The workflow is an intricate element in every organization. The quickest and most efficient way is to brainstorm the idea with a team of employees and managers. Instead of waiting for that one best workflow, it is good to implement the process and make changes as it evolves to suit the company’s work culture.
Efficiency is the key to a successful business. When workflows are executed effectively, your business thrives, while inefficient workflows lead to missed deadlines, lost opportunities, and negative impacts on revenue, profits, and reputation.
Different personalities and perspectives may exist within an organization or even a single team. This diversity can result in conflicts, confusion, and, ultimately, inefficiencies.
So, how can you ensure that your entire team and organization consistently perform business processes most efficiently?
The answer lies in implementing a workflow model.
What is a Workflow Model?
Workflow models are abstract representations that capture the essential properties of the entities involved in a workflow management system. In this context, a task serves as the central concept in workflow modeling.
A workflow model is characterized by a specific set of rules and paths that anyone would follow in an organization to complete their respective tasks are referred to as processes, tasks, or workflows. The task represents the unit of work to be executed.
The task comprises several attributes, including:
- Name: A string of characters which is unique to identify a specific task.
- Description: A natural language explanation or summary of the task.
- Actions: When the task is executed, changes or modifications are made to the environment.
- Preconditions: Boolean expressions that are evaluated to be true before the task’s actions occur.
- Post-conditions: Boolean expressions that must be true after the task’s actions have taken place.
- Attributes: Descriptive information specifying the type and quantity of resources needed for task execution, the responsible actors, security requirements, reversibility of the task, and other relevant characteristics.
- Exceptions: Information detailing how to handle unexpected events or abnormalities. Task exceptions consist of a list of <event, action> pairs. The exceptions explicitly mentioned in the task’s exception list are known as anticipated exceptions, while unanticipated exceptions trigger the need for replanning. Replanning involves restructuring the process or redefining the relationships between different tasks.
A composite task is a structure that defines a subset of tasks and their sequential order of execution. It inherits properties from both workflows and tasks. Like workflows, a composite task consists of tasks with a start symbol and possibly multiple end symbols. Like tasks, it possesses a name, preconditions, and post-conditions.
A primitive task is a task that cannot be further decomposed into simpler tasks.
In a workflow description, a routing task is a specialized task connecting two tasks. The predecessor task refers to the task that has just completed execution, while the successor task will be initiated next.
A routing task can trigger sequential, concurrent, or iterative execution. There are various types of routing tasks:
- Fork routing task: This task triggers the execution of multiple successor tasks simultaneously.
- Join routing task: This task waits for the completion of its predecessor tasks before proceeding further.
The rules and policies that act as guidelines are the ones that are implemented with the help of workflows. The concept is quite similar to setting up roadways for miles because there will be plenty of hurdles, obstacles created by others, and changes that need to be implemented.
As long as workflow models are evolutionary with the ability to adapt to changes, they will continue to be conducive to a productive environment. Sometimes, users will be inclined to keep things simple and get it over with. In the long run, they tend to affect the end goal and should be reworked to identify gaps, to fill them up with relevant resources.
Why do organizations need workflow models?
Workflow models are essential for several reasons. They are indispensable tools helping organizations to streamline their operations, enhance efficiency, and achieve better outcomes.
They offer process visualization:
This is one of the essential strengths of having a workflow model – visual representation. You can view the entire process visually, allowing stakeholders to understand and comprehend how the tasks are executed, their flow, dependencies, and overall structure. Moreover, It helps gain a clear overview of the process and its various components.
They offer process analysis and improvement:
By modeling a workflow, it becomes possible to analyze and evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness, and potential bottlenecks within the process. Workflow models enable the identification of redundant or unnecessary tasks, inefficient task sequences, and areas for improvement. This analysis can lead to process optimization and streamlining.
Enhance communication and collaboration:
Workflow models serve as a common language for communication and collaboration among stakeholders involved in the process. They provide a visual representation that can be easily shared and understood by different teams, departments, or individuals, facilitating effective communication, coordination, and alignment of efforts.
