What is a Workflow and Why Every Business Needs Them
Whether you are a business owner or employee, you likely deal with workflows regularly. Workflows are different for each company and industry.
At In The Books we use separate workflows to accomplish different tasks, such as onboarding new clients and recording income and expenses. So, what exactly is a workflow and why is it important? In this article, we answer both questions and provide examples on how to build a workflow.
What Is a Workflow?
A workflow is a process of activities within a company to complete a specific task. That definition is abstract, so going over some examples can help clarify the concept. Companies can create different workflows for obtaining clients, customer resource management, and fulfilling contracts.
Workflows exist to streamline business processes, which can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the business. The process is unique for each workflow, and later in this article we will go over examples in more detail.
Why Are Workflows Necessary?
The focus of workflows is company improvement through increased efficiency and effectiveness. Companies strive to alleviate errors throughout their business and creating separate workflows for different business functions can help ensure errors are found quickly and corrected. If a company does not use separate workflows to accomplish different tasks, there is a greater chance of error because of overcomplicated processes.
A major benefit of implementing workflows is saving time and money through increased efficiency. The more times a company uses its workflow processes, the more the company will identify areas for improvement.
For example, after responding to several customer calls, the customer service team discovers many issues that can be handled by utilizing an automated response robot on the company website. Instead of responding personally to each call, the company saves time and money by adding an automated response feature to its customer service workflow process.
Cost savings are another benefit of good workflows. In my podcast, I discuss a large retailer that constantly sends me two items instead of the one that I ordered. Besides the obvious material costs of the extra item, the company also spends money on shipping and labor costs associated with getting the order corrected. If the company were to correct their workflow process to address this issue at the source, it would enjoy significant cost savings from eliminating this error.
Examples of Workflows
A good example of a bookkeeping workflow is the process to record expenses. Here are some typical questions to answer when creating an expense workflow:
Where are receipts/documents kept?
Are all expenses recorded timely?
Are all expenses accounted for, including ones made on personal credit cards?
Based on the questions above, the workflow process would involve these steps:
Gather all documents/receipts
Check business and personal accounts to ensure completeness and accuracy
Record expenses in accounting software
Store receipts in a designated location for later use
As you proceed through these steps, you may add or subtract steps as needed.
Operations management provides another good example of a workflow. From beginning to end, operations managers follow an established workflow for completing a specific operation. Here is an example of an operations workflow for a manufacturer:
Receive customer blueprint of item to be manufactured
Send blueprint to programmer to program machine
Manufacture first part
Make necessary adjustments to program machine
Produce another part
Repeat steps 3-6 until an acceptable part is manufactured
These seven steps create an end-to-end process a manufacturing firm can follow to streamline part manufacture and increase efficiency.
How To Build Effective Workflows?
There are several ways to build workflows. One way to start is to make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish and brainstorm about the activities required to accomplish each one. It is also important to collaborate with team members or employees of the department you want to create a workflow for.
For example, if your goal is to create an onboarding workflow for new employees, speak with your HR department to ensure the workflow includes all necessary activities.
Using workflow apps can help save time when creating workflows. Creately is a great app for creating workflows if you are a more visual learner. Available in both cloud and desktop versions, Creately provides tailor-made templates and diagrams to create flowcharts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other visual aids.
Kissflow is another effective workflow creating app that offers a more end-to-end solution. Kissflow is a cloud-based workflow product that automates processes and tracks performance. The app supports a wide range of workflows, including vacation request processes, timesheet management, and human resource management. Kissflow is a good option for businesses interested in more workflow management than in creating workflows.
I hope this post is helpful in understanding the importance of workflows and how to generate them. If you would like to listen to our workflow podcast, be sure to check it out here!