Making Process Improvement a Priority

Making Process Improvement a Priority

Making Process Improvement a Priority

The best process improvement initiative is the one that gets done.

It’s simple. The best type of process improvement initiative at your company is the one that gets done.

Not the major project that you keep talking about but never action. Not the “current-state” process mapping exercise that ticks a box but has no follow-up actions.

No.

The BEST type is the one that you action.

Where you ship improvements.

For process improvement to have a true impact, your employees need to be able to touch and feel it. They need to feel the impact of those improvements in their everyday working life, no matter how big or small.

Process improvement is affected by momentum. By regularly shipping improvements – even the smallest improvements – you begin to build a culture of change.

We see this with our own clients. It’s why Flowingly often starts off being used by a single department and within 2 years is used company-wide. Because the Operations team starts automating some processes, then the HR team takes a peek, then Sales, Finance and so on.

When they ask how the other team did it, the answer is simple. “We started.”

This applies to both methodologies and platforms.

Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizen, Agile. They all work.

No-code, low-code, mapping, mining, RPA. They all work too.

Each of these methodologies and platform types will have an impact when done well.

The question you need to ask is “which one can we action?”

Process improvement is affected by momentum. By regularly shipping improvements – even the smallest improvements – you begin to build a culture of change.

Bonus for making it this far…

Here are some tips for creating effective process improvement initiatives in your organization.

1. Be honest about your constraints

Got a decent sized team of developers? Great. All of the platform types listed above are options to you.

If not, cross off low-code, RPA and process mining.

Genuine support and vision for process improvement from the exec team? Business-wide process mapping is a great option.

If not, don’t even try.

Be very honest with yourself about your constraints. Without acknowledging them, you will end up with false starts and inaction.

2. Focus on consistency

What can the business continuously maintain over the coming years?

What can you consistently deploy?

You want to choose a tool that works for you today AND in 2 years’ time.

You might have a couple of weeks in January to dedicate to building that highly-integrated, uber-automated workflow. But will you then be swamped with BAU for the rest of the year?

Consistent effort is key to process improvement.

3. Get started

Action creates momentum.

Many of the successful process initiatives that I have seen are business-driven. Often, they are started by one or two people who are fed up with the status quo.

Every business needs doers.

You hear commentators mention it on the sports field all the time. “She really leads by example”. What they are saying is that she is doing the right things, and the others are inspired to follow.

The same goes in the workplace.

4. And once you’ve done this…keep improving

No process is perfect. No way.

Focus on shipping improvements – not aiming for perfection.

Maybe it’s making a process slightly more streamlined by removing an unnecessary step. Maybe it’s automating an approval that takes your team 10 minutes every day.

By continuously shipping improvements you will begin to build a culture of continuous improvement within yourself and the people around you.

Book a demo and see Flowingly process mapping and workflow automation for yourself. 👇

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Find articles covering all your workflow needs. From creating better processes to change management.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting with Workflow Automation

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting with Workflow Automation

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting with Workflow Automation

1. Don’t attack your biggest process first (even if it’s your most broken)

You’re hosting a dinner party. You’ve got a recipe you’ve cooked a thousand times before that you could make with your eyes closed and a recipe you’ve made once that you weren’t 100% confident with.

You need to cook both, but which do you start with?

A lot of people come to us with a specific process in mind they want mapped and automated. Usually, this process is the most inefficient within the organization, is difficult to automate and includes a truck load of people.

Similar to the dinner party scenario, would we recommend you automate with the process you know inside out or the process causing you the most problems? Definitely the first.

This might look like tackling your shorter, simple leave request workflow before attempting employee onboarding. This will help you (1) gain experience in building out processes (2) get employees engaged with workflow faster and (3) help your organization build momentum.

Once you’ve mastered a few simple workflows and got company buy in, you’ll be in a much better position to tackle that complex, highly-political process.

2. Not starting with the process first

If a process isn’t good to start with, how will automating it improve it?

Time and time again businesses come to us saying their processes aren’t working. Compliance is shoddy, deadlines are being missed and their teams are stressed.

While workflow automation has a part to play in helping businesses improve compliance and productivity, it isn’t the only part.

Like polishing a turd, automating a poor process will only highlight the flaws in a process, not hide them.

Having great businesses processes is the key to true process excellence for us, that’s why every Flowingly customer gets a customer success manager. The goal shouldn’t be automating processes, the goal should be achieving process excellence and creating better workflow builders.

Our friends at rhipe discussed how they approach this, from process to automation to integration, at our latest webinar which you can find here.

This might look like tackling your shorter, simple leave request workflow before attempting employee onboarding.

3. Not providing additional context and information to processes

Sometimes people don’t follow a process because it doesn’t exist. Sometimes people just don’t follow a process because it isn’t engaging or easy to follow.

