A workflow management system (WMS) helps your company reduce repetitive processes or simplify a set of tasks. It involves programming a set of tasks that will automatically flow from one to the other until the process is done in the most efficient manner possible.
To set up a workflow, your team should map out the task as it should be done, establish challenges that get in the way, remove redundant processes, and determine what team members or departments should be involved. In addition, this work should not focus on who or how things are done now or fall into the habit of “we’ve always done it this way”. To save time and money, companies are turning to workflow management software to automate their processes and better report on their KPIs.
There are numerous tools out there touting the benefits of a WMS, so we’ve provided a guide of 10 important things to look for to get the highest quality system.
1. Easy form design
A workflow management system needs a very easy way for users to create new forms without the help of a systems engineer. The layout should be drag-and-drop and quick to build or modify. The interface should be intuitive for adding different field types such as text fields, number fields, drop-downs, multi-selects, calculations, file uploads, and more.
The interface should make it easy to pre-populate forms as well. As a result, this time-saving feature allows the user to enter the data a single time and use it across a number of different forms.
2. Built-in communication
When employees need to assign a form, task, or query to another person, they should be able to do so right in the workflow management tool. Having to send an email from outside the system with links to where the work needs to be done can become clunky and a waste of time. A great system allows your team to discuss processes, tag other team members, add documents, files, and images right within the interface.
3. Automated processes
Your WMS should make it easy to create automated, repeatable processes that multiple team members can use. These might include your new employee onboarding process that begins with a pre-hire assessment, then emails the prospect to schedule interviews, fill out new hire paperwork, and finally informing your IT department to set up a new account and laptop for their first day. Further, this information would be shared across multiple departments, and your automated process would be able to notify each team member of the steps in the workflow relevant to their duties and send reminders as needed.
4. Easy integration with other tools
A well-designed workflow management tool will be able to help your team beyond just tasks or automated processes. Ideally, it will be able to work with other tools that you use like your CRM, proposal software, accounting system, calendars, or even employee emails.
The tool should include built-in integration with popular applications or allows integration via API or tools such as Zapier to connect your systems. Double-check with your onboarding team to be sure the tool you choose integrates with all of your existing apps.
5. Customizable reports
Reports are an essential tool to see just how well your team and the WMS is running. It needs to be easy to create reports of numerous types from graphs to pie charts to financials to KPIs in your interface. You need the ability to auto-run reports on a set schedule and set up a distribution system so they get shared with the appropriate team members. It should be easy for any user to modify existing reports, make new versions of them, or change a data set to suit their needs.
You should also verify that permission levels are easy to set for reporting, so you put a limit on what reports and data all employees can see (this is especially important for HR and accounting information).
6. Mobile access
Your employees should be able to access the WMS at any time and from any device. It should be optimized so it’s easy to use on a tablet or smartphone. It should also work well on both Android and iOS devices. Load speed on a mobile device and the amount of data on the page needs to be a consideration, so the responsive version of your interface may intentionally have fewer features than the full desktop version. Be sure to test out how the WMS looks on a smartphone before you commit to the tool.
7. Permission control
It’s important to make it easy to grant access to the right group of people at your company. Sensitive HR or financial files should have very limited access to view or edit, while data like customer’s information and contracts may be something all of your employees should be able to see. You should also be able to limit what processes and actions different departments have access to.
It’s especially important to have a few high-level system administrators who can change these permissions quickly, including the ability to shut off all system access for an employee when they leave the company.
8. Automatic system updates
These days, fewer companies have a fleet of IT people able to make system updates or fix computers at a moment’s notice. When you choose your WMS, be sure that a few of your team members are trained in making updates, security procedures, and how to reach out to the tool’s support desk for help. The ideal partner will provide training and ongoing support for a number of your team members, in case the initial person that was trained is out on vacation or leaves your company.
When you do need help from the WMS’ support team, they should be available to assist within a few hours, versus waiting up to a day to get an answer or assistance.
9. Cloud hosting
There are many well-known reasons out there for hosting software or apps on the cloud. Cloud hosting is scalable, allows easy access from any location outside of your physical office, allows for redundant backups, and generally costs less than on-site hosting.
10. Easy-to-understand pricing
Before you commit to a WMS, be sure you understand all the costs involved with the tool. Are there fees for hosting? Perusers? Per the automation process? How will the costs change if your company size expands or shrinks drastically, and are you committed to a specific package?
The vendor you choose to partner with should be able to answer all of your pricing questions upfront and give you a clear idea of what you get for your pricing level. Ideally, the plan will be on a monthly basis, and you will be able to adjust the service level if your company size or needs change.
When looking into a new workflow management system for your company, consider the features listed above. Does the tool include all of them, or are there elements missing and why? Workflows are designed to save your company time and money, so be sure you’re spending yours wisely when you make this important decision.
Written by Katherine Manning