They help with standardization and consistency:
Workflow models allow for the standardization of organizational processes. They define a structured approach to executing tasks, ensuring consistency and adherence to predefined guidelines. This consistency is crucial for maintaining quality, compliance, and achieving desired outcomes.
Automation and technology integration made effortless:
Workflow models serve as a foundation for workflow automation and integration with technology systems. By modeling the workflow, it becomes easier to identify tasks suitable for automation, define triggers for automated actions, and integrate with various tools and software applications, improving productivity and reducing manual effort.
Helps with change management:
Workflow models facilitate change management by providing a framework for understanding the impact of process changes. When modifications are required, the existing workflow model can be modified, and the effects can be analyzed before implementing the changes, reducing the risk of disruption and ensuring a smooth transition.
Discuss Various Aspects of Workflows
Collating ideas from every end of the spectrum is necessary so that the process could start moving toward its final stages.
Not every senior management will be able to identify the potholes because a third person will often have more insights and easier solutions, because the clients and customers are the ones who are often at the receiving end.
Similarly, employees who work in the organization should be made part of the brainstorming team. They can help provide simple solutions to complex problems because, unlike the decision-makers, people in the lower grade will avoid getting into regulations and complex solutions. Instead, they will view a workflow from their job’s perspective besides contributing based on the years of experience they have accumulated in the particular role.
While it may sound like lots of work to implement dozens of perspectives when creating a workflow, the right way is to explore and implement the prototype. The model will evolve as more changes are made to it, ideas added and eventually, it will reach a point where the workflow process can efficiently contribute to the bigger picture.
Create plot points for the various input solutions provided by the individuals after which it should be a breeze to implement the workflow that makes meaningful changes to the organization’s approach to handling daily activities.
These points can later be implemented for improvisation, if not to be done immediately during the brainstorming session.
Different aspects of a workflow model
- Workflow Diagram: A workflow model typically includes a visual representation of the workflow in the form of a workflow diagram. This diagram illustrates the flow of activities, decisions, and information, often using symbols and arrows to depict the sequence and dependencies.
- Task Description: Each task within the workflow model is described in detail, including its purpose, inputs, outputs, and any specific instructions or requirements. Task descriptions provide clarity and guidance to individuals involved in executing the workflow.
- Decision Points: Decision points in the workflow model indicate points where decisions need to be made based on certain conditions or criteria. These decision points define the branching paths or alternative routes within the workflow, depending on the outcome of the decision.
- Inputs and Outputs: The workflow model specifies the inputs required for each task and the outputs generated upon completion. This ensures the necessary information or resources are available at each step, and that the outputs are correctly produced.
- Task Dependencies: Workflow models illustrate the dependencies between tasks, indicating which tasks must be completed before others can start. Dependencies help manage the sequence and order of tasks to maintain an efficient flow.
- Roles and Responsibilities: The workflow model identifies the individuals or roles responsible for performing each task. This ensures that the right people are assigned the appropriate tasks and that there is clarity about who is accountable for each step.
- Timeframes and Deadlines: Workflow models may include timeframes or deadlines for completing tasks or stages within the workflow. These time constraints help manage the overall timeline and ensure that work progresses in a timely manner.
- Process Flows: Workflow models depict the flow of activities and information from start to finish. They illustrate how tasks are connected and how data or documents move between different stages or participants in the workflow.
- Exception Handling: Workflow models may incorporate mechanisms to handle exceptions or deviations from the normal flow. These mechanisms define how the workflow detects, reports, and resolves unexpected situations or errors.
- Iteration and Feedback: Workflow models can be iterative, allowing for feedback and continuous improvement. Feedback loops help identify areas of inefficiency or improvement, which can be incorporated into subsequent iterations of the workflow model.
- Integration with Systems: Workflow models may indicate integration points with software applications or systems. This highlights where data is exchanged between the workflow and other tools, enabling automation and seamless information flow.