Let’s say you have an incident report/harassment process mapped out within your organization.

Can your employees quickly get access to your policies around harassment? What if someone brushes off an incident because they aren’t sure it constitutes harassment within the business?

When it comes to an incident workflow adding things like a list of company values, links to bullying policies and assurances of confidentiality can quickly improve the employee experience. Ensuring your process isn’t just mapped, but clear and easy for any employee to follow is crucial, whether they’ve been at the company a day or a year.

4. Having a set and forget attitude

Process improvement doesn’t stop with automation. It’s a never-ending process, not something you can set up once and then forget about.

Some companies make the mistake of taking a mapped process, automating it and then never re-evaluating it again. Continuously evaluating and searching for better ways to optimize your workflows is the key to creating true process excellence.

Just because a process has been mapped and automated doesn’t make it perfect. With automation reporting you can identify in real-time where your process bottlenecks are.

Kristen at Upper Hutt City Council outlined their continuous improvement approach in a recent webinar you can check out here.

When talking about workflow iterations she said “we started off simple with a form with 3 short fields but as I learned more about how things worked and talked to other people in other departments…I was able to expand on what we already have. And make it better. Now we just use a single table.”

Key to iterating on your workflows is having a platform that supports ongoing improvement. If small changes take you hours or days to deploy, you won’t do them. Make sure you choose a platform where workflow tweaks can be made in minutes (like Flowingly).

5. Sending irrelevant, excessive notifications

Notifications are an excellent way to help team members complete steps in a process, but they need to contain all the necessary information and be sent at the right time.

Receiving a notification that doesn’t tell you how to complete a step – bad for user experience. Being sent an approval notification after the deadline – bad for productivity.

Sending out too many unnecessary reminders (especially irrelevant ones) about due dates and approvals will have the opposite effect when it comes to productivity. In fact, notification overload will make your users more likely to ignore or mute notifications – not only harming productivity but also harming the future adoption of digital technologies.

Save the reminders for when you need something actioned or when someone needs to oversee part of the process.

Book a demo and see Flowingly process mapping and workflow automation for yourself. 👇

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Find articles covering all your workflow needs. From creating better processes to change management.

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Celebrating Flowingly’s $4.5m Fundraise!

Celebrating Flowingly’s $4.5m Fundraise!

Celebrating Flowingly’s $4.5m Fundraise!

A letter from the CEO

Last week we announced that Flowingly had secured an incredible $4.5m in funding, led by GD1 and Icehouse Ventures.

While this is great news for us as a business, we’re actually way more excited for what this means for our customers.

At Flowingly our goal has always been to enable front-line employees to map, automate and improve their own processes without coding or IT support.

This new investment will allow us to expand the Flowingly product and vision to new markets, allowing organizations worldwide to rapidly transform their processes and create process champions from their employees.

It’ll also help us build up our team, which will in turn improve our product offering. We’ll be able to release even more features faster than ever and make significant improvements to the Flowingly experience.

A true no-code solution

I founded Flowingly in 2016, while searching for a workflow automation solution.

Most of the mid-market solutions I found required heavy IT ownership, with IT teams solely setting up and maintaining organizational workflows. Many of these platforms were also big, clunky legacy solutions which were impeding true agile process automation efforts.

I needed something different. An agile, no-code tool I could build powerful workflows in without a team of developers.

That’s how Flowingly came about.

After years of working on and self-investing in the product, we finally managed to create a product we were proud of.

As a team, we’ve always had a strong belief in the power of company-wide workflow automation and process improvement.

Your people are your greatest asset and the people who use your processes every day – why not give them the tools and the support they need to improve the way they work?

We’ve seen this vision resonate with organizations from smaller mid-market businesses to a Fortune 100 company.

Process improvement and automation shouldn’t be limited to enterprise organizations.

At Flowingly our goal has always been to enable front-line employees to map, automate and improve their own processes without coding or IT support.

Jon Kalaugher

CEO & Founder, Flowingly

Creating a new category

Two things were essential to us when developing the product.

Firstly, it needed to be user-friendly. If organizations were going to create process champions and citizen developers out of their staff, the tool needed to be easy to use. We needed your HR managers, your Heads of Finance and your CIOs to be able to jump in and get started. That’s why we went completely drag and drop.

Secondly, we wanted to create a truly no-code experience. No-code for us meant no rules, no developers, no knowledge of code languages. At all.

This has meant we’ve been able to help mid-market businesses around the world transform their old, manual ways of working into modern digital experiences in as little as 30 minutes.

It has also helped empower front-line employees to create and improve their own processes.

We’ve seen a rates officer at a local council lead the way in fully transforming their financial processes. We’ve seen a waste management company automate over 80 workflows in just 12 months.

The power of process improvement has never been more accessible.

