During Part I of this two part blog series I outlined best practices in workflow creation and optimization within an organization.  The post largely covers the HOW of creating iterative workflow processes, but I find it equally as important to focus as much effort on the WHY.  I certainly am not suggesting that any process owner would actively oppose a defined workflow process, however the value of creating and documenting these processes cannot be overstated.

Sending the aforementioned intern to get Monday morning coffee, while technically an activity with multiple tasks involved, would not necessarily require a defined and agile workflow, however a threshold must be set.  At what point does a seemingly menial task become a missed opportunity for optimization?  When considering which aspects of the business require process documentation, consider the following benefits of a defined workflow.
It eliminates redundancy.
Workflows map out the critical points of each task and allow for process owners to assign specific resources, eliminating the risk of duplicate efforts.  They also establish a task hierarchy, preventing necessary rework due to a critical stakeholder receiving the information at the improper stage in the process.
It provides valuable insights into business processes and ownership of those processes.
As a consultant, I often find that key stakeholders in a business do not have clear insights into the ownership of specific tasks.  In fact, one of the most time consuming steps in the consulting process is locating information by following a chain of leads rather than having a definitive contact.  Creating traceability of each process will eliminate this roadblock and thus streamline future improvement initiatives.  Additionally, these insights will bring security during times of employee turnover as there is less risk in processes being lost during transition.
It aids in tracking compliance and productivity.
Having visibility into employee process compliance and productivity is valuable both in times of feast and in times of famine.  It ensures that employees are receiving proper recognition for outstanding performance, as well as offers critical insights into the roadblocks preventing full productivity.  A workflow can also be a useful tool in assigning tasks based on strengths and skillsets, benefitting both the employee and the business.
It drastically reduces downtime.
A proper workflow establishes a clear path of escalation.  This eliminates the risk of internal discussion or a lack of recognized ownership halting a process.  Workflow software can lead to further improvements through the use of digital signatures for fast approvals and automatic transfer of ownership as the activity progresses.
It provides process transparency for customers.
Customers may find insight into your workflow processes valuable in evaluating business continuity.  It is also useful in locating areas of error for any needed damage control and in the construction future prevention tactics.
Defined workflows hold each resource in a process accountable for their specific tasks and process owners accountable for locating areas of improvement, leading to overall efficiency.  A 2016 report by Aberdeen Research found that businesses with best-in-class workflow processes reported a 94% complete and on-time delivery of products and services and 95% internal schedule compliance.  Diametrically, the businesses that fall in the laggard group reported a worsening in cycle time of key business processes.  The ultimate end result of a defined and agile process is involved suppliers, accountable employees, and satisfied customers, which all fuel organizational growth.
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Jennifer Engel

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