Senior Writer: Naina khare
Workflow optimization is critical for your business’s success. Why do we say that? Outdated business processes can lead to operational inefficiency, frustrated team members, loss of competitiveness, and high cost.
Companies lose over 20-30% of annual revenue due to inefficient processes. Yes, that’s one major reason you shouldn’t neglect optimizing your workflow.
You must conduct workflow analysis and optimize your workflow continuously. Doing so will boost your employees’ efficiency and enable them to focus on more strategic tasks efficiently.
We have curated this guide to enhance your understanding of workflow optimization meaning. It includes workflow optimization benefits, step-by-step process, relevant examples, best practices, and considerations before investing in workflow optimization software.
What is Workflow Optimization?
Workflow optimization is adopting strategies to enhance the efficiency of your multiple workflows. Optimizing workflows helps businesses keep their operations simple and smooth, even when they are expanding. Reduced costs, nil chances of errors, and quick execution of tasks are also a part of the deal.
You can achieve successful workflow optimization by analyzing your business’s existing workflow and automating repetitive and time-draining tasks. By doing so, you put your resources and efforts where it’s extremely critical to business success. Remember, the aim is to reduce human involvement in repetitive business processes and shift from draining manual efforts to efficient workflow automation software.
Key Benefits Of Optimizing Workflows
‘The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.’ – Shigeo Shingo, (Japanese engineer).
That’s one of the reasons why monitoring and optimizing your workflows is essential. It lets you determine the processes draining your time and energy, so you can eventually improve them to boost efficiency. How? By directing your resources towards more pressing tasks.
Here are 5 key benefits of workflow optimization:
1. Upgrades your operational efficiency
The foremost benefit of optimizing workflow is the efficiency it induces in your business processes by automating them. It frees your employees from repetitive and administrative tasks while giving them space to focus on crafting innovative strategies. This gives your business a competitive edge while keeping your entire team highly productive.
2. Improvement in work quality
Workflow optimization streamlines your business processes, reducing the chances of human errors and ultimately enhancing the quality of work. When your team knows exactly what to do, the chances of doubt or time wastage are reduced. They can focus better on checking off their to-do list rather than doing random non-essential tasks that add little value to the company.
3. Easy access to accurate data
Optimizing workflow organizes and protects your data better. How? By automating the process of recording your business data wherein you can set relevant data access restrictions. Minimum human intervention in this process drops the chances and number of mistakes, maintaining data accuracy. Once workflows are optimized, you can rely on this relevant and updated database for your data needs.
4. A more nimble organization
Another major benefit of workflow optimization is the agility it offers to an organization. Having an organizational flow and work standards sorted is great, but what if one sticks to it for years without adapting to new market needs? It stunts your business’s growth and lags you far behind your competitors. Workflow optimization allows you to restructure your workflow to exploit new opportunities.
5. More Transparency and accountability
Optimizing workflow allows you to track employee performance and share information across departments. When employees are aware of being productively monitored at work, they complete all assigned tasks within timelines, increasing their productivity.
Also, workflow management solution facilitates real-time cross-departmental information sharing. This keeps your team aware of the ongoing operations, minimizing the chances of miscommunication and ensuring that the transparency of business operations is intact.
How To Optimize Workflows?
73% of industry leaders say that automation saves up to 50% of their time. You can do the same by optimizing the workflow and minimizing the manual processing of repetitive tasks. So, jump on the bandwagon with fellow business owners to save time and achieve business goals more quickly and efficiently.
Here’s a step-by-step process of optimizing workflow:
Step 1: State your outcomes clearly
Optimizing your workflow is a win for you only if it brings you the desired results. Have a clear idea of the end goal you’re striving to achieve by crafting and adopting that particular workflow. You can then backtrack it and outline the steps, team members, or resources you’d want in your workflow. Feel free to incorporate one, two, or all the company divisions in your flow. This process doesn’t consume your time but invests it for the better!