From our team to yours

Once again, a massive thank you to all of our customers who placed their trust in us for their process improvement journeys.

We couldn’t have done it without the support of the teams at GD1 and Icehouse Ventures who are fully backing the Flowingly mission.

To see how you could cut admin and waste out of your processes, get a trial today!

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Process Mapping and Automation – Better Together 

Process Mapping and Automation – Better Together 

Process Mapping and Automation – Better Together 

A lot of businesses approach us with a single platform requirement.

Maybe they’re looking for process mapping software because don’t have clear or well documented processes in place. Or maybe they’re looking for automation because they’re having problems with delays, productivity and compliance.

Typically, they aren’t looking for a solution that does both.

One of the reasons for this is that it’s rare that a platform offers both – Flowingly does because we have seen first-hand the impact strong processes can have on the success of workflow automation and the power workflow automation can bring to mapped processes.

So why do you need process mapping?

A company needs to have their processes clearly mapped out for their employees to avoid chaos and ensure compliance. The more structured a company’s processes, the better their teams will work and the easier it will be to scale.

Without a clear process map for employees to follow, it becomes increasingly difficult to properly manage projects from start to finish. There might be information sitting in massive email chains, on stray pieces of paper or worse – in somebody’s head. If that person leaves, where does that leave the process?

By mapping and clearly defining your organization’s processes you can ensure consistency across the business – so even a new employee understands how a task or project is completed from start to end.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking process mapping makes sense but automation seems intensive or time-consuming.

The combination of workflow automation and process mapping provides organizations with a greater level of insight into not just their processes, but how their processes are running.

Just because a process is mapped doesn’t mean it’s being followed. With automation, you can ensure it is and if it isn’t, you can understand why.

Process maps help show the relationship between different tasks and help communicate the steps required in each process, who is responsible for what and the requirements of the tasks. Workflow automation comes in and helps ensure that each task is completed on time and accurately.

The combination of these two tools is the key to process excellence for many organizations and can help significantly improve process efficiency without dramatically increasing costs or resource.

Alright, so why Flowingly?

There are great process mapping platforms. There are also great workflow automation platforms. There aren’t many platforms that do both.

This means you might find an incredible tool where your business teams build processes but when it comes to automating them you’ve got to basically hand them over to your developers to translate and build them all over again in a different tool. Or maybe you’ve found an incredible workflow tool but have no idea where to start when it comes to mapping out your processes.

An automated workflow is only as strong as the process it’s built against.

With Flowingly you’ve got both tools built-in, meaning you can rapidly map out a process right off the bat and automate it with a click. Just like that. No developers, no platform switching.

While many of those businesses who approach us come to us in need of either a process mapping or workflow automation tool, more often than not they’re really looking for both.

True digital transformation comes when process improvement and process excellence is felt organization-wide, with businesses actively caring about the experience of their staff and customers.

Book a demo and see Flowingly process mapping and workflow automation for yourself. 👇

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Find articles covering all your workflow needs. From creating better processes to change management.

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How to Build Successful Workflows

How to Build Successful Workflows

How to Build Successful Workflows

You’ve heard that automating your workflows will give you all sorts of productivity and visibility gains. You’ve decided on your workflow platform and you’re ready to go. But then you ask yourself:

“How do I actually build a decent workflow?”

Many people believe that workflows are designed to tie together systems.

They send emails for you automatically. They trigger a purchase order to be raised. They flag an issue.

However, this leaves out a key part of the equation. The people.

Building successful workflows is all about the people element.

For your workflow to be considered “successful”, ask yourself:

A) Does this improve the employee or customer experience?

B) Does this increase company productivity?

It is easy to focus on one of these over the other.

You can build the most efficient workflow possible. But if your employees get frustrated using it, they will find ways around it.

So how do you keep the people element in mind when building your workflow?

Here are 6 tips that may help:

Make it easy to follow

Design your workflow for those who are using it. Not for those who are building it.

Your workflow should read more like a process, not a system map.

Label steps clearly and in a way that makes sense to anyone.

Include instruction fields where helpful. This prompts people on what they need to do.

Avoid acronyms and jargon.

The idea here is that everyone from your CEO to your new intern should be able to understand at a glance who is responsible and what is required of them.

Serve up the right information at the right time

Searching for information is one of the biggest time wasters in the workplace.

Depending on which study you want to reference, the average employee spends anywhere in the range of 4.5 to 9 hours a week searching for information.

How can your workflow give your employees back all these wasted hours?

It serves up the right information when they need it.

Think of things like:

  • Having your Working from Home policy available as a downloadable attachment in the Working from Home application.
  • Saving a “Welcome to XYZ” email template in your Sales Handover workflow.
  • Serving up relevant contracts and paperwork within a workflow, rather than saved in some obscure SharePoint folder.

