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.

You will find more content like this in our process improvement guide , Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

Take your processes to new heights with our process playbooks.

Discover the building blocks of process improvement.

Get your business Flowing

The best processes come from within

The best processes come from within

The best processes come from within

Empowering your team to own their processes.

Business processes are core to competitive advantage. All companies have them, yet very few companies acknowledge or mine them for their true value. So how can you define your business processes? It starts, carries on, and finishes with people.

Here’s how…

The people who will use the processes need to build the processes

Your staff are the lifeblood of your organization, without them, your business wouldn’t exist. That’s why it’s crucial to have them front and center on your business process journey.

Speak with your employees, work with them, watch them, listen to them, hear what they say and note down what they don’t. Your team often knows what the optimal workflows look like, which means by working with them you’ll have a more realistic, comprehensive business process understanding.

One other bonus of bringing staff on this journey is that they’ll be more likely to support any change that may occur as a result (and you know how much people love change) if they’re seen as valuable contributors.

Empowering

ownership of processes

We all know the feeling of getting burnt, with the affected part of the body telling the brain “ouch, something has to change because I can’t stand this for much longer”.

Businesses are no different. Employees are the equivalent feedback mechanism for the business, playing a critical part in maintaining and fixing business processes.

Apart from having employees build the processes so they’re invested from the start, what else can be done to encourage such ownership?

  • Set up a system that rewards employees for proactively seeking improvement.
  • Always keep key outcomes front of mind to create a bigger picture for their outputs.
  • Make the documented processes easily accessible so they’re always in mind.
  • Consider utilizing the feedback features of your workflow software so employees at any level can continually refer to other shared insights.

Creating a culture of Improvement

Just because you document your business processes doesn’t mean your employees will seek continual improvement, let alone prescribe to them. You need to create a culture of improvement, which has to happen from the top (in an Undercover Boss kind of way if needs be).

Through our experience working with businesses of all shapes and sizes, we’ve noticed two points worth keeping in mind when instilling a culture of improvement:

Highlight excellence In ordered to recognize the excellence, you first need to identify what it looks like in your business, field, or industry. Once this has been established, acknowledging parts of the business or employees will motivate the right kind of behaviour and drive business success.

Expect greatness Over time high performance is an achievement that’s progressively unlocked over time. Don’t expect excellence immediately, but rather take time in the planning phase to ensure you have a pragmatic timeframe. And also don’t settle for when you think you’ve ‘achieved’ excellence, because all you really did was reset the bar.

So where do the best business processes come from?

Take the governance approach to business processes. Ensure your employees drive the development of your processes, empower employees to own the processes and instill a culture of improvement.

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

Take your processes to new heights with our process playbooks. Discover the building blocks of process improvement.

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35 processes you should be automating now!

35 processes you should be automating now!

35 processes you should be automating now!

Bogged down with manual tasks? There’s a fix for you. Each of these processes can be automated in hours. Without developers.

Without code.

Automate these and you’ll be humming.

PROCESSES FOR PEOPLE & CULTURE

  1. Employee onboardings
  2. Employee exits
  3. New starter document requests
  4. Policy sign offs
  5. Quarterly reviews
  6. Hiring requests
  7. Leave applications

PROCESSES FOR IT

  1. Change management requests
  2. Application access
  3. Application removal

PROCESSES FOR HEALTH & SAFETY

  1. Incident reporting
  2. Health & safety inductions
  3. Hazard identification

PROCESSES FOR PRODUCT

  1. New product development
  2. Product changes

PROCESSES FOR SALES

  1. New customer onboarding
  2. Special pricing requests
  3. Price changes

PROCESSES FOR FINANCE

  1. Purchase card applications
  2. Invoice processing
  3. CAPEX requests
  4. OPEX request
  5. Expense reimbursements

PROCESSES FOR OPERATIONS

  1. Non-conformance reporting
  2. Assigning a new contractor
  3. Quality checklists
  4. Log sheets
  5. Idea to initiative evaluation

PROCESSES FOR CUSTOMER SUCCESS

  1. Conducting quarterly customer check-ins
  2. Managing customer complaints
  3. Providing customer support
  4. Manage at-risk customers

PROCESSES FOR REMOTE WORKING

  1. Remote work requests
  2. Remote working policy sign off
  3. Remote workspace setup

Essential Processes for Health & Safety

Looking to upgrade from paper Health & Safety forms and incident reports?

Our latest playbook gives you the processes needed to keep your employees safe at work.

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The Best Features from 2020

The Best Features from 2020

The Best Features from 2020

Last year Flowingly focused on a rapid release of new features which had been requested by our customers, so here are a few of the key ones in case you missed them. We are shortly set to release our first update of 2021 so stay tuned!

#1 Rules Engine

Next time you create or edit a workflow step you’ll notice a new Rules tab alongside the Details and Form tabs. This new rules tab allows you to use If This > Then That logic to direct a workflow. The first rule to be released will allow you to set the Assignee of a future step based on an action taken in a previous step.

Using a Database, you can now assign a Step based on relationships within that Database.

#2 Map UI

Interact with Steps directly from the Runner! Using the new map interaction features, users now have the ability to see at a glance exactly what is required at every stage of a process. This means you no longer have to open up each map, just click and drill-down!

This makes for easier navigation and access to the exact Procedures, Policies and Work Instructions that sit within a process.

#3 Process Details

Ever wonder who the owner of a process is? Or need a bit more context around the purpose of the process?
You now have the ability to add more details into a process summary. The following fields can now be edited by admins and accessed by users: 

  • Process Owner
  • Process Review Date
  • Background
  • Objective
  • Input
  • Output

This now gives an admin more specified information on the objective of a Workflow and what changes could be made to improve the process.

