The need for a workflow management system usually kicks in when savvy businessmen and results-driven intellectuals come together, where a production work sequence is evident and improvement is a must. Workflow management systems today have certainly developed through the years, and various applications are out there to address each need.
Choosing the right package, however, is believed to be the difficult part, forcing the obvious question to the fore: How do you choose the best workflow management software?
Finding the best workflow management system
A workflow management system supports a company’s task distribution strategy through automation of processes and encouragement of collaboration among teams, groups and departments. Timely completion of tasks can be guaranteed as repetitive work is automatically monitored and distributed. Processes are visible, which makes determining best practices and analyzing areas for improvement possible as well.
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A workflow management system can impact different companies differently and should therefore be broken down into its uses and capabilities. Companies need to quantify which key functionalities are necessary and the reason/s behind the necessity.
Consider the following guide questions:
1. Does the workflow management system support easy and seamless integration with existing processes?
Transferring from a line of business application to a workflow management system that is not completely integrated into your existing systems can mean additional work rather than a smooth process. The workflow management system should serve as a gateway towards a more manageable and reliable workflow.
2. Does the workflow management system support both linear and looping sequences?
Depending on whom you’re asking, workflows can be linear or looping, parallel or sequential. However they’re referred to, bottom line, some workflows are relatively simple; others are more complex. And sometimes, the process begins as a single role, and as the work advances, requires groups that should then be merged as processes are completed.
3. Is the workflow management system easily customizable?
Most companies find flexibility essential. A workflow system that can be readily tweaked according to the rules of the user, project and company can provide more value, in terms of resources, than any pre-built application that require complex coding protocols to conform to your unique business standards. Users, in general, look for “user-friendly” systems that sustain hassle-free modification of workflow and task management procedures.
4. Does the workflow management system support automated “baton passing?”
As a rule of thumb, a sequence in a workflow cannot be carried out (or created, for that matter) until the preceding activity is visibly complete. This is to ensure that expected end results are extracted from the workflow. Sequence automation is provided by most workflow management systems.
5. Does the workflow management system provide project managers the ability to balance task distribution within their groups or teams?
The right workflow management system allows individuals or groups to contain certain tasks, balance tasks among group members and prohibit unauthorized parties from accessing data and information that are intended for a certain group alone, even if they all belong to the same department.
6. Can the workflow management system easily identify urgent tasks?
Workflow systems should provide urgency indicators. Usually, these are visible notations of the statuses of individual tasks. Indicators may come in the form of color coding, sorting or may even contain icons.
7. Can the workflow management system support workflow transfer?
The workflow management system needs to be flexible and allow exemptions. It should be able to accommodate instances when some tasks and roles require transferring to different groups.
8. Does the workflow management system provide constant reminders?
Commonly, employee notifications come in through e-mail. The right workflow management system supports e-mail generation and automatic task creation that is then pushed to the user’s to-do list. Some workflow systems even provide SMS or text notifications.
9. Does the workflow management system come with an embedded forms creation capability?
Templates, pre-built forms and lists are necessary to speed up most workflow processes. While a lot of third-party forms generation applications can beautifully get the job done, some cannot be easily integrated into your workflow software. Having an automated system that comes with built-in forms creation capacity saves you money, your employees the time and energy that can be expended for other productive activities.
10. Can the workflow management system strictly track employee logs?
Date, time and user metrics are data generally needed for subsequent auditing. A management dashboard of employee performances should also be available, where a generated graph provides at-a-glance visibility into the overall status of the workflow.
While the ten questions above are not exclusively the only questions to ask when finding the right workflow management software, identifying your workflow strategy and the characteristics of the software you will need to carry out that strategy is the first step towards finding the best, if not perfect, fit.