One of the main challenges of project management is bringing everything together. Actually, “challenge” is putting it mildly, because bringing everything together is where most team leaders fail. Successful project management requires a strategy that facilitates collaboration, the efficient sharing of information, cohesive communication, and the ongoing evaluation of progress.
But easier said than done, right?
In fact, the average large U.S. business loses $40.6 million in productivity annually as a result of inefficient knowledge sharing.
Luckily, organization can make life a whole lot easier. So, let’s look at how to create a project management workflow and the best software to help you do it.
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What is workflow management?
A workflow is a series of steps that require sequential completion to finish a task. Workflow management is the coordination and automation of the different tasks stemming from that workflow. The general concept of workflow management lies in planning and managing tasks to achieve specific goals.
The global workflow management market was valued at $5.2 billion in 2018.
It’s huge, and big brands are part of it. Amazon does pretty much everything, and it defines its workflow management system as built to “embrace chaos.”
SpaceX managed to go from 7 annual rocket launches in 2015 to 21 in 2018 using a strategy that focused on improved workflow management.
How is a workflow process different from workflow management?
Workflow management coordinates and organizes the different tasks emerging from each workflow. A workflow process is a series of coordinated tasks. Workflow management ensures that the series of tasks is efficient and more productive.
A workflow process is a series of tasks
Workflow management organizes tasks
Workflow management systems explained
Any project workflow will benefit from a workflow management system.
In fact, controlling workflows without the correct system is difficult, if not impossible, especially for large companies.
The system relies on software to act as a workflow plan template, which provides a structure for the setup, implementation, and monitoring of workflows.
A workflow management system is suitable for most repeatable processes.
For example, most large businesses in the U.S. lose $4.2 million annually due to inefficient onboarding.
Employee onboarding involves processes that require numerous departments to synchronize information. A workflow management system can ensure a smooth process without any missed stages or hold-ups as information is transferred to other departments.
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Operational workflows explained
For operations to be efficient, everyone involved must be on the same page about the required work, completion deadlines, and the anticipated impact of the action on the company.
An operational workflow reorganizes operations so that miscommunication and downtime are minimized. It can limit disruptions in the supply chain as every person at each stage of the chain will know when input is needed, and problems can be reported in a timely manner.
This is important, as when things go wrong, they can lead to a whole load of related issues.
One unexpected side effect is negative press as KFC learned in 2018 when a chicken outage was caused by a change in supplier and distribution issues. The operational workflow change cost KFC a minimum of £4.2 million per week – that’s £920,000 a day. And DHL didn’t come out looking rosy either.
NASA is made up of rocket scientists but the company also learned about the importance of workflow management the hard way. The agency lost $193 million when its Mars Climate Orbiter disintegrated.
Someone along the workflow failed to use the right metric units, and there was no system to pick this up. Although it’s almost 20 years since the disaster, this incident still serves as a powerful reminder that you don’t mess with workflow management.
Company workflows explained
A company workflow operates in a similar way to an operational workflow, but its focus is strategic rather than operational. This type of workflow makes working as a team easier and more efficient by mapping the work process.
At a strategic level, the company workflow will look at things like the effect of poor data or poor customer service on company performance.
To illustrate, the U.S. economy loses $3.1 trillion annually to poor quality data. Outside the U.S., businesses lose 6% of their revenue. In addition, businesses lose $75 billion due to poor customer service.
A company workflow can ensure that all team members know their respective roles and how they will affect the overall strategy of the company. This will help the company gather relevant data that will result in customer satisfaction and brand growth.
How to create a PM workflow
A workflow brings consistency to key processes.
This is especially important for producing consistent results in a team setting. Let’s say your company wants to create a workflow for its international team.
What would the creation process involve?
Your business could create a workflow using the following simple steps:
- Decide what the workflow is documenting. For example, the launch of a new marketing campaign or employee onboarding.
- Determine the scope of the workflow. This eliminates redundant tasks and takes on the best strategies. Do we need a developer to create landing pages or will we use existing ones? Do we need to create videos or images?
- Determine the steps of the workflow. Then, ensure they align with the required goal. Will our campaign funnel get us more signups or registrations? If not, then why not?
- Agree on who is responsible for each step, and assign roles. What will our content manager, social media manager, graphic designer and operations manager do? Is there overlap on any tasks?
- Create a workflow diagram to picture the process. Language barriers or simple misunderstandings can create problems in a workflow. A diagram is universal and helps to explain the process to all team members.
- Test the workflow. Initiate the marketing campaign with all team members following the planned workflow. Be sure to answer any questions and train the team on following the process.
- Deploy and measure the effectiveness of the workflow. Refine it according to the team’s needs. Some things don’t quite work out when you put them live, and that’s ok. Listen to team feedback and tweak your workflow accordingly.
- Adjust your workflow using your workflow management tools.
Creating workflows takes planning and active participation from your team. It’s highly unlikely that a workflow will be perfect the first time around.
So, here are some workflow creation hacks to set you on the right path.
Ideas for improving a workflow
Analyze the current workflow
This may seem a bit strange, but the fact is that most businesses do not take the time to analyze their current workflow.
The first step toward an improved workflow is first identifying any weaknesses and limitations in the current one.
The goal here is to determine how you have been operating to date, and figuring out how well you are doing. In a team environment, some feedback from team members is necessary to get a comprehensive picture of the workflow.
Use workflow templates
Working from a template helps you save time while still achieving the required level of efficiency.
Using workflow templates will allow you to focus on refining aspects of the workflow rather than spending lots of time on the initial workflow creation process.
