It would be nice to think that business processes naturally get more efficient over time. But as industry standards change, team members come and go, and legacy systems lose their edge, workflows can actually get more complicated. Before you know it, your original workflow has more steps than you can easily keep track of.
It’s important to streamline workflows from time to time to remove unnecessary steps and eliminate bottlenecks. Here’s how to know when it’s time to streamline workflows and how to use workflow automation software to improve business efficiency.
What Does It Mean to Streamline a Workflow?
A workflow is a series of steps that describes how a task should be completed. It’s often used in project management to ensure that team members follow the same steps each time in order to achieve a desired outcome. A workflow is similar to a process, which is also a series of repeatable steps, except that a process is more expansive and may consist of multiple workflows that together make up your business operations.
Both workflows and work processes can be streamlined by identifying unnecessary or time-consuming tasks and eliminating them or automating them. By streamlining workflows, you’ll reduce the number of people needed to complete the work and make it easier for new employees to become familiar with your operating processes.
How Do You Know When to Streamline Workflows?
Even the most complex workflows can appear set in stone until someone takes the initiative to review them. You’ll know it’s time to streamline a workflow when:
- It consists of many repetitive, recurring tasks.
- There are frequent delays due to the need for manual input or approval.
- It relies on multiple software solutions or inefficient tools like paper documents and spreadsheets.
- Different team members follow a different series of steps to complete the same workflow.
- The amount of time it takes to complete the workflow is increasing.
Often, inefficient workflows are the result of ad hoc solutions as team members try to adhere to requirements from various stakeholders or patch together incompatible systems. Eventually, redundant tasks, bottlenecks, and data silos start to pile up.
Organizations can streamline workflows by investing in new tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, or by implementing new methodologies, such as business process automation.
Benefits of Streamlining Business Processes
On the one hand, the benefits of workflow process improvement seem obvious. What organization wouldn’t want to improve process efficiency? But in order to streamline a workflow effectively, you’ll need buy-in from other stakeholders and team members.
Here are several key benefits of streaming business processes to highlight when seeking buy-in:
Reduce the possibility of human error
The more variability there is in a work process, the more likely it is that people will make mistakes. Without a clear and consistent workflow, team members may take shortcuts, improvise, or otherwise stray from the most efficient process.
As part of a broader digital transformation process, you can use standardized templates to keep workflows consistent and business automation tools to take care of the manual tasks that are most prone to human error — such as data entry.
Help ensure compliance
In addition to increasing consistency, streamlined workflows help ensure compliance because you can easily look back to see which steps were followed and keep a record of what went on. Plus, by digitizing and automating processes and moving them to a cloud-based system, you’ll increase your digital security and eliminate data silos.
Automated workflows empower your employees to get more done. Team members can spend less time on tedious, time-consuming tasks and more time on the higher-level decision-making that adds value to your business.
New hires benefit from a more efficient onboarding process, since it takes less time for them to get up to speed on your current workflows and operational processes.
6 Easy Steps to Streamlining Workflows
How to streamline workflows doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Follow these six steps to analyze your existing processes and develop new and improved workflows:
1. Conduct a business process analysis
A business process analysis is a way of analyzing your existing workflows so as to find a better way of doing things. Start by creating a flowchart or diagram that depicts your current process in a way that’s easy to understand. Sometimes, just visualizing your workflow in a new way can help you identify bottlenecks and redundancies.
In some cases, you may need a more comprehensive business process management solution. Consider doing a root cause analysis to get to the bottom of a problem, or a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
2. Choose the right software
One of the biggest mistakes that organizations can make when streamlining workflows is to build a new app or invest in new work management software before analyzing their workflows. This can lead teams to get locked into inefficient solutions, and then companies have to spend even more time and money untangling complex workflows.
Let your workflows dictate the tools you use, not the other way around. When you use Pulpstream to streamline workflows, you can choose from pre-built workflow solutions or create custom integrations with existing software tools. Plus, our no-code interface means anyone on your team can use it — not just the technical experts.
3. Eliminate unnecessary steps
Once you have a flowchart or workflow diagram and your software tools in place, look for steps that you can eliminate altogether. Maybe you don’t need as many people to sign off on every leave of absence request or you can create a self-service portal so employees can easily submit requests to your human resources team.
Redundant tasks are also good candidates for elimination. For example, maybe the customer data you need is in another team’s database and doesn’t need to be entered twice.
4. Automate recurring tasks
Some tasks that can’t be eliminated can be automated. Chances are that you already use automation for some things, like scheduling meetings, processing payroll, or sending out customer satisfaction surveys. Why not use it to automate HR processes?
Look for repetitive, recurring tasks that don’t require much human oversight. You can use workflow automation software to process employee data, fill out forms, send out email notifications, generate new user accounts, and more. Use it to streamline the employee onboarding process, the return-to-work process, and other key workflows.
5. Document your new process
Before rolling out a new workflow for the first time, create workflow documentation so it can be performed routinely and consistently. Make use of templates, checklists, and project management software so that everyone on your team follows the same steps.
When you document each iteration of a process, it’s easy to track the success of the workflow and see how small changes impact your overall business efficiency.
6. Review and follow up
Even the most efficient workflows need tune-ups from time to time. Check in with your team members, stay informed about industry trends, and use customized rules to incorporate new regulations without having to revise your entire workflow. Be flexible enough to try out new ideas and strive for continuous process improvement.
Cloud-based platforms like Pulpstream feature built-in dashboards and reporting tools so you can track specific metrics over time. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor your workflow and see how it performs in a real-world environment.
Streamline Business Processes With Workflow Automation
Sometimes organizations continue to use outdated tools, legacy software, and complex workflows simply because that’s how they’ve always done things. When you streamline workflows with digitization and automation, you can save time and money — and spare your team members from having to perform tedious, time-consuming tasks.
Pulpstream’s workflow automation tools can modernize almost any workflow. From the claims management process to audits and inspections, use Pulpstream to standardize procedures, empower your employees, and ensure compliance across the board.
Request a free demo today to see Pulpstream in action and learn more!