- Compliance and Governance: Workflow models can include compliance and governance requirements considerations. This ensures that the workflow adheres to relevant regulations, policies, or standards applicable to the organization or industry.
Differentiate Sequential and Parallel Tasks
In a direct view, it is easy to distinguish between a sequential and a parallel task.
Sequential tasks refer to tasks that must be performed one after another in a specific order. These tasks have a strict dependency, where the completion of one task is a prerequisite for starting the next task. In a workflow, sequential tasks follow a linear progression, and the workflow cannot proceed to the next task until the previous one is completed.
On the other hand, parallel tasks are tasks that can be performed simultaneously or concurrently, without strict dependencies or a fixed order. These tasks can be executed independently or in parallel with other tasks in the workflow. Parallel tasks can significantly reduce the overall time required to complete a workflow by utilizing available resources efficiently.
When the workflow is in motion, a couple of tasks can be carried out simultaneously so that they can be combined toward the end. There are specific tasks that can be triggered only when the task is completed.
A simple example would be to focus on how a product can be purchased. If the operations team or IT should purchase a new laptop, they need to have the funds released by the finance team. However, the process of creating specifications for a computer and the invoice budget can be parallelly handled so that both works get completed within a specific time frame.
Another example would be in a content creation workflow, the tasks of “Topic Research,” “Content Planning,” “Content Creation,” and “Editing and Proofreading” are sequential. Each task relies on the completion of the preceding task. Content planning cannot begin until the topic research is done, and content creation cannot start until the planning is complete. These are all sequential tasks. All the while, the tasks of “Visual Assets Creation” and “Formatting and Design” can be considered parallel tasks. While the content creation and editing tasks are being performed, the team can simultaneously work on creating visual assets and formatting the blog post. These tasks do not have a direct dependency on each other and can be executed concurrently. These are all parallel tasks.
It is up to the workflow creator to understand which process needs not to wait for complete approval while others have to be delayed until specific steps are completed.
It’s important to note that in some cases, parallel tasks may have dependencies on certain sequential tasks. However, as long as the dependencies allow for parallel execution, the tasks can be considered parallel.
Ensure Clarity in your User Interface
The users often easily lose their attention and tend to make lots of mistakes if the user interface they have is not familiar.
End-to-end workflow automation
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Avoid using complex steps and too many instructions in a workflow if you want it to easily reach your target audience. While employees are willing to adopt new technology, they require coaching to be able to understand and if the syllabus is simple, it is easier to implement it.
Each field in Cflow should be handled with caution so that the newbie can easily understand what is required. The instructed steps should be followed so that they can proceed to the next step. Even if they are careless and miss something, they will not be able to proceed which helps assure better productivity.
Set Definitive Roles
Let the role definitions be clear.
Anyone who comes onboard inside the workflow that you built for the organization or a specific task, should be able to understand it at a glance. The simplification is what makes things clear and roles will assure approvals are not done by everyone.
Besides, the definitive roles help managers and decision-makers focus on the tasks that need their immediate attention rather than spending all their time on trivial tasks.
Test Workflows in Real-Time
There is no need to hesitate to implement a workflow because whatever the obstacles are, they will come into the limelight once your employees start using it.
Test the workflow model with multiple teams and a large group of employees.
Before implementing it, consider letting your employees and teams get a fair idea of what to expect. The approach will allow the workflow to evolve and become better with time.
Workflow Model Example
Let’s consider an example of a workflow model for the procurement process in an organization. Organizations can use this structured approach to manage their procurement process.
1. Task: Purchase Requisition
Description: Identify the need for a purchase and create a purchase requisition.
Inputs: Request for goods or services
Outputs: Purchase requisition
2. Task: Vendor Selection
Description: Identify potential vendors and evaluate them based on criteria such as price, quality, delivery time, and reputation.
Inputs: Purchase requisition
Outputs: Selected vendors list
3. Task: Request for Quotation
Description: Send a request for quotation (RFQ) to the selected vendors, specifying the goods or services required and requesting pricing information.