Think about your audience

Will your HR team be using the workflow? Or will it be your factory staff?

Will they be at a desk? Or on the factory floor?

Your audience will define what makes a good workflow.

What output are you looking to achieve? Work backwards from there.

Maybe the output you’re looking for is that your factory staff consistently log incident reports. Make it easier for them by using dropdown options and image uploads rather than asking them to write an essay.

Potentially you want to increase the quality and consistency of your employee onboardings. Submission speed and screen size is not as much a factor here. Instead, give your team everything they need in one place, from tax forms to H&S induction records.

Equally, if you want to speed up your CAPEX sign-offs, make sure your Executive team can sign-off on the go. Phone notifications with one-touch approval may be best here.

Your audience will define what makes a good workflow.

What output are you looking to achieve? Work backwards from there.

Utilize automated reminders and deadlines

As people we’re inherently forgetful. Even more so when we’re under the pump.

Lean on your workflow system to do the remembering for you.

Adding deadlines and reminders to each step of a workflow gives your employees a clear To Do list to follow.

Automating these reminders means that you should never have to push the process. It should roll right along without any intervention.

Added bonus: Adding deadlines to a step in Flowingly will allow you to run reports on your SLAs. Even if it’s not a critical action, adding deadlines to all steps will make it easier to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies within your processes.

Ditch the documentation

If your staff need to read an instruction manual on how to submit a request, then you’re in trouble.

Big trouble.

They’ll end up emailing the CFO direct rather than applying through your overly confusing CAPEX form.

Ditch the documentation and design an experience that makes life easier for your employees.

Label fields in a way that makes sense to the end-user.

Include instructions and rich content such as videos or templates to guide them.

Add a “Help” email address to your more complex forms. Or if your workflow system has it (as Flowingly does), prompt users to leave any troubleshooting questions in the comments.

Future-proof your workflows

Workflow admins change. Whether your Business Analyst, HR Manager or CIO is building your workflows, chances are they will move on at some point.

The last thing you need is for your workflows to fall over as soon as they leave.

It might seem crazy, but we’ve heard companies say they had to rebuild a workflow because they had no idea how it was built in the first place.

That’s one of the benefits of a no-code system. You don’t have to decipher lines of code to uncover how the workflow works.

The most important thing? The people.

There’s a famous Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui o te Ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

When improving your processes and workflows, start with the people.

Think of their experience. What would make their job easier? What information do they need to complete their tasks? What would remove frustrations from their day-to-day?

Do this, and the productivity will come with it.

Want to find out how Flowingly puts the employee experience first? Get a demo today.

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The quickest wins of process improvement

The quickest wins of process improvement

The quickest wins of process improvement

Nothing replaces a robust process review and improvement process but unfortunately, we don’t always have the capacity or the buy-in.

The best way to build up momentum for a comprehensive process review is by quickly demonstrating value. Formal process improvement frameworks often incorporate quick wins into their early stages. Sometimes even these quick wins aren’t quick enough.

With that in mind, we’ve developed a plan for a 15-minute session to help your team achieve more and get the ball rolling on BPI.

The 15-minute, extra quick, quick-wins session

1. Identify the attendees to contribute to the quick-wins session.

2. Communicate with transparency, explaining the session to attendees and describe which process(es) are in scope.

3. Ask the attendees to create a record of issues in the week ahead of the session.

A Record of Issues

Whenever a team member encounters an undocumented problem or area of improvement, create a new sticky note with the name of the process is and the root cause of what went wrong. Particularly look for tasks that were more difficult, cost more or took more time than they could have.

The session:

4. During the session, add all sticky notes to a white board or poster board. Classify each issue by process and remove any duplicates. Briefly introduce each issue to the group.

5. Ask the attendees to spend five minutes silently writing solutions and sticking them next to their respective issues.

6. Once the time is up, take a photo of the board as it is.

7. Ask the group the following questions, moving solutions aside as they’re excluded.

a “Are there any solutions on the board that are not within our power to implement?”
b “Are there any solutions on the board that are risky?”
c “Are there any solutions on the board that are not low cost?”

8. Assign remaining solutions to individuals to serve as the “change owners”

Follow up:

9. Follow up a week later with each change owner to document and support the changes.

10. Use documented outcomes to build a case for BPI.

11. Keep the list of issues, processes and suggested solutions for the initial stages of a process review.

Small wins build momentum

The key to getting a process improvement initiative off the ground is demonstrating value to stakeholders almost immediately.

Importantly, process improvement can lose momentum almost instantaneously. If businesses are to succeed in moving forward, it’s vital to celebrate every win, no matter how big or small, and one should never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.

Creating a Culture of Process Improvement

Starting your process improvement journey is a huge step towards business improvement. You’re on a journey that will have an enormous impact on the efficiency, culture and fortunes of your company.

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