What Is Business Workflow & How To Use It

What Is Business Workflow & How To Use It

Having a well-defined and clear workflow is one of the secrets in having a successful business, but what is a business workflow?

In this guide, we will discuss “what is business workflow,” how to make one, and how to use it to improve your business.

What Is a Business Workflow?

While we can use all the technical jargon and terms, in a nutshell, a business workflow is the order of things that must happen to get work done. Practically, a business workflow is visualized in a flowchart, diagram, or checklist to illustrate a series of steps that need to be completed.

In general, there are two different types of workflow: sequential, which describes a linear list of activities, and state machine, which describe a workflow with distinct states. You can focus on the flow of the activities or the state of the activities within the workflow. 

In both types, however, a workflow should consist of five key aspects: 

  1. The necessary tasks to complete a step
  2. The resources required to complete each step
  3. The time each step takes
  4. Who is responsible for each step
  5. The relationships/interactions between different steps

By getting the information related to those questions and structuring the answers into a chart, we can get a proper workflow. 

Why Do We Need To Create Workflow?

The main reason for creating a business workflow comes from an age-old principle: you can’t improve what you can’t measure

A significant amount of work in any business involves repeatedly following a sequence of steps: onboarding new customers, managing purchases, and so on. These repetitive tasks are called business processes. Workflows enable us to properly visualize these processes, measure the effectiveness, and make any required improvements. 

Essential Considerations in Creating an Efficient Workflow Process

While we have discussed how a proper workflow can significantly help optimize your business processes, a poorly created workflow might be counterproductive and may lead to ineffective outcomes. 

This is why considering these key factors is very important in creating optimal workflows: 

1. Identifying start points and endpoints

It’s essential (and yet very often overlooked) to identify each business process’s start and endpoints. For example, a document approval process can start when a new document is received and ends when the approval process is complete. However, there might be a different start and endpoint for this same process. For example, we might choose to only end the process after another party validates the approval.

Make sure to define a clear and specific start and end point. 

2. Define the steps clearly

Once you’ve identified the start and endpoints, it’s time to fill out the middle. Break down the business process into granular steps. Find out what needs to be done at each step and identify the requirements (time, capital, resource, information) to perform this task.

3. Assign roles

Assign who will be responsible for each step and assign key roles depending on your workflow. You might want to assign someone to be accountable for the whole process, yet break down each step’s responsibilities across several different teams. 

4. Identify potential deviations

Depending on your business processes, a particular step might require a separate workflow for itself. For example, onboarding of a new vendor while completing a purchase request might be a mini workflow. Analyze for sub-workflows, loops, and fill out the details. Also, check whether some tasks can be done simultaneously. 

5. Identify potential flaws and bottlenecks

Remember that the main focus of creating your workflow is to improve the process’s efficiency. So, when you already have your workflow designed, identify the potential issues on it. You can discuss the workflow with stakeholders of the processes and try to gain insights from their perspectives. 

6. Automate and optimize processes

Figure out areas in the workflow that you can automate or optimize. For example, if you previously needed to notify managers to approve documents, you might want to eliminate this step as the technology will do this automatically. If there are areas where you can minimize or fully eliminate human supervision/intervention, you might want to do so. 

Using a Workflow Management Software To Create Digital Workflow

Digitizing workflow creation and editing with a workflow management system can significantly save time, where you can automate repetitive workflows and even automate process optimizations for effectiveness. 

Workflow management software by Aproove can provide the following benefits: 

Improve cost-efficiency

All your workflows are mapped online, including all the steps in the workflow, who is responsible for each step, what are their roles, and variations in decisions. Aproove can also help automate decisions in steps that don’t require human supervision to minimize human errors. In short, Aproove can help improve your business efficiency and reduce costs. 

Improved transparency

With the right workflow management system like Aproove, your team members can access the required information whenever they need it, improving transparency in communications. On the other hand, by letting you assign the right task to the right people, Aproove would also ensure improved accountability and adherence to required workflow steps, especially when you need a full audit trail and compliance.

Improved collaboration

With integrated tools, automated and easy visualization of workflows, and smart notifications, Aproove can help different team members and teams to collaborate smoothly on a single dashboard to improve work efficiency. No more siloed systems in different departments and teams. Full visibility across the entire business. 

Easier change management

When you change policies and rules within the company, a workflow management software provides flexibility in incorporating the new policies to the existing processes. Workflow provides businesses with a better way to evaluate new policies and the impact on revenue and profitability. Tasks only get sent to the relevant person or team at the correct stage in the workflow; any workflow complexity is hidden from the end-users making life much easier for them. Having a defined individual “to-do” list with clear deadlines improves efficiency.

End Words

Given today’s fast-paced evolution of business processes, remote employees, variations in tools and solutions, and especially a very competitive market, workflow creation and management are now a necessity for any business. 

A proper workflow would allow the business to visualize the business process better, measure the performance, and eliminate bottlenecks and redundancies while improving effectiveness in the long-run.