Successfully managing a project is a highly complex activity. Project managers are responsible for a huge variety of jobs—from communicating with different stakeholders to monitoring progress, producing reports, and adjusting schedules. Juggling all these activities and wearing these different hats is a huge part of what makes the role so stimulating, but it can also lead to a lot of friction. And this is where workflow management tools aim to help.
Many of the steps involved in running projects are manual and time-consuming. For example, surveys show that project managers often dedicate an entire day each month producing project KPI reports. Between reporting, meetings, and admin tasks, many PMs spend just a small fraction of their time actually managing projects.
These manual tasks eat-up time, which can cause delays, misunderstandings, and miscommunications. And so a growing number of project managers are turning to workflow management tools to help automate tasks, and win back time.
What are workflow management tools?
A workflow is any pattern of activity that can be orchestrated and repeated. In the context of project management, there are countless workflow processes that a project manager will repeat multiple times on all projects they are working on. These include:
- Generating reports on project progress
- Financial analysis
- Task handover
- Getting approvals for stage completion
- Conducting risk management checks
- Monitoring project progress
Workflow management tools are designed to automate these different workflow processes. Rather than the project manager having to manually complete these tasks themselves, software is used to automatically complete them instead.
Automated PM workflow process example
A project manager at a retail business is overseeing the opening of five new stores. This project is highly time-consuming and involves many meetings with stakeholders—both internal and external—as well as suppliers who are doing things like decoration and design in the stores.
There are a huge number of dependencies in this project, and it is her job to continually keep pushing the project forward in line with the plan. Fortunately, she’s using workflow management tools that can automate many of these subtasks.
For example, the software automates the workflow process for handing over specific stages of the project. A sub-contracting company has been hired to decorate the stores. Once they’ve completed the stage, they tell the PM and she instigates a workflow process where her company’s designer inspects the work to ensure it’s up to standard, approve it, and then pass it on to the next stage.
As this workflow process example shows, automation technology makes the process of managing the project much smoother. Different stakeholders automatically get notifications when it is their time to do certain tasks, and this means the project manager does not have to spend time every day chasing subcontractors and communicating with different teams.
Benefits of workflow management tools for project managers
Automating workflow processes provides multiple benefits to project managers, including:
- Wins back time: Rather than continually chasing co-workers, suppliers, or customers (for approvals), project managers can pass these tasks on to a digital tool that will do it all for them.
- Clear responsibility: Using workflow management tools means it is always clear who is responsible for doing what at each stage of the project. Digitizing the workflow process means project participants receive notifications telling them when they must complete a task—and no one can say they did not know. This can help tackle delays too.
- Reduces manual work: Workflow management tools can automatically generate reports about a project’s progress which would otherwise require the project manager to sit down and produce them manually.
- Improve efficiency: Using a workflow management tool can help to improve the workflow process. The project manager must map out all the steps in a process, then identify and remove unnecessary stages, making the workflow more efficient.
- Consistency: By using automated and repeatable workflow processes, project managers can be confident that common project tasks are always done in the same way.
How to begin automating project management workflow processes
Deciding on which workflows to automate will depend on the kinds of projects your organization runs and your specific approach to project management. That being said, when many companies start using workflow management tools, they often begin by identifying manual activities that must be repeated frequently and which take considerable amounts of time to complete.
When it comes to automating workflows in project management, some of the most common tasks to begin automating include things like:
- Project stage approvals
- Project progress reporting
You can use workflow management tools to define all the steps involved in completing these processes and then set them to run on your project as and when you require them.
Nintex’s workflow management tools are used by project managers to do just this. With our easy-to-use workflow process mapping interface—and customizable templates—you can quickly build out workflow processes that fit seamlessly into your projects.
To see more workflow process examples and learn more about Nintex’s workflow management tools for project managers, contact us today.