You leave tons of room for confusion if you forego a workflow management system and decide to handle your business processes manually. It rapidly becomes challenging to see where things stand and what needs to be done next.
Before you know it, deadlines aren’t met and you’re frustrated because your team isn’t congruent.
When the core operations of a company are defined in actionable and custom workflows, a business can run smoothly and more time can be spent focusing on bigger issues than searching through old email threads.
In this Process Street article, we turned to our workflow design experts to give us all the features you should look for when choosing workflow software:
Let’s dive in!
Here is a list of ten workflow management systems to help you choose:
Process Street stands out as a robust option for workflow management. The platform is designed to streamline and enhance the efficiency of business processes. This innovative platform is specifically engineered for the creation, monitoring, and optimization of diverse business workflows. At its core, Process Street employs a meticulous checklist-based methodology, providing organizations with a structured and organized framework to manage intricate workflows seamlessly.
One of the key strengths of Process Street lies in its ability to cater to businesses with repetitive and recurring processes. By leveraging its checklist-centric approach, the platform empowers businesses to not only create detailed and customized workflows but also to systematically track and refine them over time. This results in a dynamic and adaptive system that fosters continuous improvement and optimization.
Process Street goes beyond mere task management by offering a holistic solution that addresses the entire lifecycle of a workflow. Businesses can use the platform to design intricate processes, assign tasks to team members, monitor progress in real time, and analyze historical data to identify areas for improvement. The platform’s user-friendly interface and intuitive design make it accessible to teams across various departments and industries, fostering collaboration and ensuring widespread adoption.
Furthermore, Process Street’s functionality extends to automation, allowing organizations to automate repetitive tasks and actions within their custom workflows. This not only accelerates the pace of operations but also reduces the likelihood of human error, contributing to enhanced accuracy and reliability.
Trello stands as a highly acclaimed Kanban-style project management tool that has gained widespread popularity for its intuitive and visually-driven approach to task and project management. This versatile platform offers a dynamic and user-friendly environment that facilitates the seamless organization and tracking of tasks through the use of boards, lists, and cards.
At its core, Trello employs a Kanban methodology, which originated from lean manufacturing and emphasizes visualizing workflow on a board. This approach allows teams to create boards for different projects, each containing lists that represent different stages of the workflow. Within these lists, tasks are represented as cards, offering a visual snapshot of the entire project’s progress at a glance.
The collaborative nature of Trello enhances team communication and coordination. Team members can easily assign tasks, add due dates, attach files, and comment on cards, fostering a transparent and communicative work environment. Additionally, the platform integrates seamlessly with a wide array of third-party applications, enabling users to leverage additional tools and enhance their workflow according to specific project requirements.
Trello’s real-time updates make sure collaboration and communication are streamlined. Its visual interface is not only aesthetically pleasing but also serves a functional purpose by reducing complexity and enhancing clarity. Users can quickly identify task statuses, prioritize work, and detect potential bottlenecks or areas that require attention. This visual management approach contributes to increased transparency, accountability, and overall team efficiency.
Asana stands out as an extensive and feature-rich project management tool, offering teams a multifaceted platform to meticulously plan, track, and manage their work. This robust application caters to the diverse needs of teams, providing an array of views that include boards, lists, calendars, and more, to ensure flexibility and adaptability to various workflow preferences.
At the heart of Asana’s functionality is its ability to facilitate collaborative work through a centralized and organized interface. Teams can create projects and break them down into tasks, each with its own set of details, deadlines, and assigned team members. The platform’s versatility becomes apparent as it accommodates projects of varying complexities, making it suitable for both small-scale tasks and large-scale initiatives.
The inclusion of different views within Asana adds a layer of sophistication to task and project management. The board view, inspired by the Kanban method, allows teams to visualize tasks as cards progressing through different stages, fostering a clear understanding of workflow status.
The list view, on the other hand, provides a structured and detailed list of tasks, suitable for those who prefer a more linear approach to project organization. The calendar view offers a time-oriented perspective, enabling teams to schedule and track tasks based on specific dates, milestones, or deadlines.
