January 23rd, 2019 • workflow
Workflow optimization is the improvement of an existing workflow, by reducing operating costs, improving the efficiency of work done, adding new functions to an existing workflow, the time taken to complete the task at hand, and other factors to ensure the workflow performs as efficiently as possible.
Automation by itself isn’t a panacea that solves all your process hiccups. Merely applying automation doesn’t necessarily make your workflows any more efficient. You may end up getting the same bad results, just now being spit out by a machine.
If you have processes that still aren’t running like you want them to, even after automation, don’t worry. There are some easy workflow optimization techniques you can use to bring back the benefits you were hoping for.
A Great Automation Quote From Bill Gates
Every now and then, we find ourselves quoting Bill Gates on workflow automation.
“…automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency… (and) automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
This clearly means that you can’t tack on some automation solution, and expect things to automatically get better, smoother, faster, and cheaper. Here are some workflow optimization techniques to help you streamline your business process.
One process many companies try to make super-efficient is the Purchase Requisition. It seems pretty cut and dry – a team leader needs to make an order from an approved vendor, so they fill out a form and get approval.
But it often gets complicated when the procurement team has to manually key in all the requisition data such as laptop names, quantity, name of the requesting department, etc. to their purchase order system.
In addition to the chance for manual errors, if the team lead doesn’t know how much of their monthly or quarterly budget is already exhausted, they might make requests that exceed the budget. Similarly, what good is it for a manager to approve the request if they don’t know the current budget available?
The best workflow optimization technique in this situation is to link the form to some master data. For example, you can create an automated form that only lets users select from approved vendors, and then automatically populates other fields based on requests. This will cut down on errors and makes things flow smoother.
Similarly, you can create a dataset that has monthly or quarterly budgets for different departments. When you link your form using this workflow optimization technique, the user will be able to see the beginning amount and the current amount which deducts all the previously approved requests.
This workflow optimization technique is useful when you have a process that works mostly well, but has some exceptions. Such as getting the VP’s sign off on a new marketing campaign. It’s definitely needed for the big push around a major conference with a big spend, but less important when you are trying to promote some new blog posts.
Rather than spending time designing new processes for every situation, you can create a conditional task. This workflow technique involves tagging a particular task to only happen in a certain situation, such as the total cost of the campaign.
Similarly, you can create separate branches of a workflow based on a condition. The creative process for a blog post and landing page might start and end the same way, but have unique steps in the middle. Housing them both under the same workflow by creating two parallel paths is a great way to get workflow optimization.
Using a workflow software like Kissflow is a great way to achieve workflow optimization. But a lot of your work happens in other software such as financial, HR, admin, and more.
One of the more efficient ways to optimize your workflows is to integrate the workflow so that data can pass from inside Kissflow to any other cloud-based app. For example, you can integrate your purchase order with a financial software like QuickBooks so that you can automatically generate an invoice once the purchase is fulfilled. Here’s a simple tutorial to integrate Quickbooks with Kissflow through Zapier.
One common problem when thinking about a workflow is making it too big. Where does the sales cycle begin and end? You might link it all the way back to creating a lead from marketing and continue it all the way through customer onboarding and support.
However, creating a massive streamlined workflow like this invites more problems than it creates. Instead, you can create separate workflows such as sales quotations, sales orders, and customer onboarding. Each workflow can be separate, but you can create triggers so that as soon as one of them ends, another begins.
Too many approvals or too few? It’s always a balance of more control or more flow. Senior leaders like to be kept in the loop, but they can also be a logjam point for your process.
Solution? You can still keep them in the know with a simple workflow optimization trick. Just tweak their approval steps and configure the workflow to send them email notifications for important steps of the process. They can jump in when available and give insight for important points.
Figuring out what’s slowing down your processes and applying the right kind of workflow optimization technique is crucial to your operations, even if it is mostly automated.
Applying workflow optimization techniques like the ones mentioned above is necessary because you have to constantly adapt to the new process requirements and their payload once your operations scale up. So be open to embracing new workflow optimization techniques to your processes, even if they are already automated and look efficient.