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The Ultimate Workflow Management Software Buyer’s Guide 2023

Workflow management software can do wonders for an organization that struggles to find consistency in recurring processes. They can save time and money, reduce errors, and make life easier for employees and customers alike.

But what should you look for when buying a workflow management software?

Well, lucky for you, we make one ourselves. It’s kind of our whole thing. So we know exactly what we’re talking about when it comes to what you need to look out for. We promise to steer you in the right direction toward the software that’s best for you.

This guide will cover:

  • Signs you need workflow management software
  • Is workflow management software right for you?
  • 4 questions to ask yourself before you buy
  • Must-have features in workflow management software
  • What to look for in a workflow management software vendor
  • 5 tips to succeed with workflow management software

Signs you need workflow management software

Recurring workflows

A recurring process is any kind of workflow that your company runs more than once. These processes can include things like

  • Employee onboarding
  • Customer onboarding
  • Payroll
  • Customer lifecycle 
  • Issuing refunds

Anything, really. If you have any recurring processes in your business, you will benefit from workflow management software.

Unfinished workflows

It’s not uncommon to see recurring processes go unfinished if the workflows behind them aren’t up to snuff.

Look at your current recurring workflows. Are any of them unfinished when they should have been done by now? Why aren’t they done? Do you have a system to check the status of workflows?

Your answers to these questions will tell you if this is a sign you need workflow management software. 

Dependence on paper or Excel

Paper and spreadsheets are outdated and can be death to good workflow management. Why?

Because papers can easily be misplaced, and Excel is where joy goes to die. Okay, that’s dramatic, but if not put together by someone that really knows what they’re doing, can be confusing to look at. 

We love Excel, we do, but we think it’s better suited for capturing and interpreting data, not for workflows.

But one great thing about workflow software is that you can automate it, so all of your data is put directly into an Excel spreadsheet automatically. You don’t have to do anything manually, and you get to keep your spreadsheets!

Poor systems of communication

If you aren’t using a workflow management software, you’ve probably encountered this and one point or another. Especially if any of your workflows require interdepartmental collaboration.

Things can slow way down because someone didn’t see an email, or forgot to hit send on a Slack message, or didn’t write down the task on their to-do list.

But these poor systems of communication can really hinder a workflow and be a major source of frustration for everyone.

Workflow management software will allow you to keep communication channels in one place, so things don’t fall through the cracks.

Complaints from employees and customers

If your workflows are inefficient or confusing enough that you hear complaints from employees and/or customers, that should be one of the biggest signs that you should consider getting a workflow management system.

Frequent errors and bottlenecks

Without a well-laid-out workflow process, errors and bottlenecks are sure to occur. These often take the form of:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Customers receiving the wrong forms to sign
  • Unclear roles within the workflow
  • Delays in completing the workflow

Workflow software will allow you to get clear deadlines, assign people to specific tasks, and automate things like sending emails, collecting data, and setting up calls. 

Use of several applications

One of the worst things for a workflow is the use of multiple applications. Even just using two applications separately for any workflow can significantly reduce efficiency and can increase errors. 

Workflow management software can allow you to use multiple applications in one connected space, which keeps things way more organized.

Is workflow management software right for you?

If any of the signs above resonated with you, then you will likely find a lot of value in a workflow management software.

But wait, that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy the first one you see right now. 

The signs we just covered are a great first indicator of whether or not you need workflow software, but now it’s time to consider your team.

You need to look at them and answer these questions:

  • Do they generally feel comfortable getting to know new software?
  • Would workflow management software fit with the culture of your organization?
  • Does automation excite or scare them?

You can still get workflow management software, even if your team is cautious and less than excited about it. It’s up to you to properly educate your team and show them the value of integrating the software. How it will benefit them individually and the company as a whole. If they are well-prepared, they will likely be more open to it.

4 questions to ask yourself before you buy

Now, wait, wait. I still don’t want you going out and buying new software just yet. I know you’re excited, but don’t waste your money. There are four more questions I want you to consider before making your final decision. 

What features do I need?

Different workflow management software offer different features, so you need to consider which features are the most important to you.

If you don’t know what features to look for, we cover all the must-haves in the next section, so don’t worry.

We recommend making a list of the top five features you want to prioritize and using that as a guide to help you decide on the software that’s right for you.

Will it help me scale?

The answer to this question should be yes. The whole idea behind workflow management software is that it will help simplify various recurring processes within an organization.

As your team and customer base grows, workflow management software will be helpful in scaling that growth, but it’s vital that you choose the right one. 

“The right one” is going to be the one that strikes a balance between being intuitive for your team and ticking all the boxes for the features. 

Will it reduce errors in the process?

Again, the answer to this question should be yes. If it isn’t, something is wrong.

Workflow management software organizes and automates so much of the process that reduction in errors is a natural and very good consequence. 

Your team should be fully trained and have a comfortable understanding of the software before it is implemented to help avoid initial errors.  

What is the ideal ROI?

Purchasing a workflow management software is certainly an investment. You need to consider the budget for the initial purchase of the software, but it’s not a one-time cost. Additional training and maintenance can quickly add to the cost.

So, the ROI is dependent on a combination of these costs as well as the time it takes to complete implementation. The longer it takes for everything to get set up, the longer it will be before you see an ROI.

Once everything is squared away, the return should be noticeable quite quickly in the amount of time and money the software saves your company.