Jira stands as a ubiquitous and highly utilized project management and issue-tracking tool, finding particular favor within the realm of software development. Renowned for its versatility and adaptability, Jira provides a comprehensive ecosystem that extends beyond traditional project management, catering to the intricate needs of development teams. Its popularity is not only a testament to its robust functionality but also to its capacity to seamlessly integrate with agile methodologies, making it a pivotal asset in the software development life cycle.
One of Jira’s distinguishing features is its high degree of customization. Teams can tailor the platform to mirror their specific workflows, processes, and terminology. This flexibility allows organizations to create a bespoke project management environment that aligns precisely with their unique requirements. The ability to define and configure custom fields, issue types, and workflows contributes to Jira’s adaptability across diverse projects and industries.
Collaboration is a cornerstone of Jira’s design. Teams can communicate and coordinate within the platform, utilizing features such as comments, attachments, and mentions. Additionally, integration with popular collaboration tools and version control systems enhances communication and streamlines the development process.
Beyond its primary features, Jira boasts a rich marketplace of add-ons and integrations that extend its capabilities. Organizations can leverage a diverse range of plugins to enhance reporting, automate repetitive tasks, and integrate Jira with other tools in their tech stack. All these features make Jira an excellent choice for workflow management.
Monday.com is a comprehensive platform that serves as a centralized hub for project tracking, collaboration, and workflow automation. Renowned for its versatility, Monday.com has positioned itself as a solution that transcends traditional project management, offering an integrated environment where teams can seamlessly organize, execute, and optimize their work processes.
At the core of Monday.com’s functionality are its highly customizable boards. These boards act as visual workspaces, allowing teams to structure and organize information in a way that suits their specific needs. Unlike rigid project management tools, Monday.com empowers users to design boards tailored to their unique workflows, processes, and project structures. This adaptability is a key feature, making the platform suitable for a wide range of industries and projects, from simple task tracking to complex project management scenarios.
Monday.com’s boards can be configured to accommodate various data types, such as text, numbers, dates, and file attachments. This versatility enables teams to create detailed and interactive boards that go beyond traditional project management. Whether tracking project timelines, monitoring team workloads, or managing resources, Monday.com provides the flexibility to create boards that align precisely with the intricacies of the task at hand.
Collaboration is a focal point of Monday.com’s design philosophy. Teams can communicate within the platform, utilizing features such as comments, mentions, and file sharing. The platform’s visual interface enhances communication by providing a real-time snapshot of project progress and task status. This transparency fosters collaboration and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
ClickUp is a versatile project management and productivity tool known for its extensive feature set and customizable workflows. Offering a wide range of views, including lists, boards, Gantt charts, and calendars, ClickUp provides teams with the flexibility to organize and manage their work in a way that suits their preferences.
The platform’s rich feature set includes task management, time tracking, document collaboration, and goal setting, making it a comprehensive solution for teams of all sizes and industries.
Wrike is a robust project management platform that excels in facilitating collaboration and project visibility. The platform offers a dynamic workspace where teams can plan, track, and manage projects efficiently.
With features such as interactive Gantt charts, task dependencies, and workload management, Wrike caters to complex project requirements. It also integrates seamlessly with popular communication tools, providing a unified environment for teams to collaborate effectively.
Smartsheet is a work execution platform that combines the familiarity of spreadsheet software with powerful project management capabilities. It enables teams to collaborate on sheets, where they can plan, capture, manage, automate, and report on work.
Smartsheet’s grid-based structure makes it easy for teams to create and customize workflows, while its automation features streamline repetitive tasks. It is particularly popular for project tracking, resource management, and collaboration on structured data.
Notion is an all-in-one workspace that combines note-taking, document collaboration, and project management. It provides a flexible and customizable environment where teams can create databases, boards, and pages to organize their work.
Notion’s modular structure allows users to build their own workflows, making it adaptable to a variety of projects and team preferences. It is particularly popular for its simplicity and the ability to create a centralized knowledge base.