Inputs: Selected vendors list
Outputs: RFQ responses
4. Task: Quotation Evaluation
Description: Evaluate the received quotations, considering factors such as price, quality, terms, and conditions.
Inputs: RFQ responses
Outputs: Evaluated quotations
5. Task: Purchase Order Creation
Description: Create a purchase order based on the selected vendor and evaluated quotation.
Inputs: Evaluated quotations
Outputs: Purchase order
6. Task: Order Confirmation
Description: Obtain confirmation from the vendor that they can fulfill the purchase order.
Inputs: Purchase order
Outputs: Vendor confirmation
7. Task: Goods/Service Receipt
Description: Receive and inspect the delivered goods or services to ensure they meet the specified requirements.
Inputs: Vendor confirmation
Outputs: Goods or service receipt confirmation
8. Task: Invoice Verification
Description: Verify the vendor’s invoice against the purchase order, ensuring accuracy and matching the received goods or services.
Inputs: Goods or service receipt confirmation
Outputs: Verified invoice
9. Task: Payment Processing
Description: Process the verified invoice for payment, following the organization’s payment procedures.
Inputs: Verified invoice
Outputs: Payment confirmation
10. Task: Record Keeping
Description: Maintain records of the procurement process, including purchase requisitions, purchase orders, invoices, and payment confirmations.
Inputs: Payment confirmation
Outputs: Procurement records
By following this workflow model, organizations can streamline their procurement operations, ensure transparency, and facilitate efficient collaboration with vendors.
Let’s consider another example of a workflow model for an onboarding process in an organization. Organizations can use this structured approach to manage their employee onboarding process.
1. Task: Offer Acceptance
Description: Receive and process the new employee’s acceptance of the job offer.
Inputs: Job offer, acceptance response
Outputs: Accepted offer confirmation
2. Task: Pre-Employment Documentation
Description: Collect and process necessary documentation from the new employee, such as tax forms, employment contracts, and personal information.
Inputs: Accepted offer confirmation
Outputs: Completed pre-employment documentation
3. Task: IT Setup
Description: Set up the new employee’s computer, email, access to relevant software and systems, and any required technology tools.
Inputs: Completed pre-employment documentation
Outputs: IT setup confirmation
4. Task: Orientation and Training
Description: Conduct orientation sessions to introduce the new employee to the company’s culture, policies, and procedures. Provide necessary training on job-specific tasks and responsibilities.
Inputs: IT setup confirmation
Outputs: Completed orientation and training
5. Task: Workspace and Equipment Setup
Description: Arrange and set up the new employee’s physical workspace, including desk, chair, computer hardware, and other equipment needed for their role.
Inputs: Completed orientation and training
Outputs: Workspace and equipment setup confirmation
6. Task: Department Introduction
Description: Introduce the new employee to their department/team members, provide an overview of their role, and facilitate initial introductions and networking opportunities.
Inputs: Workspace and equipment setup confirmation
Outputs: Completed department introduction
7. Task: HR Compliance and Benefits Enrollment
Description: Ensure the new employee completes all necessary HR compliance requirements, such as filling out benefit enrollment forms, understanding company policies, and completing any mandatory training.
Inputs: Completed department introduction
Outputs: HR compliance confirmation
8. Task: Performance Expectations
Description: Set performance expectations and goals with the new employee, clarify responsibilities, and establish communication channels for ongoing feedback and performance reviews.
Inputs: HR compliance confirmation
Outputs: Defined performance expectations
9. Task: Ongoing Support and Mentoring
Description: Provide ongoing support, mentoring, and guidance to the new employee as they settle into their role and navigate their responsibilities within the company.
Inputs: Defined performance expectations
Outputs: Ongoing support and mentoring
By following this workflow model, companies can effectively onboard new employees, facilitate their integration into the organization, and set them up for success in their roles.
Evolution is the Key
Cflow sports a visual workflow builder which plays a key role in making life easier for workflow model creators and also helps in creating a conducive environment for your employees to deliver their best.
Let the workflow model evolve and it will continue to reach new pinnacles with better productivity as time goes by.
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