Must-have features in workflow management software

There are a number of features to look for when shopping around for workflow management software. Here are seven of the most important ones:

Analytics and reporting

A good workflow management software should capture and store data for you to be able to access easily. From the analytics and reporting, you’ll be able to see

  • How long it takes to complete certain tasks
  • How many tasks get rejected
  • Who missed deadlines
  • All inputted data
  • And more

Good analytics and reporting are essential for gaining the most value possible out of the software.

Integrations

For those that use multiple programs or platforms in their current workflows, this is what you need to look out for.

Integrations allow you to use multiple programs in one workflow to keep everything organized on one place. Some examples of integrations that can be used in a workflow software include

  • Calendly
  • Google Sheets
  • Salesforce
  • Zapier
  • Slack

And if the software uses integrations like this, you will be able to automate them. So, when someone completes a certain task, another person may receive a notification on Slack, or certain data could be sent to Salesforce, etc. 

Role-based user access

This feature is an absolute must, particularly for security compliance. It will allow you to make something editable, read-only, or completely hidden from anyone of your choosing. 

Additionally, you can make only certain sections of a workflow available to one specific person, or even a whole group of people without having to enter them all in manually. 

Whatever important features you have on your list, make sure role-based user access is one of them.

Low or no code

Unless your organization is in the IT field and your team is full of people who understand coding, a low or no code workflow management software is absolutely necessary.

Code complicates things and makes it far more difficult for those with zero coding experience to understand how to use something. 

Low or no code will make your life and that of your team much better because learning how to use the software will be so much easier.

Approvals

Certain tasks should be double-checked before moving on to the next task in a workflow, which is where approvals help.

When an approval is assigned, no one will be able to continue with the workflow until the assignee has reviewed and approved the task. 

Approvals go a long way in making sure mistakes aren’t made during the most important tasks.

Conditional logic

Conditional logic is an excellent feature that helps customize every workflow without having to edit them each time.

When certain responses are given in a form field, sub-fields will appear to collect further information if it’s necessary. If further information is not necessary, then the person running the workflow will be able to move on without seeing the sub-fields. 

Conditional logic takes away the need to contact people for additional information. There’s a built-in way of doing it

Administrator features

This feature gives you total control over your workflows. If the workflow software doesn’t have powerful administrator features, you are at the mercy of your users and the company that makes the software.

The administrator should be able to 

  • Edit any workflows they make, even if they are being used
  • Manually complete workflows
  • Delete workflows
  • Add and remove users 

What to look for in a workflow management software vendor

Features are great and all, but you also need to make sure you are buying from a reputable vendor. This is what you should look for:

Security accreditation

Customers have high expectations for data security that needs to be met. Not only that, but you need to make sure your own organization’s information is protected.

Security compliance is non-negotiable, so look out for things like SOC 2 Type II, which is an industry-standard audit performed by a third party that checks to ensure that the vendor is correctly handling and protecting data. Never skimp on data protection.

Solutions consulting

If you think your processes are too complicated for a workflow management software, then be on the lookout for a solutions consulting department. Their job is to offer training for the product, but they can also build workflows if you or your team are struggling to build your own.

Solutions consultants know the product back to front and can offer the most value out of the product in the least amount of time. Their services generally cost extra but can be a real game changer.

Reliable customer service

This is a bit of a no-brainer. Look for a vendor who has solid customer service. They should be able to answer any and all of your questions in a timely manner on business days. Weekends are nice if you can get them, but business days are more important.

Notable vendors

If the workflow management tool you choose is already being used by notable vendors, then it’s generally going to be a safe choice. 

A diverse customer base is always excellent to have, but if the software of your choice is being used by larger, well-known companies already, it’s safe to say it’s likely a good product. 

5 tips to succeed with workflow management software

Once you have your workflow management software purchased, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you’re successful with it. 

Be dynamic

Don’t be locked into your old ways of doing things. The reason you got the new software is because the old ways weren’t working out for you. 

It’s important to be dynamic and to be open to change and new ideas. The same goes for your team. While it might take time to get them on board, the goal should be to get them excited about the changes the software will make.

Put people first

Don’t be so dynamic that you leave your team behind. Give them the time they need to learn how to use the workflow software.

And as mentioned before, employees tend to get nervous when they hear the word “automation,” as it leads many to believe their jobs are about to become obsolete when that’s not the case at all. Sit down with them, walk through what is changing, answer any questions, and give them any additional education tools they need to help them get excited about the workflow software.

Listen to feedback

Even despite your best efforts, there may be some kinks when you implement the workflow software. Or even if that setup goes smoothly, there is likely to be feedback from your team and your customers somewhere down the line.

It’s important to be open and really listen to the feedback. People can offer some really wonderful ideas or notice things you never did. The smoothest workflows are built when the team that uses them shares and listens to each other’s ideas.

Emphasize education

The change brought by the software can be huge for people. Take the time to properly educate yourself and your team about how everything works and how it benefits your organization.

On top of that, software is constantly changing and updating, so never be afraid to implement new features and teach your team how to use them. 

Share the workflow knowledge

After some time using the software of your choosing, you will become somewhat of a workflow expert. Use that knowledge to suggest ideas to the vendor you go with. You can also become an advocate for the workflow software you use and spread the word to other companies who could really benefit from better workflow processes. 

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