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How Can Designing a Visual Workflow Help Your Business?

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The visual workflow approach has emerged highly successful in implementing and executing successful project strategies among the many project management practices.

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Visual Workflow Design

The success of a project depends on the project management practices that govern the overall workflow.

As projects become more and more complex and involve a gamut of tools and technologies, the effective management of projects also becomes tough. As a result, project managers are always on the lookout for ways to streamline the flow and deliver results quickly and accurately without wasting money. The visual workflow approach has emerged highly successful in implementing and executing successful project strategies among the many project management practices.

What is a Visual Workflow?

What is Visual Workflow
Before we understand the concept of a ‘Visual Workflow,’ we first need to make sense of the term ‘workflow.’ A workflow is a process of streamlining daily repetitive processes, automating redundant tasks, and easing up communication between team members through a unified platform.

With that being said, a Visual Workflow is an effective project management technique that makes use of visual cues and flows to aid project implementation and management. It offers a visual “top view” of all the steps or actions involved in completing a specific task or process.

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words, and visual workflows exploit the human ability to communicate effectively through visual media. It requires outstanding visualization tools, which is singularly the greatest difference between visual workflow & regular workflow.

Essentially, a visual workflow is an upgrade to the standard flowchart.

How Can the Visualization of the Workflow Help?

Special emphasis on visual elements is one of the strongest characteristics of a visual workflow. It enhances project management in the following ways:
  • Simplifies overall processes,
  • Makes tasks more comprehensible,
  • Facilitates quicker information exchange,
  • Incorporates SOPs and rules for automation,
  • Instantly resolves conflicts,
  • Simplifies short-term and long-term planning; and
  • Keeps the team on the same page, thereby making them more productive
Workflow Visualization

Who Should Use a Visual Workflow?

You may feel inclined to adopt a visual workflow based on the advantages cited above. However, you may still be wondering if your business can benefit from a Visual Workflow Builder. If so, consider implementing a visual workflow if you:
  • Struggle to keep your team and team members organized.
  • Have difficulty following a single project management process or methodology.
  • Want a simpler process that is easy to embrace, learn, and implement.
  • Wish to check the project or task status on a single, unified, easy to understand platform.
  • Require a solid project management framework that you can build on and scale.
  • Want to deliver greater productivity through higher engagement.

Visual Workflow vs. Process Builder: Key Differences

At first glance, you may think that there is no exceptional difference between visual workflow and workflow. And this error or confusion makes sense when you consider these commonalities:
  • Process Builders and Visual Workflows simplify the business operations and make it easier for technical and non-technical stakeholders to understand the end-to-end flow.
  • Most process builders depend on a graphical interface, which may complicate the visual workflow vs. process builder comparison.
  • The tools make use of point-and-click or drag-and-drop features to modify workflows and add or remove elements.
  • They are equally capable of introducing automation throughout the workflow.
Visual Workflow vs Process Builder
So why would you need a visual workflow designer if you already have a process builder in place? Here’s why:
  • Even though it may appear that a Process Builder has more functionalities than a Visual Workflow, it adds to the complexities through Apex methods.
  • A Visual Workflow Builder is more cost-effective, especially for cash-strapped ventures such as startups and small and medium businesses.
  • Process Builders are unable to handle repetitive tasks or bulk processes, while a visual workflow designer can do it effectively.
  • A visual workflow is easier to set up and implement due to its readymade nature. Hence, it does not call for technical expertise.
  • Process builders follow a linear flow with Either/Or (IF/THEN/ELSE) decisions. However, a visual workflow is more comprehensive with analogous CASE formula, which leaves ample room for customization and automation.
All in all, a visual workflow is easier to use with its out-of-the-box functionalities, truly versatile, automation-friendly, and highly scalable depending on the business’s requirements. Hence, if you were to choose between the two, investing in a Visual Workflow Builder would be a smarter choice.

What Is a Visual Workflow in Salesforce?

Visual Workflow Salesforce
Visual Workflow in Salesforce is a graphical tool that executes business processes upon accepting user triggers while interacting with the database. It makes use of a drag and drop interface to build and automate process flows without any code. You can also use it to:
  • Create, update, edit, and delete records
  • Submit records for approval
  • Publish to chatter
  • Accept user input
  • Send emails, and more!

