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The Best Workflow Management System Features (According to Experts)

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. 

The root cause of this is a lack of efficient management systems. That’s when investing in a good workflow management system becomes vital. 

When the core operations of a company are defined in actionable 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! 

Why use a workflow management system?

Many businesses want a workflow management system 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 a workflow management tool: 

Growth is stalled 

“They’re in a place where their business cannot grow because there are [too many] bottlenecks.”  – Anne Perry, Process Street’s Director of Solutions Consulting

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. 

Things are running slowly 

“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.  

Growing too fast

“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. 

Inconsistent results 

“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. 

Lack of visibility 

“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. 

The must-have workflow management system features

workflow management system

Here’s what the experts have to say about the must-have workflow management system features:  

The system accounts for variance  

“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. 

It’s easy to follow 

“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 place for company documentation 

“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. 

Employees dedicated to workflow design 

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. 

Automation to save time 

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: 

Easy visibility, transparency, & accessibility 

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. 

The role and task assignments provide clarity on what is expected from responsible employees when executing tasks within a workflow. Such features enhance accountability and transparency. 

Workflow management system benefits

Picking the workflow management system that best fits your company’s needs helps you reap many benefits. Some include: 

  • Reduced errors: Workflow management software helps pinpoint where errors were made to help prevent them from reoccurring.
  • Easily juggle multiple tasks: All processes are neatly organized in the software so you don’t need to search through multiple applications for information. 
  • Increased productivity: You can identify tedious tasks through a workflow management system and automate them to streamline the process. 
  • Enhanced control, trust, and transparency: The progress of workflows along with duties and goals are outlined and accessible to everyone. 

Prioritizing workflow management takes your business higher 

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? Well, 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.

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