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Project Workflow Management: Ultimate Guide

Project workflow management requires a ton of documentation. From establishing the desired result and project goals, to determining an accurate deadline, it’s important work.

And if you don’t do it right, it costs your business in time and money. But you’re not just gambling with your business’s time and money. 

You’ve also got to consider your most important asset – your employees. Inefficient project workflow management will have a negative impact on your employee morale. This is certainly something you don’t want to potentially flush down the drain. 

So, how can you get project management right? DOCUMENTATION. 

Breaking down your project with workflow documentation will help you get the bigger picture of your project and all variables involved in its completion. 

We love finding how work can be compartmentalized into a workflow for a streamlined experience, and we’re going to show you how you can do that with your project management. 

What is project workflow management? 

Project workflow management is the strategic plan used to effectively execute a project. This strategic plan manages the sequence of activities and tasks to ensure the project is completed and produces the desired results. 

Effective project workflow management ensures that projects are done more effectively and efficiently. When your project workflow management is well-executed, you save time, increase collaboration, and improve overall results. 

You may only need one workflow for this project management. But this is dependent on the nature of your team’s projects. In other instances, you might need variations for the various types of projects your team needs to execute. 

Examples of project workflow management 

Here are some use cases for project workflow management: 

Website building 

Building a website is a complex project. There are many moving parts involved in its proper development and execution. This includes its construction, visual elements, and the written copy on the actual website. Web design firms or creative agencies can gain more order over these projects with a website building workflow. 

Planning and executing a marketing strategy

A marketing plan can keep teams focused on the smaller activities involved in a greater strategy. Any marketing plan has a large list of goals and KPIs they want to achieve. However, it’s the smaller, more tedious tasks that need to be completed efficiently for these overall goals and KPIs to be reached. A marketing plan workflow can keep track of this project, from its creation to completion. 

Invoice tracking 

Your business likely deals with invoice if you work with outside firms, contractors, or creative freelancers. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by the load of invoices you receive. That’s why creating a project around invoice tracking can be a great way to ensure you don’t drown in these documents. An invoice tracking workflow can keep tasks in line to ensure your invoices are managed efficiently. This might include tasks like first receiving the invoice to finally making the payment. 

Onboarding new employees 

One of the biggest projects a company can have is onboarding a new employee. It’s crucial that this new employee is onboarded with care & intent. But most businesses tend to leave it up to the discretion of each hiring manager, which makes for ineffective and inconsistent results. Onboarding comes with a long chain of tasks and responsibilities. An employee onboarding workflow can be used to effectively manage all the moving parts involved in this project. This provides a more efficient and consistent experience across departments.  

What challenges do project workflow managers face? 

Here are the likely challenges you face as a project manager without effective workflow management in place: 

  • A third of project managers believe that unclear goals and visions are the primary reason projects fail. Performance is likely to suffer if teams don’t understand what they’re working towards. 
  • Poor communication, a lack of communication, and miscommunication are all reasons why your project might derail. And where there is a lack of good communication, there’s poor or little collaboration. 
  • If your project isn’t clearly communicated and accompanied by a list of achievable goals, you can’t hold stakeholders accountable. This means nobody within the project has a clear responsibility and can be held accountable if they don’t meet this expectation. 

Why is project workflow management important? 

Successful project workflow management will result in enhanced project efficiency and visibility. But that isn’t all. When implementing productive project workflow management, you can expect these advantages: 

Benefit #1: Completed tasks follow company standards 

With a project workflow in place, you can eliminate any confusion around task completion. All information is given in the workflow to ensure they can complete the task without any additional guidance and with the expected result. 

Benefit #2: Project visibility is increased 

A project workflow can help improve visibility of the tasks you’re doing. All stakeholders can view this workflow to see the status of the project and what work still needs to be completed before the project is finished. There’s no confusion around what work has been done or who needs to do it. 

Benefit #3: Errors and risks are reduced 

Well-documented project workflows make sure a team finishes tasks in the right order. The biggest issue with inefficient projects is that this inefficiency compounds itself. This is because the project inefficiency continues as it runs slower, and with this more errors are present. 

It then becomes more challenging to detect these errors and make the necessary changes to prevent them from happening, which slows down the process even more. And so it continues. 

A project workflow maps out everything that needs to be done within a specific project and arranges the tasks in chronological order for supercharged efficiency. This overview of tasks also helps identify if there are any errors. From here, it becomes easier to reduce the risk of mistakes. 

Benefit #4: Project standardization between departments 

You promote cohesion within an organization when you standardize your projects into workflows. It’s from this project standardization that you can easily gather and report information within a workflow that then makes it more straightforward to reference and compare this data. 

