strategy for growth.
Why do you Need to Conduct Workflow Analysis?
Since everything is evolving from customer needs to technological evolution to market scenarios, the hard reality hits. You need to keep pace with all these internal and external changes.
Conducting a workflow analysis will help you better understand the processes, ways to enhance business processes, regulatory compliance, customer satisfaction, and customer engagement. This is the first step in improving your business. Interestingly, this is done in two ways – streamlining all your manual processes and making them more efficient, and automating your business processes.
Workflow parameters can be analyzed in two ways with respect to their quantitative and qualitative aspects. The qualitative aspects comprise the logical correctness of the workflow parameters, such as the identification of deadlocks and anomalies. The quantitative aspects comprise the performance parameters, which include the quality of the product, deadlines, level of support, utilization of resources, etc.
So, what’s really the end goal here? An organizational structure is made up of a stable framework and interconnections, both vertical and horizontal. A thorough understanding of the relationship between the job positions, both horizontally and vertically, will help redesign the structure for the future of the company.
A working output can be anything, from a completed product to an unidentified purchase order or even an employee test. Sometimes these outputs may get overlooked, which may affect the flow of business on a much larger scale. So, this is where doing a workflow analysis will come to save your day.
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How To Do A Workflow Analysis
To attain the complete picture of the workflow analysis, you need workflow diagrams. Before that, you need to ask certain questions:
* Where do we start?
* How do we do it?
* What is the purpose of doing it?
* How can each department contribute to the analysis?
Business processes need to have the tendency to adapt to specific circumstances. These include inventory outrage or negative customer feedback on a new product. Each of these workflows is a collection of these different information elements combined together. Managing these workflows will take several steps in project management. Likewise, analyzing them has several steps.
Establishing present state
The first step in the workflow analysis is gaining a thorough understanding of the current state of the workflows. This is done through interviews with concerned members involved in the workflow and documenting the information. If needed, you can hold up workshops and meetings with the members to collect in-depth information about each step of the lifecycle and day-to-day functions. You can also go through the daily reports, software logs, emails, and anything else that has a history with the workflows under analysis. You need to create a backlog of all this information as you move forward.
As said earlier, workflow evaluation can be done based on the quantitative and qualitative aspects and can be established here. You need to as:
- What is the purpose of this workflow here? This will help determine its purpose.
- When do we use this workflow? This will eliminate repetitions.
- How much time does each member contribute to the workflow? This helps formulate the time frame.
- Who is involved in this business process? This will tell the availability and involvement of potential members.
When all the information is collected, it is essential that you prioritize them in order to avoid missing any steps during the analysis. You can create a schedule when prioritizing seems overwhelming. You can also go with your intuition for the initial stages to give it a head start, and changes can be made easily as the work progresses. This will help eliminate inefficiencies. The data can also be organized based on the goals it needs to accomplish and also based on the timelines.
If all the relevant information is gathered, it’s time to interpret it. Analyzing the collected data is a crucial step in the process as it will help to identify potential areas of strengths and weaknesses in the workflows. You can identify how each member is performing in their assigned roles.
Use a board and make a workflow report of all the different processes across the board. Once the report is done, statistical methods can be used to analyze the data.
It is important that you ask certain questions when interpreting the data –
a) Is the report clear, and think if a new hire could complete it with minimal training?
b) Ask yourself if you are spending a considerable amount of time in each workflow step.
c) Can you identify the redundancies in the processes?
d) Sometimes people spend too much time with the reports, so keep it simple and check if only relevant data is included
e) Is the information provided easy to find and understand?
f) Are there any difficult conventions that would hinder the workflow analysis?
Also, check if there are any outdated processes or steps and remove them as they can make the entire workflow redundant.
This is another important step in the workflow analysis where you basically conduct brainstorming sessions. Each member should be encouraged to think out of the box to come up with solutions to improve the workflows. Team members should be able to come up with as many concepts as possible, which then are evaluated by the management or a higher committee to choose the best.
Implementing the best
With the decision from the management team, implement the best suggestion which meets the success criteria. This is the improvement phase, and here you experiment with the suggestions from the employees. If it doesn’t meet, go back to the brainstorming phase until you find an optimal solution for improvement.
These are the steps involved in a workflow analysis. Each of these steps is crucial for identifying the ways in which you can improve your workflows which in turn enhances your productivity. When the improvements are finalized, you can put them into practice using a workflow management system.
Types of Workflow Analysis
Workflow analysis has variants, but they all share the same goal – to enhance organizational productivity.
Cross-functional workflow analysis
This is adopted by organizations that have multiple departments with multiple interactions. It works best for companies that lack a clear, formatted organizational structure when the workflow juggles between different departments constantly.
Linear workflow analysis
This is the most common type of workflow analysis used by companies. This is a straightforward type with which you can view the workflows in a straight line. The linear workflow analysis is best suited for companies with a structured hierarchy where the business processes are clearly defined, and the roles are assigned specifically to individuals.
Hybrid workflow analysis
This is the combination of both linear and hybrid workflow analysis. Using this you can analyze a workflow with the best qualities of both methods. It can be effectively used to balance the effectiveness by accounting for how individual departments work as well as how they cross-function with one another. This can also be used when different departments work together in groups as the project progresses.
Workflow Analysis Examples
What does it look like in a real-life scenario?
Every company starts small and expands its business gradually. As the business grows, the size of the company increases. Initially, the company would have started with ten employees, so the manager used a timecard for employee log information. They collect the information in paper records and store it in a spreadsheet.
Five years later, the company now has fifty employees, but the manager still uses paper cards for accounting time tracking and manual workflows. This takes up a lot of time in manually completing the tasks when you can clearly automate these workflows using a workflow management tool.
