If you’ve been following along with our series on Workflow Management for Google Apps, you know that using email alone is the original source of chaos. Google Forms help with collecting better data, but do nothing for the actual workflow. Google Apps Script can be a hack for creating workflows only if you like to mess around with a lot of code that has to be updated constantly.
If you’ve reached this point, you know that email and spreadsheets are not going to cut it for managing your workflows, but you don’t have the time, experience, or patience to use Apps Scripts. It’s time for some outside help. In this article, we will look at using a commercial, off-the-shelf workflow software.
Off-the-shelf workflow software handles the two sides of workflow management – capturing data, and creating a path for the data to follow. The software will let you create a form to gather validated data and will help you map out the sequence of tasks that needs to happen.
Using workflow management software allows you to have a fully automated process that can run on its own. There’s no checking email, spreadsheets, form submissions, or fixing broken scripts.
Here are some of the advantages that nearly every product delivers:
Flexibility across functions.The same workflow software can be used by HR, finance, ops, and marketing. Because workflows are common to every part of a business, you can use them anywhere.
Tracking individual items. If you want to check the progress of a travel reimbursement through email, you had better hope you put the date in your subject line, otherwise it will be a pain. Workflow software will show you the status of any item you submitted and you know where in the path it stands.
Notifications, SLAs, and deadlines. The software will make sure that each task owner knows when it is time for another task to occur. You can also set deadlines or SLAs for each task to make sure the task is completed and reminders are sent automatically.
Flexibility. Good workflow software will allow you to change and update workflows as you need with a few clicks. Updates should reflect immediately in the workflow.
Permissions and visibility. You should also be able to set permissions and manage access privileges to certain data. This is a big improvement over spreadsheets where it is nearly impossible to hide or make read-only specific data points inside a workflow.
Reporting. Workflow management software is also going to give you reports on your workflows that would have been impossible to track with other methods. See how long items take to complete, which tasks take the longest, how many items occur in a time period, and which items get rejected the most.
Not all workflow management software is created equal. As you search for the right option, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Human-centric vs. System-centric. Some options are built so that any business leader can sit down and create a workflow exactly as they picture it in their head. Other options start from a programmer’s mentality and map out every possible scenario.
Cloud vs. On-premise. We’ve talked about this elsewhere. Beyond how you access your data, a cloud solution puts the responsibility of maintenance and performance in the hands of the vendor. On-premise means you are on the line for both.
Cost. The price of workflow software can range dramatically. A full-fledged BPM solution will easily reach six digits. Some cloud-based solutions offer free models for limited users. Most cloud-based providers charge per user per month. Be sure to consider any setup and installation fees that are included as well.
Integrations. Workflow software is usually used to supplement and support your main functional software, so integrations are key. If you are already a Google Apps customer, you want to find something that is deeply connected with Gmail, Calendar, Sheets and any other Google App you use.
While workflow management software is generally the place where most companies stop, there are a few cases where it just isn’t enough. The features of an off-the-shelf product become invariably generic for a very specialized market. It’s very hard to find workflow management software that is only for lawn care, hospitals, ad agencies, etc. So if your industry or niche vertical has extremely specialized requirements, off-the-shelf software may not be the best option for you.
If your company is heavily dependent on another software that won’t integrate with any other workflow provider, you may need to create something more customized. For example, if you are locked into a legacy, on-premise ERP solution and there are no plans to move away from it, it may be more trouble than it’s worth to try to add in workflow software that will never be able to access the data inside it.
For most of us, workflow management software fits the bill, and the hard part is finding the one that matches your needs the best. Kissflow is cloud-based workflow management software built for humans, and is priced to fit any budget. Give it a try for free today!