In this article, we’ll explain what workflow optimization is and how it can be applied to improve many types of business processes.
What is workflow optimization?
Workflow optimization is the process of applying repeatable rules and automation to an existing business process to make it more efficient, reduce errors, and encourage collaboration. By creating explicit steps and implementing logic into business processes, it becomes easier to measure the performance of workflows and allows for continued improvement and iterations.
Nearly all employees have repeatable workflows they perform to do their jobs and achieve their department’s objectives. These workflows typically include actions that must be completed in a certain order, with some type of conditional flow in how they respond to different inputs to the process, who else must be notified or take actions in the process, and ultimately an objective for completing the process.
Take the recruiting process, for example. Human resource departments are constantly processing employee candidates as part of the recruiting process. This involves many repeatable steps such as triaging inbound leads, interviewing candidates multiple times, discussing with hiring managers and other teams to gather feedback, and making and managing offers. Furthermore, HR employees must manage the data across Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, calendars, analytics tools, and more.
By integrating all of these systems and creating automated steps to process candidates through their lifecycle, the HR process can become much more efficient and prone to less errors. For example, an automated workflow can ensure data is entered correctly across platforms, schedule meetings, notify relevant parties when actions are made, set reminders for follow-ups, and more.
5 Workflow optimization tips
While workflow optimization can be applied to many processes, there are five tips that can be applied more generally to them:
1. Integrate your data and third-party services
Integrating the various systems involved in a workflow is essential for improving efficiency and reducing human error caused by manual data entry. Many third-party software systems — such as ERP or CRM platforms and data warehouses — have Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can be utilized to automate these processes.
It’s important to ensure that your workflow automation systems are able to easily integrate with these APIs so that you can automatically send and receive data between them. This allows you to build cross-platform logic that would otherwise be performed manually by employees if they were not otherwise integrated.
2. Utilize conditional logic
Conditional logic (“if this then that” logic) allows you to automate processes with built-in decision making that a human would otherwise have to perform. This provides the ability to make more complex workflows that can automatically make decisions on behalf of the users based on predefined logic.
For example, if you’re designing a procurement workflow that needs to decide whether a purchase requisition should get approved, you could include conditional logic that automatically denies a request to purchase something over a predefined budget. This saves the time of procurement employees and ensures they don’t make costly mistakes.
3. Alert stakeholders about important actions
A time-consuming and inefficient part of many workflows is simply the communication overhead. When many parties are involved, people have to coordinate time for meetings, alert one another of changes, and send follow-ups to ensure work gets completed. Much of this can be automated by setting up proper alerting systems within the workflow itself.
For instance, if a business process involves different parties getting involved at different parts of the process, the workflow can be set up to automatically assign and notify these parties of changes and follow-up if they are slow to complete their assigned actions.
4. Remove manual data entry
Manual data entry is not only slow but also increases the risk of human error, which can cause delays, backlogs, and even operational mistakes. While data entry can’t always be fully removed because original data sources sometimes are entered manually — such as in a form or survey —it’s typically unnecessary to manually enter data that has already been sourced elsewhere.
Data used in a workflow should come directly from the origin source and integrations between systems should automatically propagate this information to avoid the need for manual intervention. Therefore, in addition to having integrations with third-party platforms, the automation systems should also be able to easily communicate and sync with databases, data lakes, and more.
5. Track metrics, monitor analytics, and iterate workflows
It is important to collect data and track KPIs about the workflows to understand where the potential inefficiencies may lie to determine potential improvements.
Data analytics systems can help to monitor this at a high level, and alerting can even be implemented on top of these metrics to notify management when KPIs are degrading and need to be addressed. Workflow optimization should always be considered an iterative and ongoing practice.
Optimize your workflow with Pipefy
Workflow optimization allows businesses to automate and improve their businesses processes to make them more efficient, scalable, accurate, and collaborative. However, doing so requires having a platform that can integrate with your third-party software systems and data providers, automatically manage the lifecycle of the workflows, manage things like alerting, and much more. Pipefy provides all the tools necessary to build a scalable workflow automation system that can achieve all of these requirements. Request a demo of Pipefy to see how workflow optimization can make your business more efficient.