Did you know that inefficient processes are the primary cause of wasted time during the workday? According to a study from Powering Productivity, poorly designed workflows waste more time than paperwork, meetings, bad communication, and commuting. If you want to improve efficiency, workflow management is a priority.
Workflow management is about taking a strategic and rational look at your company’s existing processes. Rather than just selecting processes at random for improvement, it can be helpful to use a workflow management system. These systems help you select which workflows should take the highest priority.
There are many different methods you can use to begin improving how processes are managed. We have selected five of the most common workflow management systems that organizations of all types and sizes can implement. But first, let’s examine the definition of a workflow management system.
Workflow management definition
A workflow management system is a methodology which attempts to improve how an organization structures its processes. If the business has noticed that several of its processes are causing delays, customer dissatisfaction, supply chain problems or regulatory noncompliance, a workflow management system can be used to identify the specific causes of the problems in your processes. You can then rectify them and become more efficient.
5 workflow management systems
To begin implementing a workflow improvement project, you should first select a quality management system (QMS). We describe five of the most popular methodologies below.
Ultimately, all these workflow management systems share the same goal – to improve quality. But they use slightly different methodologies and each may vary in its appropriateness for your organization.
1. The Six Sigma principles
Six Sigma is a popular quality management system that can be used to improve your workflows. Six Sigma focuses specifically on eliminating defects. It uses a data-driven approach to identify any processes which are inefficient. If a workflow or a step in a workflow is causing inefficiency, this is prioritized for improvement.
The Six Sigma principles can be complex for newcomers, so here is a simplified overview:
- A Six Sigma team identifies faulty processes in the organization.
- The team measures the performance of the process using statistical analysis.
- They then analyze each input of the process to identify the causes of failure.
- The team implements plans to improve how the process works.
- Finally, controls are introduced to prevent the process from becoming inefficient again.
2. Lean quality management
Lean methodologies are relatively similar to Six Sigma when it comes to quality management. The key difference between Lean and Six Sigma is that Lean focuses on eliminating waste, whereas Six Sigma focuses on eliminating defects.
To assess your workflows through a Lean quality management system, your organization should:
- Review all processes and identify how they benefit your customers.
- Analyze processes to learn how work is actually performed at the organization.
- Next, remove any inefficiencies or waste which do not directly benefit the customer (“waste” refers to things like: time spent travelling, extra inventory, approval processes, duplication, and much more).
- Track the impacts of this waste elimination on your business – is it actually benefiting your KPIs?
3. Total Quality Management
While Lean and Six Sigma principles focus principally on improving efficiency one process at a time, Total Quality Management is about an organization-wide drive to improve product or service quality. It requires everyone in the business to be invested in continually improving internal practices.
When it comes to improving workflow management systems, Total Quality Management (TQM) is about senior executives striving to improve processes and encouraging other staff to do the same. The principle empowers individuals to notice problems and come up with solutions – rather than leaving this to a specific quality management team.
4. Theory of Constraints
The Theory of Constraints management system is based on the notion that in every process there is some kind of constraint (also known as a “bottleneck”) that is limiting your organization’s goals.
In the Theory of Constraints, a quality management team will look at all your processes and identify those with the biggest bottlenecks. These bottlenecks must be resolved before the processes are reassessed to identify the next biggest constraint. Like Total Quality Management, the Theory of Constraints is a continual, cultural approach to addressing problems with processes in an organization.
5. Business Process Reengineering
Business Process Reengineering is one of the most radical quality management systems. It involves completely redesigning business processes to change how your company works for the better.
The focus is usually on how you can deliver more value to the customer by changing some of the fundamental processes your business follows. Rather than simply trying to improve existing processes, the idea is to rewrite them completely.
Make your project easier with workflow management tools
If you’re planning to introduce a quality management system to improve how processes run across your business, digital workflow management tools can make your life much easier. Solutions like Nintex allow you to visually draw out individual workflows and identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies. You can also map out your entire organization’s workflows with Nintex Promapp® to see how each process interacts with others.
With the right digital tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to visualize and optimize your business processes and use the methodologies discussed here with full effectiveness.
To see how Nintex can support workflow quality management improvements, begin mapping processes with a free trial of Nintex Promapp®.