May lack some advanced project management features
Airtable combines the simplicity of a spreadsheet with the complexity of a relational database. This provides teams with a versatile platform for project management, collaboration, and operations workflow management.
It offers a variety of views, including grid, calendar, and kanban, allowing teams to organize and track tasks in a way that suits their workflow.
With the ability to link records, filter views, and use formula fields, Airtable is customizable to different project needs, making it suitable for teams across various industries.
Many businesses want operations workflow management software because it can help their companies run better.
So let’s first begin with a brief workflow management definition.
What is a workflow management system? It is a software tool that allows businesses to streamline their work processes and manage everything from internal communication to employee onboarding.
Here are some of the most common reasons why a business decides to use operations workflow management software:
What is the purpose of a workflow management system? Anne explains that most business owners need help from a workflow management tool because they’re operating inefficiently. Their business processes are bottlenecked.
Most of the time, managers also don’t have the time to hire and train new people. They’re stuck in this same spot where it’s easier to do it themselves.
“[If they do hire someone]… they hope to God they stand long enough to make it worth the investment of time [to train the new employee].” – Anne Perry
To combat this, business owners invest in a workflow management system to document their company processes. This helps highlight the bottlenecks stopping them from growing their business. They can also have a clearly defined process that even inexperienced employees can understand and run.
“They’re looking to streamline how they do [things] so that they can save time [and become] more efficient.” – Anne Perry
Another reason a company would invest in a workflow management system is to improve its efficiency. In most instances, managers can sense they aren’t conducting operations as efficiently as possible.
Although they understand that they could be more efficient, they’re stuck. This is because they don’t know how to go about making tasks easier to do. They don’t know what parts of the process they can automate.
They don’t have an outlined process or enough knowledge on workflow management to know how to streamline their processes. Detailing the process documentation they have (no matter how unsophisticated) into a workflow management system can help to highlight what can be automated.
“They’re growing but they’re throwing more people at something instead of systematizing their processes so that’s costing a lot of money.” – Anne Perry
A company that’s growing rapidly needs more effort to meet this new demand. This can quickly become a problem as a company hires more people to get the job done.
Instead, they could use a workflow management system to streamline the process, offering the same result without having to pay more employees.
“Nobody’s following the process… If you’ve done something a few times, you’re not going to reference the Word document every single time.” – Anne Perry
Many companies have badly-documented processes that nobody follows.
Why? Most of the time, these processes are detailed in Word documents, which don’t provide any accountability.
Because of this lack of accountability, nobody actually follows the process. That’s when things slip between the cracks. Processes are run inefficiently and there’s a lack of consistency in the overall results.
“Another challenge businesses have is a lack of accountability into what’s going on with their processes.” – Anne Perry
Anne pointed out that most of the people she worked with would spend hours in meetings trying to get progress reports. One client, in particular, spent 5 hours a week in meetings discussing what had been done, what needed to be done, and what was the status of everything.
This client’s team would need to get on a call to discuss this because there wasn’t any clear visibility over company processes. And this is the case for many businesses that don’t use workflow management systems.
Here’s what the experts have to say about the must-have workflow management system features:
“The challenge that people face is that, yes, [They] have standardized processes and [they] want them to be as standardized as possible, but there’s always cases where things work differently depending on the situation.” – Anne Perry
As for a workflow management system example, Anne pointed out that a real estate company might run a process in a certain way but it would need to adapt if there’s a homeowners association. Their standard process should need to include extra tasks to include this homeowners association.
“And so how do you make it still simple for the team to be able to follow a step-by-step process? Well, accounting for variance.” – Anne Perry
A type of workflow management system that accounts for this variance is essential to ensure your employees don’t need to do all the heavy lifting – the tool does it for them.
Conditional logic is designed to do just that. This functionality streamlines complex processes and accounts for different scenarios within the same workflow – all in real-time.