Another practical example is non-essential reporting. Consider the amount of time a sales clerk spends time every time they walk to print an invoice. It might look like they spend only a few minutes say ten minutes each day, printing some documents, but at the end of the week, they would have wasted fifty minutes of precious selling time.
Multiply this number by the number of clerks working in your organization. Such a simple task would gobble up precious, money-making hours. These simple tasks can be eliminated or automated as not all records need to be manually documented in a report. Some records can be digitally stored in a cloud using a workflow management tool which will save both time and money.
Benefits of Workflow Analysis
Not every company does workflow analysis, but it should be made a regular part of business operations to ensure consistency. There are several benefits of workflow analysis:
Boosts productivity – Since you are looking at end-to-end work progress, there is hardly any detail that you can miss. A workflow analysis will help you identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and technological upgrades. Since all the workflow analysis steps can be automated, it makes you paperless. This will help a company to run smoothly as it helps to increase revenue.
Maintaining a sense of balance – Sudden changes can be difficult to comprehend, and it takes time. Changes can especially be difficult when you are creating workflows without proper optimization. Thorough workflow analysis can help eliminate the bias out of the equation to remain neutral. Establishing a sense of balance is very important.
Employee engagement – With suggestions for improvement, the employees feel more satisfied with their work. This will replace outdated technology with new ones. Employees will feel like they are listened to, and their suggestions are benefitting the company’s growth. When you invest time in workflow analysis, you can learn how your employees function together as a team and what areas to focus on to improve performance. By doing this, you will lessen the turnover.
Visual aid – When the workflow is difficult to comprehend, it can be conceptualized visually for better understanding. For example, some companies use the Kanban system for workflow analysis as it is straightforward and breaks down the entire project into simple steps. You can categorize each one in separate columns where the members can sign off as they complete their tasks. The visual representation will help identify the start and end of the workflow, which will make it easier to identify any lags and address them immediately.
Satisfied customers – If you do it right, workflow analysis increases customer satisfaction. It can reveal how your contact centre of operations works, which helps you to make better choices. Also, you can make informed decisions in hiring and use of new technologies using strong workflows. Ultimately, when your customers are happy with your assistance and feel like you understand them, it helps them remain loyal to your services.
Tracking time and cost – As said earlier, workflow analysis gives you better visibility. Therefore, you will have better control over your spending and keep track of all your finances in and out. Since all these trackings of progress and finances are done using software solutions, it saves up a lot of time for improvements.
Workspace optimization – Surprisingly, workflow analysis helps in optimizing physical space. It helps in organizing your office supplies where everyone uses them most efficiently. For instance, printers can be located centrally in the office so everyone to access them easily. If the rack servers take up a lot of space, consider switching to microservers which help reduce data center space. These can be efficiently done using a workflow monitoring tool that a facility manager can use to implement the changes.
Asynchronous communication – Especially after the pandemic, the work culture underwent major changes. People started to work remotely from their homes, and changing this mindset took time. Though it took time for people to adjust, remote work offered several benefits in terms of asynchronous communication, where flexibility in communication was achieved and collaboration with people in different time zones was done efficiently. Workflow analysis has helped transform several companies to become remote work-oriented companies and improved their productivity.
Compliance regulation – Workflow analysis documents all the information; therefore, regulatory compliance can be effectively maintained. This is especially helpful for the finance and healthcare industries. They have to deal with a lot of reporting and regulations. Regular workflow analysis will help log all the information, which builds accountability. These are workflows that provide audit trails. This provides regular annual reports and simplifies the compliance process.
Increased accountability – Sometimes monitoring becomes a problem when working in a remote environment. Ensuring that the employees are putting in some extra hours shall be maintained using a time-tracking workflow for accountability.
Flexibility – Conducting regular workflow analysis improves flexibility in the workplace. As each employee has their own suggestion for improving the workflow, it builds trust and works well with the business.
Aptitude – When creating new workflows and analyzing them, it is essential to check the technical aptitude of your employees. If they seem to struggle anywhere, spend time training them with the software and the processes.
Naturally, as the business grows, you need to keep implementing new tools in place of outdated software. Without proper training, employees will struggle to use it, which will affect the overall work progress. Proper scheduling for training your employees will save so much time and energy for later.
Workflow Analysis Tools
There are different workflow analysis tools, and each comes with unique features to help improve your workflows. But they share some similarities with some of the features. Some of the key features to look for in a workflow analysis tool include:
- Visualizing workflows without writing code
- Ability to access the platform on all devices, including mobile devices
- Chatbots, commenting tools, and discussion boards
- Responsive feedback and real-time editing features
- Flexible pricing plans based on business requirements
- Third-party integrations
- Customizable notifications, automatic reminders, and alerts
- Cloud storage
- Data encryption
- Pre-built templates and forms
- Customizable designer dashboard for easy monitoring of member progress
- Automatic pdf generation to help create reports
- Workflow optimization and analysis features
So, workflow analysis is not just about identifying and improving workflows. You should also watch the productive outcome of it. You need to see if the changes are effective and add any value to the growth. Steven Bowman, CEO of A line at the Door explains how efficient can workflow analysis can be for your business. He says that workflow analyses are critical in saving us time and identifying the bottlenecks, precisely potentially identifying where we are slowing down. Workflows are built with exceptions, and each step essentially has a disqualifier. Whatever tool you use solves only eighty percent of your problems, and you spend a lot of time trying to find the trip wire.
Therefore, we should stick to regular workflow analysis to catch up on small redundancies before they become a critical inefficiency. The best defense is a good offense – for that, you need a good workflow analysis tool like Cflow.
Cflow is a workflow automation and management tool that provides smooth functioning of your business processes. It precisely helps with implementing the changes and analyzing your workflows to help regulate your growth.
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