Workflows come in many types and sizes – they can vary from a simple series of work activities to a huge, complicated group of integrated processes.
When a company starts considering scaling up their workforce productivity and efficiency, a common move is going online to search for a workflow system. Instead of looking for essential features for their specific processes, people tend to prioritize those with good ratings and attention-grabbing features.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, though. Normally, if a workflow system is well rated, that’s a good indicator of its capabilities but this should not be your only criteria.
In order to help you with this decision process we’ve crafted a list with 5 essential features your workflow system must have. These features are essential because they’ll make it possible to improve your workflow’s visibility, accountability and overall performance.
What is a workflow system – and what does it do?
Workflow systems are software/applications that make it easier for businesses to take control over their everyday activities/processes and manage them closely.
Workflow management systems allow you to set execution standards and control metrics to your processes, making them more transparent and ensuring accountability over your activities.
These systems normally also make it possible to automate repetitive processes (saving time, money and preventing human error all at once).
Essential features your workflow system must have
Flexibility: Easily create/modify workflow patters that suit your needs
As we’ve mentioned on this article’s first sentence, workflows come in all types and sizes. Some consist of a simple sequence of actions while others involve multiple interdependent sequences.
Choosing a workflow system that’s easy to adapt to your specific needs is the first step towards workflow management success. Your workflow management app should help you standardize and manage your processes without constraining them.
Every company has its own management needs and, consequently, its own unique workflows. The workflow system you go for should be a facilitator to the way you manage your workflows.
Instead of adapting your workflows to the system, it should be the other way around – otherwise you’ll just be adding another bump to your workflow management road.
Transparency: Easily find the information you need, when you need it
Workflow systems, by definition, exist to help you manage your workflows better and more efficiently. Therefore, they’re expected to help people find relevant information, such as task status, easily and without too much effort.
Features such as notifications and automatic email alerts are essential to keep all those involved in the process informed about what’s a certain task’s status as well as what are the next necessary steps.
Using Pipefy you can define what you’ll be notified of as well as set up email templates to be sent automatically to an approver every time a new task enters the approval phase, letting him/her know that his/her input is necessary for the process to keep moving forward.
Good workflow systems also let its members easily access the information they need – such as a support request’s status. Pipefy’s kanban interface view allows all users to know at a glance which phase of the process each task is at, which saves everyone a lot of time on a daily basis.
Access control: Different people have different access needs
Transparency is a must-have for every workflow system (as we’ve mentioned above). That doesn’t mean everyone should be able to access everything, though. It also doesn’t mean that each user in your company should be able to view and edit workflows in which they’re not involved.
The ideal workflow system lets you control access and define exactly who is supposed to do what. You wouldn’t want your commercial team to be able to access confidential HR and accounting processes, for example.
If you choose to use Pipefy as your workflow system you’ll quickly find out you can control access to information by creating private pipes (and databases) and using the different permission levels it offers.
Cloud based: Easy access, anywhere, anytime
Even though there still are businesses that believe running workflow management softwares on their internal servers is the way to go, most modern companies are well aware of the benefits of using cloud-based apps.
We live in a digital era and it’s safe to say that choosing a workflow system that’s not online/cloud-based is definitely a step towards the wrong direction.
It goes without saying that today’s work dynamics are a lot different than what they were a decade ago. People are constantly working on the go, outside the office, on different time zones, etc.
Cloud-based workflow systems are usually flexible, cost-effective and easily scalable. Also, they offer users the possibility of working from many devices – what can come in handy when dealing with a field sales team, for example.
Another huge benefit of choosing cloud-based apps, such as Pipefy, is that they’re normally a lot easier to implement and don’t demand constant maintenance and updates – the system supplier always ensures that everyone is always using the same version of the software and all necessary patches/bug fixes are promptly and automatically executed.
Reporting: Keep track of your KPIs
Yes, I know it’s cliché and I know I’ve said it more than once but knowledge is power. Having all your essential workflow’s data at hand gives you power to analyze all your essential information to make informed decisions.
Workflow management – and automation – start with tests. When looking for the best way to do something you’ll want access to information that helps you see what’s working and what isn’t.
Establishing strategic KPIs is key to analyzing each of your workflow’s performance. It gives you the power to view which processes – and steps – are running smoothly as well as assess whether you’re attaining the expected results.
Besides that, a good workflow management system (such as Pipefy) also makes it easier for you to keep track of your process’ SLAs. Sometimes, a process you believed was performing well actually has a bottleneck that’s preventing it from performing twice as well.