“If a process involves tons of expertise, it makes it a lot more difficult to train new people and it makes a lot more challenging when there’s team turnover.” – Anne Perry
You want a workflow management system that’s easy to use. That means creating workflows that are easy to follow.
You don’t want to have a workflow in place that requires users to search for answers about how to run it. That information should be included in the process itself.
“The simplicity of having the ‘how to’ in the same place as the ‘to do’ – so having instructions right there with the tasks that need to be completed – the workflow is actionable and easy for anyone to follow.” – Anne Perry
A no-code editor ensures you’re easily and intuitively building actionable workflows in seconds. Rich form fields provide users with the ability to include this information within the same actionable workflow.
“A good workflow management system is one that accommodates both knowledge base and implementable processes or actionable processes.” – Anne Perry
You want to invest in a workflow management tool that helps you create a centralized knowledge base for all your company documentation. Employees have access to the workflows to run business processes efficiently and have the knowledge documentation detailing why the process is run.
So how to build a workflow management system? When you search for a workflow management system, you want to invest in a tool that has a team dedicated to workflow design. This team helps their clients strategize the best way to approach documenting their workflows.
“You have people to show you how to strategically approach process management.” – Anne Perry
These workflow designs help you take all the information and action items of a process and properly document it so that it’s actionable and easy to follow. A workflow management software that provides workflow design experts for their clients ensures they’re getting the most out of their workflows.
One fantastic feature of a good workflow management system is that it helps automate tedious tasks. This is the reason why most companies invest in workflow management tools. Automated workflow management systems ensure businesses can streamline their processes and save time doing more complex tasks.
Such automation capabilities should include:
A digitalized workflow offers real-time updates on processes. With this investment in a workflow management tool, managers no longer need to spend time in meetings to find progress on their workflows. It’s all clearly visible and accessible in the workflow management system’s detailed reporting and analytics dashboard and activity feed.
Process Street’s Groups feature makes it easy to manage permissions within an organization. Accessibility can be granted to teams, departments, and individuals in an instant.
Approvals ensure that those responsible for approving specific tasks within a workflow are notified and can do so through their email inbox. This feature stops the process from being bottlenecked, waiting for approval.
Picking the workflow management system that best fits your company’s needs helps you reap many benefits. Some of the most common are:
The automation capabilities of a WMS significantly contribute to enhanced efficiency. It reduces the time spent on manual, repetitive tasks, allowing team members to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. Workflows are optimized, leading to a smoother and quicker execution of tasks, ultimately boosting overall productivity.
Collaboration is a cornerstone of effective workflow management. A WMS provides a unified space where team members can communicate, share updates, and collaborate on tasks. Centralized information ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing the chances of miscommunication or duplicated efforts. Real-time collaboration features foster a more connected and efficient team environment.
Standardization is crucial for maintaining consistency and quality across different processes. With a WMS, organizations can define and enforce standardized workflows. This not only ensures that tasks are executed consistently but also makes it easier to identify and address any deviations or inefficiencies in the process. Standardization is particularly beneficial for industries with strict compliance requirements.
Transparency is a key element of successful workflow management. With a WMS, managers and team members have access to real-time data on the status of tasks and projects. This visibility allows for quick identification of bottlenecks, tracking of progress, and timely intervention when needed. Transparent workflows contribute to a more accountable and proactive work culture.
Business environments are dynamic, and workflows may change over time. A WMS should be adaptable, allowing organizations to modify existing workflows or create new ones easily. Scalability is crucial for businesses that anticipate growth; the system should be capable of handling an increasing number of tasks, users, and processes without significant disruption.
Security and compliance are paramount in the digital age. A WMS should incorporate encryption, access controls, and regular audits to safeguard sensitive information. Compliance features help organizations adhere to industry-specific regulations, providing assurance to stakeholders and customers. This is particularly critical in sectors such as finance, healthcare, and legal services.
Reporting and analytics tools within a WMS offer a deep understanding of how workflows are functioning. By analyzing performance metrics, organizations can identify bottlenecks, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and make data-driven decisions to optimize processes. This strategic approach to workflow management contributes to long-term efficiency and business success.
