A workflow analysis is the evaluation of a business’ processes. You know the old saying ‘it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it”? That’s what a workflow analysis is all about. It’s not concerned with what your business does, but rather how it does it. Workflows are the lifeblood of your business, they dictate how you: attract prospects, convert leads, sell your products, control your supply chains, handle your daily operations, and maintain your customer relationships. Understanding your workflows is the first step to improving them.
Analyzing a particular workflow and finding areas where it can be made more efficient is an ongoing process. Your business should adopt a culture of continuous analysis and improvement. Discovering problems is one thing, having a reliable process to fix those problems as they’re found is something completely different.
Here we’ll explain more about how you can start using workflow analysis to improve the workflows you already have as well as making better ones in the future.
Is a Workflow Analysis Worth the Investment?
As a business grows, many times it will choose to keep using workflows that have worked instead of trying to optimize these processes to be more efficient. Reluctance to change something that’s working is totally normal. Most changes in a company’s workflows will mean a short term loss in revenue as the change is implemented. Many companies would prefer to sacrifice something that could be great in favor of something that is currently adequate. The result of an “if it works, don’t fix it attitude” is that inefficiencies which seemed minor when the company was small can turn into profit sucking problems after it scales.
The pain of workflow analysis and improvement can be reduced if your company has a clear process for both. The act of improvement can then move from a one time expense on your balance sheet to a recurring investment in the long term success of your company.
Before you conduct a workflow analysis you first have to get everyone in your organization on the same page. The fact that you’re analyzing the work processes of a particular department or the whole company shouldn’t be a secret. When you scrutinize how someone does their job it’s natural for them to feel threatened or offended. This is the reason why simple monitoring isn’t totally effective.
However, if you convince your employees to openly participate by personally tracking how they go through a workflow, then you make it less threatening. A workflow analysis should start a conversation about making your employees’ lives at work better.
Collect workflow data
You need data to conduct an analysis. You can get this data by either having your employees submit it voluntarily, or collect it through monitoring. We think that it’s best to use a combination of the two methods. Specifically, use monitoring to make decisions about company wide workflows, and employee submissions to improve workflows for individuals.
You can collect the workflow data of individual employees by having them personally track the time they spend on different tasks associated with that workflow. This can be as simple as having them use a task tracker template in Google Sheets or Excel. Make it so that whatever process you use is integrated into the task as much as possible, tracking the workflow should be just another task in the workflow itself. The more that your employees feel like you’re trying to help them become better, the more likely that they will be willing to participate.
Once you have collected data about how a specific workflow is being handled then you can start to look at ways to improve it. Let’s say that you notice that your marketing team is spending a good portion of their day entering leads into the CRM. Data-entry is a task that can be easily automated with a service like Zapier. A simple change like this could save your team hundreds of hours a year.
Break up each workflow into its requisite tasks and explore all the ways you could make it faster, easier, or more enjoyable for your employees. This stage should be very collaborative with the people who are actually executing the workflow. Their feedback is key. They will have trouble accepting any solution that they felt they didn’t participate in selecting.
This stage can make or break your whole plan. The way that you apply the solutions that you came up with in the analyze stage will determine how quickly they are adopted. Process changes should not be introduced all at once, but rather rolled out one after the other. This “timed release” approach will give the workflow time to adjust to each successive improvement.
Wash, Rinse, and Repeat: Like we said earlier, the act of improving your workflows in ongoing. Your company should build the search for the perfect workflow into their culture.
Better Workflows = Better Teams
Your company is made of people. A workflow is a fancy way of describing how those people do their jobs. The more efficient you make the process an employee must perform to complete a task, the more successful they’ll be. When your employees have standardized workflows it makes it easier for them to collaborate which will improves efficiency. By adopting a company wide policy of not letting your employees be hindered by outdated or inefficient processes you create an environment that breeds performance. A workflow analysis is one of the first steps on the road to a better business.