Step 2: Reconfirm the process to achieve outcomes
Workflow is the foundation on which your business rests. So, ensure that it is unwaveringly strong and is set over the right goals. Before incorporating the new process, map it to spot and improve any inefficiencies. Don’t forget to walk through your process quickly, check for inefficient workflows, ensure each step’s relevancy, and eliminate repetitive manual processes. Also, ensure your process is optimized for the highest efficiency.
Step 3: Simplify or optimize
Once you have a map, your workflow will follow, but try simplifying it further. To do this, consider breaking down your business processes into smaller tasks. Or listing out the most crucial tasks and performing them in their order of importance is also a wise choice. Ensure that each process step adds value to your business and profit.
Step 4: Reduce run completion time
The goal is to streamline your workflow and ensure the process is completed within a shorter period, enhancing productivity. Accept feedback from the stakeholders to spot the loopholes instantly. You’ll then be aware of the tasks that are more time-consuming, create inefficiencies, cause miscommunication, are irrelevant, or need re-work. You can simply work on the areas that need improvement to speed up the workflow run time.
Step 5: Automate
Automated workflows eliminate human error, task redundancy, and inefficiency due to manual labor. It also gives room to focus on expansion strategies better while reducing the need to hire employees to perform the tasks. For example, workflow automation can help you reduce your SaaS spending by 20% by optimizing your usage.
Examples Of Workflow Optimization
To understand workflow optimization, let’s dive deep into two relevant workflow optimization examples.
1. Inventory Management Workflow
Suppose you own a grocery delivery business and place huge stock orders regularly. To run your business successfully and improve project management, you must always ensure inventory availability at the warehouse. Here’s when an optimized workflow for inventory management comes in.
Overview of the inventory workflow:
- The inventory level goes down
- Stock orders are placed
- Order details sent for management approval
- The requirement is communicated to the vendor
- Order gets delivered
- Stock is first reviewed and sorted before storing
- Inventory is back in stock
The workflow doesn’t end here; order management, inventory control, PO creation, and so on are also part of the streamlined workflow of inventory management.
2. Onboarding new employees’ workflow
Onboarding new employees is an extensive task. For instance, you want to fill an executive sales position in your company. For that, you’ll follow a series of steps that involve multiple departments. Once that’s done, the candidate will go through a process before officially starting to work as an employee.
Optimized workflow of the onboarding process will look like:
- Informing HR about the new position
- Creating a job description
- Getting the job description approved by the concerned teams
- Posting job descriptions on different job portals
- Reviewing the application
- Shortlisting the best ones
- Conducting interviews
- Hiring a suitable candidate
- Removing the job opening post
- Gathering candidate information and completing documentation processes
- Ensuring the training completion for all the new candidates
Employee onboarding and inventory management workflow are two great examples of how business processes flow in an organization’s vertical. But optimizing workflow is not limited to them. It spreads to various sub-domains, such as invoicing, supply chain management, sales prospecting, and customer relationship management, for cost minimization and higher efficiency.
Best Practices Of Workflow Optimization
69% of Americans make higher purchases from companies that treat them better and have good customer service. Gaining more customers and increasing your profits 10x is possible with proper workflow optimization techniques. Create an error-free workflow with these workflow optimization best practices.
1. Learn the Five Focusing Steps
It is common to identify bottlenecks amidst a complex system, but how you work on removing them defines a business’s success. Here’s how to eliminate process deficiencies and improve your workflow for effective project management:
A) Identify the problem
Suppose you own a pen factory and produce 50 pens/per hour. But the problem is that you should produce 100 pens/hour to fulfill the customer’s order. Identification of the problem is critical to its resolution and streamlined workflows.
B) Exploit your resources
After problem identification, leverage your existing resources. Under tight deadlines, try increasing the machine’s running time, but it has an upper limit. Next, fully utilize your existing workers. But note that they cannot match the machine’s speed, so they cannot prepare the final product that fast.
Also, gauge the product quality using statistical quality management methods so that quality is not compromised while focusing on quantity.
