Workflow Management Systems come into play when projects are complex. Efficiency can be gained by automating tasks and sharing out responsibility and tasks across individuals or even teams. There are a lot of different workflow management system options available ranging from using a custom excel sheet on sharepoint with granting access to different users to a simple web-based board organization, creative review tools, etc. All of these tools fulfill a different need.
On an enterprise level – no matter what solution you are deciding on, you’ll likely choose a product that offers some level of customization. Rarely does one shoe fit all as organizational structures, reporting needs and processes are unique to every company.
The paradox is that
Where a workflow management system can provide the most value is also where it is the most difficult to implement.
Complex processes including multiple approvals and additions across numerous groups, a large number of users to onboard, different user roles and group and reporting needs. This is where a workflow management system can make the biggest impact bringing down lead times, service time and resource utilization. Implementing a workflow management tool is more than just signing up to a tool subscription. In most cases it requires a dedicated resource often aided by a third party consultant to design the customization and manage through change.
Here is our guide for successful workflow management tool implementation
1. Work with an expert
This can be an internal experienced change & project manager or a third party consultant. The saying is true that you don’t know what you don’t know until you know. And the risk is high with a cross-team workflow management tool that is not well thought-through. Working with a business expert may leave some gaps on the technical side – database design, architecture, security and user logins, just to name a few – that are difficult to revert later. On the other hand, working with IT can lack in business understanding and process design which could render the tool useless.
The ideal partner combines technical know-how, business insights and business process creation as well as experience in change management.
2. Engage your stakeholders early
Ultimately the stakeholders are who will be using the tool and who will hence determine whether it’s successfully used or not. Most stakeholders will be sceptical to any change to the existing processes and tools. They will be concerned that this will add another step for them and create more admin time and work. It’s important to fully understand the stakeholders needs and select and implement a tool that will support them being more efficient. Take workload off, rather than adding just another admin step. ensure that the tool is providing maximum value to the users.
Including them in conversations along the process will ensure that the customized end tool will be of value to them. Added bonus – by being engaged early, the stakeholders will feel valued and can turn into your biggest supporters for adaptation and roll-out!
3. Think through big data
A workflow management tool is particularly powerful when combined with the right reporting. This can be operational reporting on service or lead times or resource utilization. Or depending on which area of the business this tool is being used at, this can extend to commercial reporting. Either way, it is important to think through the data collection and database setup right from the beginning with the desired reporting in mind.
Reporting is not an after-thought just because it comes at the end of the process. Everything else leading up to it will impact the reports that can be pulled.
You can’t report on data that you don’t collect correctly or not at all.
4. Choose an agile platform
If one thing is for certain, then it’s change. Team structures change, other data input tool usage might change. Responsibilities shift, business needs change and business responses adapt.
In order to stay relevant and supportive to the business it’s necessary to select an agile platform that can accommodate changes. This means giving users options to update business processes easily. This means working with APIs to connect with different applications as and when required.
5. Think through the daily maintenance and support
The work isn’t done once the workflow management tool is rolled out. The first few months will be needing a lot of attention as users are starting to engage with the tool. Users will have questions – some technical, some business related. Users will have feedback as things that have been well thought through, mapped out and implemented may not work for them as they had intended.
Growing FAQs will help adjust some of the concerns, and it is important to keep an active feedback loop and follow-up on these, too. This will keep engagement up and prevent frustrations and eventually stakeholders finding ways to work around the workflow management tool.
There are different ways to manage this – an effective way is by assigning ‘super users’ in specific areas of the business who can provide assistance and support.