Workflow analysis helps organizations discover and act on workflow performance issues.
Workflow analysis is the process of examining an organization’s workflows, generally for the purpose of improving operational efficiency. It identifies areas of process improvement such as redundant tasks or processes, inefficient workplace layouts and bottlenecks in the workflow.
Improving workflows allows an organization to use its resources more efficiently, especially for processes where a team must hand off its work to another team. A situation in which one team is often waiting to receive work from another team is a common type of bottleneck that workflow analysis can identify. Another scenario in which workflow analysis can improve efficiency occurs when workers perform unnecessary tasks, typically in established processes requiring multiple steps to complete.
A workflow is a procedure for accomplishing a repeatable objective. It isn’t a task, which is a one-time action as opposed to a repeatable process. A workflow is also not a collection of unrelated tasks, which you could describe more accurately as a project. A workflow is a set of tasks performed in sequence on a regular basis.
Business analysts typically present a workflow graphically, rather than simply listing the steps in the workflow process. Workflow management software usually performs the work of creating and documenting these diagrams based on textual inputs from users. A graphic representation of the workflow allows you to visualize the business processes more easily, which can extremely helpful in analyzing and improving the workflow. The software also allows you to track the workflow from beginning to end.
Business workflow analysis is essential for making organizational processes more efficient, which reduces the cost of completing each task. Small improvements in a process’s efficiency can save a great deal of money when an organization is performing that process many times. Redundant tasks or manual tasks that should be automated can be particularly costly for an organization. A common example of this type is a report no one ever reads that takes hours to prepare. This situation often occurs when the reason for generating the report no longer exists, but no one removes the report generation procedure from its workflow.
A more efficient workflow has a lot of additional benefits such as shorter lead times for clients. The ability to achieve faster outcomes can also motivate staff members to improve their own performance. Furthermore, simpler workflows facilitate the onboarding and training of new employees, especially those that need to work remotely.
Organizations should fully analyze all of their workflows, although some improvements will have a greater impact than others. The tasks to focus on first are the core tasks that generate revenue for a business, while support functions should be analyzed afterward. The best order for analyzing tasks is highly dependent upon each business, although task prioritization generally involves answering the following questions:
Answering the question “What do we do?” involves identifying your organization’s core tasks, from the beginning to the end of revenue generation. The sequencing of these tasks can vary greatly between organizations, depending on the sector. For example, production is the first step for some businesses, while sales come first in others.
Answer the question “How do we do it?” by identifying each step in your workflow. It’s important to be thorough in this stage since an apparently trivial step can have a major impact on workflow efficiency.
The question “Why do we do it?” helps you determine if you need to perform each step. If you have no clear answer to this question, it may mean that step is unnecessary and a waste of resources. Steps that fail to add value to a process are prime candidates for deletion. These steps often include the creation and storage of records, which usually don’t have a direct connection to revenue generation.
Workflow analysis also requires you to determine what each department in your organization does, since virtually all workflows involve passing work from one department to another. Consider the example of a manufacturing business — a customer places an order with a sales representative, who sends the order to the warehouse. Staff members at the warehouse fill the order from inventory and pack it for shipment. They send the order to the shipping department, which then ships the order to the customer. This workflow also includes intra-departmental processes such as the sales department informing the accounting department of the order, which will then collect payment.
Once you’ve identified inefficiencies in your workflow, the next step is to improve efficiency. Many organizations hire outside consultants for this task since they can be impartial observers. If you’re an in-house staff member, it’s important to view the workflow as if you’re doing so for the first time. Solicit as much input as you can from the people who actually perform the steps in the workflow, since there’s a good chance they’ll already be aware of areas that are limiting their productivity.
The implementation of workflow management software is one of the easiest ways to make your workflows more efficient. It automatically assigns an employee to the next task as each one is completed, eliminating the need for them to continually send each other messages to decide which tasks each employee will perform. This advantage allows employees to spend more time creating real value for their organization.
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