What is a workflow and how to get started?

What is a workflow?

Simply said, a workflow is the way people and machines get work done.

It is a series of steps that need to be completed sequentially to achieve a specific goal. Workflows are often visualized using workflow diagrams (also known as business process diagrams). A workflow diagram is a graphic overview of a process that uses a standardized set of symbols and shapes.

 

The term workflow is not new, as a matter of fact its origin can be traced back to the industrial revolution. Businesses were suddenly able to build up a huge workforce and needed to find a way to divide it more efficiently.

Today, workflows are more relevant than ever. With digitalization, businesses are able to become extremely efficient and cost effective. Workflows will help you understand and plan the most efficient way to organize people and tasks.

 

Knowing what a workflow is and how to create one will grow your business.

Workflows are relevant for everyone who wants to make the most of their time and resources spent on completing a task or project.

 

When should I design a workflow?

You should consider designing a workflow for reoccurring processes – work that you complete on a regular basis.

You can design workflows that only involve one person or workflows that involve multiple people.

 

Here are a few examples of workflows:

  • Responding to customer feedback
  • Recruiting a candidate
  • Contacting a sales lead
  • Processing an invoice

 

There are loads of reasons why you should start designing your workflows today, here are just a few:

  • It will make you think of every step needed to complete a goal, from start to finish.
  • As a result you will end up with the most efficient way to complete your work.
  • Others will be able to understand what it takes to complete the work.
  • This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows how to complete certain tasks.
  • Which will make it easier for new people who join the team.

 

Now that you know what a workflow is and why you should consider designing one, it’s time for you to get started!

Find out how:

5 simple steps to get started designing a workflow

Designing a workflow process starts with conducting a workflow analysis (also known as process analysis). This will help you understand the workflow and define critical areas of the process.

1Ask yourself the following questions

  • What is it you want to document? The status quo or a how you want the workflow to be? If you want to design an improved workflow be aware of the status quo before designing the new version.
  • What is the goal of the workflow? Your goal should be a specific status that you want to reach (for example: Invoice paid”)
  • Who is involved in the workflow? Workflows can involve people, departments or specific machines/IT applications.

Once you have these basic questions figured out, the next step is to design a draft of your workflow.

2 — Draft your workflow

You can either start off with a paper draft or simply draft a first version using a workflow modeling tool like Cawemo.

3 — Ask for feedback

With your first draft is ready to go, the next step is to ask the relevant stakeholders (people involved in the workflow) for feedback. For this step you should make sure to have a digital version of your workflow. Most workflow-tools let you export a copy of the process and send it as a PDF via email. If you are using Cawemo you can also share a link to the diagram and have people comment directly on your workflow diagram.

4 — Evaluate and Implement feedback

Evaluate the feedback you received and implement it into your workflow. Sometimes it even makes sense to collaborate by inviting people to make changes directly on your diagram.

5 — Implement the workflow

Implementing a workflow is a complex thing and deserves its own article. A good start however is to share the workflow with the whole team. An efficient way of doing that is to share your workflow in the space where your team usually goes to get information. This could be on Confluence or any other web page. With Cawemo it’s possible to embed your diagram by simply creating an automated code snippet.


So there you have it! You are ready to create your first workflow and improve your business goals, whether that has to do with improving your sales conversion, hiring process or automating more processes, a well defined and visual workflow can get you there faster.

 

Learn more about designing workflows by looking at our easy to follow Workflow design tutorial! 

Roxy Morris

Product Marketing Manager for Cawemo