Workflow Analysis Shoots Holes in Your Business Processes

Jeremy Francis

October 9th, 2018 workflow  

If you are responsible for organizational efficiency, you’ve probably spent time thinking about workflows, BPM, and automation. Many people simply jump on the workflow automation bandwagon because of the fear of missing out–they don’t want to lose out on all the vague ‘benefits and advantages’.

But sometimes, these efforts just don’t seem to work like they are supposed to. The reason? They didn’t do workflow analysis.

There’s no point setting up an automated workflow unless you know the benefits you expect to receive, and how your workflows can be improved. Unexamined workflows get stale quickly and become part of a legacy system.

However, if you have hard data and feedback from stakeholders, you can use workflow analysis to find several easy ways to improve on what you already have.

What Is Workflow Analysis?

Workflow Analysis is the process of breaking down the performance of a workflow and examines trends for improvement. By looking at a workflow at a granular task level, business users can tweak processes for optimal efficiency and workplace productivity. Workflow analysis often reveals redundant tasks, bottlenecks, and opportunities for more automation.

Why Do You Need It?

Your market and environment are constantly evolving. If your workflows aren’t able to keep pace with internal and external advancements, you risk becoming unable to fit the constantly changing needs of your customers and employees.

Workflow analysis makes sure the benefits you wanted when you signed up for workflow automation actually occur. This includes efficiency and productivity in business processes, customer satisfaction, regulatory compliance, and employee engagement.

Here are a few steps to help you do your own workflow analysis.

Step 1: Collect Hard Data

Take a report of the workflow you want to examine. Analyze the statistics and see which ones are performing as required and which ones aren’t.

What kind of data do you need? Start with this list:

  • Number of items in that workflow initiated over a period
  • Number of items completed
  • Number of items rejected
  • Average, min, and max time is taken to complete each task
  • Number of times a task is sent back or rejected
  • Number of times an item requires extra clarification

Consider an expense report workflow. Looking back over the last month, you may find that you had 68 expense reports submitted and 55 had been completed, but none rejected. You have a four-step workflow: initiator, manager approval, department head approval (for reports over $1,000), and finance processing. The average time for finance processing to complete is just six hours, and the department head approval is four hours.

However, there’s a lot of chaos at the manager approver task as the average time is three days. Delving in further, you see that most tasks are completed within a day, but several items have been pending for more than a week.

Look for workflow analysis tools that can give you all of this information.

Step 2: Collect Soft Data

To further your workflow analysis, you need more than just numbers. Now you need to go and talk to the people who use the workflow tool most frequently. Start with those who fill out the form.

Your sales team is responsible for 80% of the expense report submissions, so you talk to them about their thoughts on the workflow. Are they pleased with the ease of the form? Do they have any complaints about submitting their requests? Are their reimbursements getting approved on time?

Suppose your Sales VP says he loves being able to quickly zip through approvals on his phone and doesn’t have to worry about logging in to a system. Finance people also say they are happy and have everything they need; most of the sales managers are also satisfied. But what if a few complain that they don’t have all the data they need to approve the request. They send emails to the sales reps to get more details, but it usually takes time to get a response.

This is extremely important information when performing your workflow analysis. Workflow analysis tools usually only focus on the hard data, so this gives you a chance to take your analysis to the next level.

Step 3: Ask the Hard Questions

The next step of workflow analysis is to ask the questions that guide the workflow. What is its purpose? Who is it supposed to serve? What defines a good process? Some workflows are created to minimize errors. Others are meant to speed up the process.

In our example, the workflow exists because the Sales VP felt she was spending too much time approving expense reports through emails. She also wanted a better alternative to ensure accuracy and speed of processing.
When you keep the big picture in mind as you are doing workflow analysis, you can ask questions like:

  • Is this step really needed?
  • Can it be converted from an approval to a notification?
  • Does everyone have enough data to perform their task?
  • How can we bring in more automation?

Going back to the earlier example, a few expense reports might not be making it through on time because one sales manager feels that there is certain data lacking. The sales manager isn’t using the workflow system correctly and rather than sending items back to the person through the system, he is sending emails.

The best solution to fix this problem is by making changes to the workflow form so that the manager feels he has everything he needs (perhaps adding a new parameter or making a field mandatory) and also providing some refresher training on the system.

Using a combination of workflow analysis tools and in-person conversations, you can come up with the right solution.

Step 4: Implement the Changes and Follow Up

Once you’ve identified all the changes that came from your workflow analysis, implement them in your system. Notify all stakeholders of any change, and let them know if there will be any downtime, or how to handle items in the middle of a changed workflow.

Workflow analysis isn’t just a good way of identifying if there are any changes that need to be done with a workflow. You can also prepare useful reports and see which workflows and which aspects of a particular workflow are helping your organization grow.

Great workflow analysis tools ensure that you can get all the data that you need to perform the analysis. A good tool helps you identify which processes are running smoothly and which need work. Using that information, you can move ahead and find out where to make changes and where not to.

That’s exactly what KiSSFLOW is designed to do: help you analyze your workflows so that you can create a truly efficient and productive process, tailored to your particular needs. You can use KiSSFLOW to find out where your processes need work, and where they’re running smoothly.