Automated workflow series brought to you by: Comindware, web-based software solution for automating and managing business workflow processes.
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“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
Simplicity can be deceptive, because what appears to be simple is often the product of rigorous forethought, detailed planning, and persistent discipline. As a young CEO, you need to create order out of chaos and focus your team’s limited time, especially if your firm isn’t scaling quickly enough or your organization isn’t executing as you would expect.
To these ends, you are likely implementing all the right concepts: collaborative workgroups, content management, and business process discipline. Your team is focused on tasks (getting stuff done), as it should be. But can you confidently say that you still have control over those tasks, setting, communicating and even changing priorities, for example? If you can’t say that, you might be experiencing unanticipated frustrations, such as
- Missed deadlines
- Team confusion about priorities
- Lack of integration between tasks and overall goals
- And, perhaps worst of all, not knowing what’s even going on with the team
More entrepreneurs are discovering that they can harness control of their team’s work and solve common problems using software tools to automate how individual tasks are assigned, tracked, prioritized, and updated. Having a work management system helps make sure that people are working on the right things at the right time, and working more efficiently, to achieve the firm’s objectives.
While a workflow automation scheme looks like a picture created as a diagram or a slide, it should actually be a computed process so that when you deploy it, your team members automatically get tasks. The order of things you’ve set will be respected, with flows for things like
- executing marketing campaigns
- developing software
- hiring and onboarding
- managing the funding cycle
- tackling office management
- handling support tickets
Interesting stuff, but incorporating yet another third-party system into your already impacted workgroup can seem like more trouble than it is worth and choosing the right solution yet another burden.
Choosing the Right Solution
When you evaluate the tools out there, be sure to choose a system with comprehensive functionality to scale with you. Here are some tips:
- Find a task management system that is embedded in a familiar interface so your people don’t lose productivity
- Look for a system that combines nearly any sequence of tasks into a process
- Your task management and automation should be hand-in-glove; look for integrated solutions because almost all task management and workflow management solutions are not integrated so team members have tasks in two places, not a good thing
- Yours might be a small team right now, so you shouldn’t need a programmer to automate your workflows. Look for something with a visual workflow builder and “drag and drop” commands
- Since content is closely tied to tasks and getting stuff done, you should also find a workflow automation tool that includes embedded versioning
- You are probably a lean operation without a lot of infrastructure so insist on something that is accessible via a web-browser
- Which, of course, means that your team can be spread all over the world with remote access to email; they should get updates in email and even work on their tasks from email, with the automation tool keeping it all organized
- You shouldn’t need a lot of project management or business process management (BPM) practice: you want to be able to modify processes “on the fly” and you want something with templates that reflect best practices for your industry
- Finally, you should be able to start using it with a single click
One Team’s Success
Below is a sample workflow for a global start-up’s marketing team. The team using this workflow works in Moscow and California’s Silicon Valley, across opposite time zones, with content translated simultaneously into multiple languages. Having explicit workflows designed and implemented has made the team more responsive to the ever-changing market landscape.
Working this way became an integral part of their focus: “If we were to drop the workflows and start managing our processes via email, we would lose track of what’s going on in a couple of days: we have many campaigns, personal and team tasks, and many stages of approval. With our workflow automation system it’s all clear, not only to the management but also to everyone on the team,” says a member of the team.
“Knowledge work is co-minded,” explains the team’s VP of Marketing. “So having our workflows designed ahead of time, we can deploy with a click of a mouse and I have utmost visibility into status and any potential problems. Plus, I can change the flow as required.”
Conclusion (and a chance to win free consulting)
In this first of four installments, we explored why entrepreneurs are choosing workflow automation tools, and what you need to keep in mind during your search. Next week we will examine how you can best design workflows for your team’s endeavors. If you are ready to try a workflow automation tool, here is one we liked. You can download the 30-day fully-functional trial of Comindware Tracker and see what it can do for you.
In an effort to figure out what exactly you want to learn during your download, the folks at Comindware are offering a prize to one of the first 10 people who leave a comment. The prize: premium online support with a 30-minute live online consultation so you can figure out what kind of workflow you need, and how to build it.
Kamille Nixon writes about how growing businesses solve their problems with tools built on a variety of types of databases, both graphical and relational.