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Use collaboration tools
Workflows are built to improve productivity and decision-making. Without the right set of supporting tools, workflows may end up with bottlenecks.
To achieve improved workflows, it is essential to integrate collaboration tools into the workflow plan.
Collaboration tools improve scheduling, track the completion of tasks, and show progress throughout the workflow.
A lack of scheduling wastes over 35% of employees’ productive time. However. the right tools can improve this.
Investing in collaboration tools can also improve communication and engagement with employees, saving employers up to $450 billion annually.
Processes are prone to miscommunication and errors. This is especially true for business processes in large companies.
A survey by Think Money showed that on average, employees waste 759 hours annually due to workplace distractions.
That’s a full month of work down the drain.
Tedious, repetitive tasks contribute to this loss in productivity. For example, employees spend up to 40% of their time searching for documents manually. Been there, done that!
An effective way to deal with this problem is to introduce automation to workflows.
Automation of common workflows plays a critical role, such as when Airbnb simplified Kubernetes workflow to support over 1000 engineers.
Wondering how you can automate?
The answer is software.
Automating workflows with the help of software will ensure improved tracking and management of workflows. This brings us to the next important step: choosing the right software to help with your workflows.
Workflow software options
Working with the best workflow software makes it easy not only to create and automate but to refine and manage the workflows as well. The best workflow software excels at streamlining processes and providing thorough visibility into the projects’ tasks and progress. Here are some top software options for project management workflow creation you can rely on.
1. Hubstaff Tasks
Hubstaff Tasks is based on Agile project management, which allows you to keep projects moving forward and track the progress of work visually. It has a simple interface that is highly customizable, and it features automated workflows that allow for consistency: a staple for successful workflows.
Teams can use sprints as a way to determine what to focus on for a set period of time, moving tasks from backlog to future sprint or current. This keeps everyone committed to the highest priority projects, ensuring goals and deadlines are reached.
Its visual project boards allow teams to set up their own workflows based on their internal process, and then move tasks forward with one click; automatically assigning the right person and notifying them of what’s on their plate.
Hubstaff Tasks can be integrated seamlessly with the Hubstaff time tracking tool for easier overall team and time management.
Cons: Limited integrations.
Pricing: Free for a team of up to 5 users. The Premium plan costs $10/month per user.
Best for: Hubstaff Tasks is great for any business that works as a team. It’s also ideal for running a remote team, especially one with contractors.
Why it’s at the top: Hubstaff Tasks is both simple but helpful for teams of all sizes. At any time, you can open Hubstaff Tasks and see where a task is in the workflow.
Plus, when used with Hubstaff time tracking, it provides valuable insights that help businesses go forward. It allows businesses to run smarter by providing better future estimates, analyzing project profitability, and looking at how well projects are sticking to set budgets. The software also has enhanced functionality because it syncs with the time tracker for overall improved workflow creation.
Overflow lets you construct elegant user flow diagrams for the design project management workflow process. It has a very clean and easy interface that amplifies the simplicity of the whole creation process.
The software has no learning curve, which means you can start getting results from day one.
Overflow can be synced with popular design tools Sketch, Figma, and Adobe Xd.
Cons: Overflow is currently only available for macOS but it will soon be available on Windows.
Pricing: 30-day free trial. The Professional plan costs $12/month per user.
Best for: Overflow was specifically built to improve user flow diagramming among designers. It can be used by individual designers or design teams.
Why it’s at the top: Other user flow diagramming tools don’t explicitly cater to the needs of designers, but Overflow features interactive presentation capabilities that allow designers to easily create and manage user flows. The Overflow cloud allows designers to integrate their designs with team members and other stakeholders.
Kissflow features intuitive workflow visualizations and drag and drop editing that make the software easy to use.
It integrates with WebHooks and Zapier, which helps with tracking processes and updates. Kissflow offers a lot of customization options and can generate reports based on relevant metrics.
Cons: Kissflow has a bit of a learning curve, which is even steeper when trying to create complicated workflows.
Pricing: Free trial. The Small Business plan starts at $149 per month for up to 30 users.
Best for: Kissflow is great for ecommerce businesses as well as mobile-dependent organizations.
Why it’s at the top: Kissflow is a scalable, cloud-based software that allows businesses to reduce their administrative work. It makes integration with Google products seamless for ecommerce businesses and its mobile app is great for mobile or field-based companies. The support team is also highly efficient.
Wrike uses an agile methodology and custom workflows that ensure good outcomes. This is especially true when creating workflows of the process in software project management.
It features an interactive timeline that makes viewing the process schedule easier, and it also has a collaborative tool that eliminates delays and miscommunication.
Cons: Wrike is not that easy to set up so you will need to take some time to learn it.
Pricing: Free for a team with up to 5 users. The paid plan starts at $9.80/month per user.
Best for: Software development teams and other businesses that are largely customer-centric.
Why it’s at the top: Wrike is customizable and dynamic, and it allows enhanced team collaboration on various transformational work including marketing and designing. The software makes it easy to identify project details and identify any conflicts inherent in the project. It also supports video content in addition to documents.
The next steps
Ready to get started?
Check out this YouTube video by Jennifer Bridges that gives an excellent visual representation of workflow management.
You might also consider listening to the ‘Workflow’ podcast by Rindle that provides insight into workflow collaboration among teams.
Creating a project management workflow can be challenging. But don’t panic. Workflow software is built to make the whole creation process a whole lot easier. Once you get your workflow up and running you will appreciate the improved effectiveness and productivity.
The global workflow management system is set to reach over $22 billion by 2025, so it’s definitely something that deserves your attention. Let us know your experiences and favorite workflow management tools in the comments below.