Implementing a workflow management system (WMS) involves more than just selecting the right software. To ensure its effectiveness, consider the following best practices:
Successful implementation starts with a clear understanding of your organization’s workflows. Document current processes, map out tasks, and identify decision points. This not only aids in choosing the right WMS but also helps in configuring it to align with existing processes.
Gather input from different departments and teams to understand diverse workflow requirements. This collaborative approach not only ensures that the WMS caters to varied needs but also promotes user adoption and engagement.
Workflows evolve, and your WMS should be flexible enough to adapt. Customize workflows, forms, and task structures to align with changing requirements. This flexibility enhances the system’s longevity and relevance.
Training is critical for user adoption. Ensure that users understand how to navigate the system, execute tasks, and utilize advanced features. Additionally, establish a support system for troubleshooting and addressing user queries promptly.
Clearly define who can view, edit, or approve tasks. This helps maintain data integrity, security, and accountability. Regularly review and update permissions based on organizational changes.
Integration enhances efficiency by reducing manual data entry and improving data accuracy. Ensure that the WMS integrates smoothly with tools such as project management software, communication platforms, and document storage systems.
Identify processes that can benefit from automation, such as task assignments, reminders, or data entry. However, be mindful of the need for human intervention in certain decision-making processes to maintain accuracy and accountability.
Continuous improvement is key to maximizing the benefits of a WMS. Regularly analyze performance metrics, seek feedback from users, and make necessary adjustments to optimize workflows for efficiency and effectiveness.
Mobile accessibility is crucial. Ensure that the WMS offers a responsive and user-friendly mobile interface, allowing team members to stay connected and productive from anywhere.
Regularly update security protocols, conduct audits, and ensure compliance with industry standards. Protecting sensitive information is paramount for the successful and secure operation of the WMS.
When you invest in a good workflow management system, you’re really investing in the efficient execution of your company processes. With the right workflow management tool, you get a streamlined process and consistent results. All of this while saving time and reducing error.
But what about workflow management challenges? You can’t reap workflow management system benefits if your chosen workflow management tool doesn’t account for your company’s needs.
Picking the right process management software means looking at your company’s needs and deciding what features align with these needs.
When done correctly, you get a tool that will help your business level up by conducting your processes like a well-oiled machine. So you can work smarter – not harder.
A Workflow Management System (WMS) is a software solution that helps organizations automate, streamline, and optimize their business processes and workflows. It typically involves defining, executing, and managing a series of tasks within a structured framework to achieve specific business goals.
Organizations use WMS to improve efficiency, collaboration, and transparency in their processes. WMS helps in standardizing workflows, reducing errors, ensuring compliance, and providing a centralized platform for task management.
Key features to consider include:
While there is overlap, project management tools often focus on planning and tracking projects, whereas workflow management systems are more geared towards defining and managing the specific processes that make up those projects. WMS tends to be more process-oriented and is suitable for recurring tasks.
Yes, many WMS are designed to handle complex workflows with conditional logic, branching, and approval processes. However, the level of complexity a system can handle may vary, so it’s essential to choose a tool that aligns with your organization’s specific needs.
Yes, many WMS are scalable and can be adapted for use by small businesses. Some tools offer free or affordable plans with basic features, making them accessible to smaller teams.
Consider your organization’s specific requirements, team size, complexity of workflows, integration needs, and budget. Take advantage of trial periods, demos, and user reviews to assess how well a system aligns with your workflow and business goals.
Yes, many WMS are cloud-based and support remote collaboration. They provide a centralized platform where team members can access and manage tasks from anywhere with an internet connection.
Reputable WMS providers implement security measures such as data encryption, access controls, and regular audits. Compliance with industry regulations may vary, so it’s essential to choose a system that aligns with your organization’s compliance requirements.
Yes, integration capabilities are a key feature of many WMS. They often offer connectors or APIs that allow seamless integration with popular business tools such as CRMs, communication platforms, and file storage systems.