Creating a project workflow management template 

A project management workflow requires you to list down all the steps in your project lifecycle. From this, you can work through your project information to create a standardized template. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it: 

Step #1: Create a list of tasks 

You need to define the boundaries of each project you work on. For larger scale projects, this could be highlighting the major steps you need to complete. With smaller scale projects, you might record a linear flow of tasks and activities. 

Once you have a rough idea of the work that goes into each phase of your project, you can list the various jobs that are involved within one project. Your goal should be to identify every task (in chronological order) from start to finish. 

Make sure you account for the work that happens before and after the “typical” activities of your project. This could include performing post-production checks or receiving stakeholder approval. As you create this list, you should also include what tasks need to be performed by which departments and employees. 

Step #2: Highlight what tools are required 

Now that you’ve created a detailed list of tasks, you can now expand on the complexity of this work. To do this, you want to identify what resources and tools are needed to complete the job. 

You should not overlook resources you aren’t fully leveraging. This might be files, templates, software, or collateral. If you don’t have access to these resources (and they’re vital to your project workflow template, you need to make a plan to get these missing resources. 

Step #3: Establish responsibilities and delegate tasks 

A project workflow management template needs to have tasks that are assigned to a department and role. You want a reusable template, so you shouldn’t be assigning specific employees to these tasks but rather the employee role. 

For example, you’d assign the task to the project manager of the department rather than Joe who is the project manager. This allows for variation whenever you need to reuse your workflow template. Joe might not be a project manager when the template is run again but the task will still need to be assigned to a project manager. 

Step #4: Test the template and make the necessary improvements 

Your project template won’t be perfect the first time, and you should rather treat it as a trial run. Test the template and make note of what changes need to be made and other improvements. Employees who have worked with the template are a valuable asset. Ask for feedback from them to see what can be improved and what’s working well. 

Project workflow management best practices

Here are some best practices to maximize your project management workflow efficiency: 

Automate recurring tasks as soon as possible 

Your workflow likely has tons of tedious tasks that your employees need to do. By automating these time-consuming and recurring tasks, you give your employees less tedious work to do. This saves time and lets your employees focus on work that’s more important. 

For example, you might find a lot of work that requires manually retyping information throughout your workflow. You can then eliminate this data entry by using automating to pull existing data into these required fields. 

Locate any broken processes 

The first version of your project workflow will have some issues despite your best efforts. But these issues aren’t the workflow’s fault – most of the time. 

When you move into a workflow-based model, you’re bound to find that problems with your existing project management are revealed. It’s likely that the issues were always present. You just didn’t have enough documentation to locate these problems before. 

You’re possibly looking at a broken process if you have missing project requirements or deadline documentation. To solve this, you want to remain committed to ongoing project workflow improvement. Your goal should be to immediately act when you locate problems within your project workflow – or when your workflow highlights existing issues. 

Establish your expectations and hold accountability 

You want to establish the expectations around your project and its workflow. Once you’ve outlined these expectations, you can hold your stakeholders accountable to meet these expectations. 

Your stakeholders are more invested in their work when they have an obligation to stick to a project workflow. Expectations drive focus, which is why you want to have your project workflow operate with these. 

Make it clear that all team members involved in a project workflow are expected to follow the work that’s outlined in the template. That also means you speak up when these guidelines aren’t being followed. 

Project workflow management software 

You turn unconnected work into a well-designed flow of tasks when you build efficient project workflows. But before you can keep this documentation organized, you need to begin the process of actually documenting your projects. Paper and pen (or even Excel) won’t cut it. 

Workflow management software can help you map out your projects and turn them into interactive workflows. From here, you can store your project workflows in a centralized location alongside your project documentation to increase transparency within your organization. 

That means everyone has access to valuable project information, which ensures your team knows what’s expected of them and how to meet these expectations. 

Automating project workflow management 

Project workflow management software helps you automate any recurring work you have. This is done through in-app automation capabilities and integrations. 

These integrations are used as a powerful tool to connect your project workflow management software with other work tools your business commonly uses. Your linked company tools then work to create a more connected workflow system where information can be transferred easily and with no manual data entry. 

Optimizing project workflow management 

You gain a robust knowledge hub when you invest in a project workflow management software. Your project workflows and relative documentation can all be stored in one place. All this information is easily accessible to your team, which fuels accountability, visibility, and productivity. Such an organized workspace then promotes project workflow optimization. 

The future of project workflow management 

Without this workflow management software, you’ll be doing work that’s recurring, time-consuming, and doesn’t have a direct impact on your goals. Not to mention, collaborating with different departments and holding responsible stakeholders accountable will only be an uphill battle that you won’t win. 

As technology becomes more advanced, software is finding ways to do more for less. In the space of project workflow management, that means using automated and optimized templates to carry out your business’s projects. All this saves you time and money while making your project operations more productive. Sounds like a win-win.

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