It’s also good to mention some favourite new functions based on feedback. Knowing how our customers use the platform helps guide development on what features we add next.

# Printer-Friendly Flows

We’ve improved the export Flow functionality and allow users to save it in a more printer friendly format.

The new document now includes a comment section which will include all comments added by workflow users while the flow was in progress.

A common use-case is to include comments made on an expense request process, printed for archival purposes.

# Table Sums

Table sums can now be used as a value in subsequent steps. This means that you can pull both currency and number sums direct from a table, either to display them easily to a user or to help route your Decision pathways.

You can also use the sums within formula fields and custom emails. So, if you have a column in a table that captures amount, in another column you could capture discount rate, and in a formula field below you could calculate the discounted rate.

This opens up a range of possibilities, especially for all those using Flowingly for financial workflows such as CAPEX or Expense Management.

That was the best of last year but with 2021 we have plans for more functionality and simplification as we move to make Flowingly the best possible process and workflow platform for our users. If you have feedback or questions about what you would like to see, please leave us a comment.

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and we look forward to bringing you more great features throughout the coming year.

If you’d like to learn more about how Flowingly can help you manage approvals, tasks and workflows for your business, get a trial today!

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How to Foster Continuous Improvement

How to Foster Continuous Improvement

How to Foster Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement identifies opportunities to reduce waste and streamline work. Broadly speaking, it finds opportunities to execute processes more effectively and get more from less. Although this approach originated in manufacturing, continuous improvement is an essential element to countless successful companies across every conceivable vertical.

For many, there’s little doubt that fostering continuous improvement can drive sustainable, long-term results. The bigger question is often whether it be introduced effectively across all levels of their organization.

How individual staff can foster continuous Improvement

As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits. As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits.
The Kaizen process is the almost synonymous methodology for this. The term itself translates to “continuous improvement” in Japanese.
Popularised by Toyota, Kaizen focuses on making small, frequent improvements to existing processes, and from any level of an organization. Kaizen challenges stubborn “how we’ve always done things” attitudes typically found in well-established organizations.  By way of making micro-changes, Kaizen eliminates waste and silos. It aims for standardised processes in:

Quality of products, business processes and following best practices 

  • Cost of resources
  • Delivery time and non-value-added activities
  • Management of attitudes, training, flow and documentation
  • Safe working conditions

Individuals can implement the Kaizen philosophy by:

  • Using flowcharts or value stream maps to visualize current processes and identify areas of improvement.
  • Questioning the status quo in order to make meaningful changes to processes.
  • Dropping the pursuit of perfection – no methodology can ever create perfect systems or processes, but they can continuously improve conditions.
  • Celebrating your successes and those of your team members in small ways to keep everyone invested and engaged.
  • Setting aside time for team collaboration on improvement projects.

How leadership can foster continuous Process Improvement through systems & culture

Leadership have an equally important role to play as front-line staff. They can often contribute large amounts through creating a change culture.

This can be done by:

  • Empowering everyone to make small changes in their own processes. Small ideas can lead to big changes.
  • Creating an environment where employees feel free to address problems and pitch ideas. If the idea doesn’t work out, it should be iterated and improved instead of dismissed as a failure.
  • Holding continuous improvement events, providing team members with tasks to action to help new processes take hold within the organization.
While Kaizen can be highly applicable on a company-wide scale, Total Quality Management (TQM) is a methodology that leaders may wish to utilize or borrow from. Gaining popularity in the late 1980’s after the US Federal Government implemented it, TQM strives for customer satisfaction.

Organizations using TQM typically adhere to the following principles: 

  • A strategic and systematic approach should be followed.
  • Customers determine the quality level.
  • Employees are to work towards common goals with effective communication and training ensuring consistent quality.
  • Organizations should define the steps that are required in any process and monitor performance, continuously looking for ways to compete.
Diagrams are readily embraced by TQM companies, including Ishikawa diagrams, flowcharts and check sheets.

Aside from these systemic efforts, company leaders also need to make changes to culture to support continuous improvement by: 

  • Recognizing and rewarding continuous improvement successes, such as with raises, promotions, bonuses or even recognition.
  • Becoming a courageous change leader by supporting constructive disruption.
  • Leading by example, such as by being receptive to feedback or conducting regular self-assessments with vulnerability.
  • Thinking of ways to develop your employees, not just your product or service.
  • Hiring with diversity in mind in order to benefit from a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas.

How individual staff and leadership can work together to foster continuous process improvement

A culture of continuous process improvement can only thrive if individual staff and leadership work together.

Continuous improvement should be integrated into all aspects of the business. For example it can be included in internal communication, KPIs, personal development programs and job descriptions.

A shared vision needs to be emphasised through these everyday activities, reiterating the need to strive towards a common goal.

A suggestion process should be developed so that ideas can be easily gathered and evaluated. This also includes developing a clear system to follow instead of allowing individuals to implement changes at will.

Collaboration on continuous process improvement needs to be done through empowerment, involvement and suggestions, not directions or orders.

Continuous process improvement methodologies like Kaizen and TQM can help individuals improve their own approach to work by eliminating waste, while allowing organizations to optimise involvement from people at every level.

As well as improving production and costs, continuous process improvement improves morale and satisfaction, leading to better outcomes and retention.

Small changes can make an enormous difference, with a thriving continuous improvement process setting you up for sustainable success.

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

Take your processes to new heights with our process playbooks.

Discover the building blocks of process improvement.