The Basics of Workflow Management Software

Workflow management software is a revolutionary method of boosting productivity and efficiency.

But it has precedents:

Today, there are around 500 workers at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. The production line is part-automated, and as each vehicle moves along the tracks, workers match engines to bodies, press badges into place or attach parts.

Henry Ford would certainly be impressed by the efficiency of the process. A little over a century ago, in 1913, his introduction of the modern assembly line revolutionized the production process and changed the world. By rationalizing the way Model Ts were manufactured, Ford reduced the amount of time of time it took to assemble a vehicle from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes.

Workflow management software draws on the logic behind Henry Ford’s ingenious idea and applies it to the modern enterprise.

The assembly line is typically associated with manufacturing, and clearly, knowledge work involves very different kinds of processes to, say, deciding at what stage workers should glue a badge to an SUV.

Nonetheless, underpinning every business are countless processes—from onboarding new staff, to checking the accuracy of reports to following up sales calls—and workflow management software aims to take some of Henry Ford’s vision, and apply it to these processes.

So, what are the basics of workflow management software and how can it be applied to your business?

Key Components of Workflow Management Software

Workflow management software is evolving to adapt to the ways modern businesses work.

The cloud provides a huge amount of flexibility to the way employees communicate and collaborate, and the quantity of data we can now collect means that highly sophisticated information and insights can be routinely introduced into your processes.

At a minimum, workflow management software should include the following features (and you can review a full spec here):

1.  Human-centric design

Workflow management software needs to be designed in a way that is easy for any user to design.

Even the least technical of employees should be able to visually recreate the business processes they carry out every day through a drag-and-drop interface.

Your tools should be capable of representing the most simple to the most complex of processes. They should also help employees discover new opportunities for promoting collaboration across the organization through automation.

2.  Reporting and management

Modern workflow management software is incredibly easy to use, and most organizations build hundreds of workflows to streamline and improve business processes.

To understand how your system is being used, it is therefore highly valuable to have access to reporting and management tools that help you review how your workflows are being used, and can also give you insights into how they can be improved. And of course, this also gives you a clear indication of ROI.

3.  User interaction

Workflow management software aims to automate predictable and repetitive stages in a process. But, just like Ford’s assembly line, this isn’t intended to remove humans from the process—rather, it lets them monitor the most important parts of the workflow and make key decisions.

Workflow automation software allows users to approve and reject tasks from their email accounts, as well as monitor progress. Ultimately, workflow automation software is about putting more power into the hands of your users.

4.  Extensibility

Modern businesses have an enormous choice of tools and apps they can utilize to support their activities—from HR tools to project management applications, document repositories and customer support desk programs. Some of these will be based in the cloud, others will be hosted in the company’s on-premises server.

As fantastic as these tools are, they often create silos, where information from different tools cannot be easily accessed by different parts of the business.

However, using advanced workflow management software, these different environments can be easily connected. Users break down silos and discover new connections between the range of tools they use.

5.  Supportability

Workflow management software empowers users to improve business processes with sophisticated designs. However, the IT owner should still have ultimate control over all workflow-related activity in order to troubleshoot problems and understand how users are interacting with the product. This means you can help users who are having problems and provide guidance on how to improve processes further.

Revolutionize your Processes with Workflow Management Software

The introduction of the assembly line to manufacturing introduced one of the most profound changes to the speed and quantity of products that the industry could output.

This, in turn, had far-reaching impacts in society – consumers could suddenly access cheap, high-quality goods more easily than ever before. In the last hundred years, assembly lines have improved further to include models like ‘just in time manufacturing’ too.

When it comes to organizational business processes, there is now greater potential than ever before to incorporate this approach to the way knowledge workers do their jobs.

Workflow management software can automate multiple aspects of modern businesses, revolutionize productivity and empower employees to use their skills on the most advanced work, and avoid repetitive tasks.

 

Learn more about how the Nintex Workflow Cloud helps streamline and automate your business processes to revolutionize your business, or download your free trial today.

Vadim Tabakman

Nintex Technical Evangelist Vadim Tabakman is a Nintex developer with 20 years of development experience and more than nine years' experience in SharePoint and Nintex technologies. He understands how SharePoint, business process automation and forms can successfully join forces in numerous industries and business scenarios to drive business adoption and success in SharePoint projects.