C) Increase the responsibilities
The only option to increase the output is to increase the working hours; adding night and weekend shifts can help you achieve that.
D) Improve the constraint performance
As there’s a limit to labor’s working hours, you might need to add some new workers to increase production. If the problem persists, shift to automating certain tasks, such as packing orders.
E) Repeat this workflow optimization process
Once the constraint is resolved, closely observe the workflow to spot and discard any inefficiency slowing production.
2. Reduce the Number of Simultaneous Processes
If a workflow is brimming with too many complex processes, it might experience more bottlenecks, leading to low productivity. The ideal way to optimize workflows is to keep the process simple because monitoring and communication get disturbed when too many simultaneous tasks occur. Improper monitoring increases errors and losses in the long run.
3. Identify Which Industries Can Benefit from Lean
Consider adopting lean operations into your business to make your processes flow effortlessly. You can trust the lean method to optimize your business workflows, as top companies like Amazon have been following lean for the past 25 years. F&B, government, healthcare, and hospitality are some industries that follow lean for eliminating waste, filtering out all unnecessary processes, and bringing in workflow efficiency. If you fall under similar industries, you can also avail yourself of lean benefits!
4. Minimize Multitasking Regularly
An English broadcaster, Jeremy Clarkson, says, “Multitasking is the ability to screw everything up simultaneously.” That’s why you should avoid practicing multitasking in your business processes.
When you or your team multitasks, you fail to focus on any task, reducing productivity. Ensure your workflow enables you to dedicate undivided time to tasks for higher efficiency and better management.
5. Reassess Priorities
Optimizing your workflow is incomplete if you don’t regularly check if any tasks need to be added or problems to be resolved. Repeatedly assessing your workflow gives insights into your competitiveness, alignment of tasks and goals, and adequate staffing. This helps you re-determine and set new priorities, reduce resource wastage, and streamline processes.
How To Pick The Right Workflow Optimization Software For Your Organization?
The workflow optimization software is designed to automate existing workflows, reduce time wastage, and furnish data for managers to analyze and modify processes accordingly.
Choosing the right workflow optimization software can be hard, but not as much if you rest your choice on the right pointers:
1. Consider your business requirements
While selecting the right software, be clear about your requirements—tasks you’re looking to automate, the company’s size, and your need to customize workflow diagram. The success of software lies in its usability and applicability to your business, so choose wisely.
|Small – Simple workflow management software
Large – Office automation technology
|Need to create custom workflows
|Customized No-code Tool
|Large number of tasks
|High – SaaS application
Low – On-premise software
2. Assess ability to integrate with existing solutions
One software cannot perform all the functions involved in workflow optimization. So, choosing workflow software that can work well with your company’s current workflow solutions is better. Workflow integrations facilitate external software to access companies’ different solutions and send automated notifications to alert you to take timely actions. This automates internal and external workflow together.
3. Check the functionality
Choosing the software with all the functions you’re looking for would be best. Make a list of non-negotiable functions according to your needs. For instance, small businesses might be fine with simple document management software to streamline their data and files. But larger enterprises might not want to go below a robust workflow program due to their complex business process.
Here are two major must-have functions in workflow optimization software:
- The option to set triggers for manual input or review approval requests. It alerts the relevant department to do the required task.
- The no-code automation option allows non-technical personnel to easily automate workflows–scheduling specific tasks and automatic form filling.
SaaS CRM FAQ's
The workflow optimization technique involves strategy crafting and application for better efficiency of different organizational processes.
Here are 4 major workflow optimization tips:
- Prioritize customers.
- Use time efficiently by prioritizing tasks.
- Represent your workflow visually for better understanding.
- Accept and apply feedback and suggestions from stakeholders.
Workflow optimization strives to apply strategies that increase the overall efficiency of all existing workflows. In contrast, workflow management is the overall design and orchestration of the processes to achieve specific goals.
Major workflow optimization strategies are:
- Keep your workflow simple and agile.
- Brainstorm strategies to improve business processes.
- Focus on determining the constraint in the workflow.