Visualizing a Flowchart-Based Workflow

Converting a flowchart-based workflow into a visual workflow is quite simple. The most significant difference between visual workflow and flowchart-based workflow is the heavy utilization of visualization tools. Follow these steps to visualize a flowchart-based workflow:
  1. Choose a Visual Workflow Designer
    Naturally, the first course of action would be to identify a visual workflow designer that meets all your business and process requirements. Additionally, this visual workflow builder must also be compatible with your existing tools, technologies, and legacy hardware.
  2. Identify Areas for Workflow Creation
    Generally, your flowchart may highlight the areas where your business can improve through workflow creation and management. Run the impact of workflow management with the total cost involved, and shortlist the ones that are suitable for management through a visual workflow.
  3. List Out the Rules, Limits, and Considerations
    Flowcharts usually rely on standard shapes and sizes to indicate a process or a task. However, visual workflows are more customizable and may even require explicit directions. Hence, you must list all the rules, limits, and considerations of converting the flowchart-based workflow into the visual form.
  4. Create a Flow
    Creating Process Flow
    After exploring and learning the ins and outs of your visual workflow designer, use the flowchart as a prototype and your evaluation as the inputs to develop a visual workflow. Rework and redesign it to have the minimum number of branches and connectors - this would indicate an optimized workflow.
  5. Test and Distribute
    Once your basic workflow structure is ready, it is time to activate it and test it in practical conditions. After it passes the test stage, you can execute it for internal or external users. Additionally, you can use a flow component to run larger flows or deploy it to another business.
  6. Flow Management
    Creating a workflow is not a one-off activity. It requires regular maintenance and upkeep. As you notice several other deficiencies, you will have to optimize your visual workflow periodically.

How to Build Automation in Your Workflow?

Converting a flowchart-based workflow into a visual workflow is quite simple. The most significant difference between visual workflow and flowchart-based workflow is the heavy utilization of visualization tools. Follow these steps to visualize a flowchart-based workflow:
Locate Repetitive Tasks
Identify the repetitive business tasks and understand its impact on the business flow. A visual workflow makes it easier to spot redundant and frequently occurring tasks. Accept inputs from the stakeholders for the said task.
Ascribe Business Goals
Business Goals
Define the end-result that you would expect after automation. For instance, would it reduce cycle time or optimize resource allocation, etc. These act as benchmarks for the automated workflow.
Select a Visual Workflow Automation Builder
Now, you would need an automation software to implement these changes. Typically, most visual workflow designers come with built-in automation functionality. However, you may need third-party integrations or dedicated solutions to incorporate automation in the workflow. You will also have to train the staff into the best practices for using the tool.
Measure the Results
Once your automated workflow system is up and running, all you need to do is track and measure the results using specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The continuous monitoring of results can help remove bottlenecks and locate other areas of improvement.

Let's Look at Some Visual Workflow Examples

Every visual workflow is composed of three building blocks:
  • Elements - graphical depiction of a process that appears on the canvas
  • Connectors - arrows or lines that define the path of the workflow
  • Resources - containers or variables that add value to a field or formula
With these elements in mind, let’s explore a few visual workflow examples:
Example #1: Lead Prospecting Workflow
Prospecting leads is one of the many primary functions of the sales and marketing teams. Determining whether or not a lead is a good fit into the pipeline could influence the organization’s overall profitability. Here is how you can use a visual workflow for lead qualification:
  • Step 1: Accept inputs from your sales and marketing teams
  • Step 2: Map a database for an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
  • Step 3: Identify the characteristics of the buyer’s persona and use it as filters
  • Step 4: Compare the prospects
  • Step 5: Develop a unified process for lead scoring
  • Step 6: Create a follow-up strategy
Lead Prospecting Workflow
Example #2: Capital Expenditure Workflow
As stated previously, you can use a visual workflow to simplify a single or multi-tiered approval process. Further, the approval process, especially in the case of budgets, may also depend on certain rules and triggers that may modify the task’s flow. Hence, the visual workflow for sanctioning a project budget may appear as follows:
  • Step 1: Raising an equipment purchase request
  • Step 2: The workflow management tool accepts all inputs such as type of equipment, estimated cost, payback period, date when required, etc.
  • Step 3: Assessment of request by Finance Director
  • Step 4: Based on the company policies, the request makes its way to the competent authority
  • Step 5: Proposal is approved/rejected
Capital Expenditure Workflow

Standard Features of a Visual Workflow Designer

Now that you understand the crucial role played by a Visual Workflow Builder, it all boils down to choosing the perfect tool to implement a visual workflow. Typically, a standard Visual Workflow Designer must support the following functions:
  • Creating and assigning of tasks or actions
  • Collaborating on requests and tasks
  • Version control along with copy and export functionalities
  • Creating child processes
  • Creating and implementing simple/complex business rules
  • Creating multi-tiered, group-based, or single approvals
  • Low-code design with a simple drag-and-drop interface
  • Creating sequential or parallel flows
  • Establishing notifications, reminders, and time outs
  • Testing processes
  • Sharing of process flows with stakeholders
To facilitate the above functions, a Visual Workflow Builder often possesses the following features:
  • Graphics customization and global template creation
  • Support for multiple shapes and manipulation of the same
  • Creation of Chart Templates for a uniform interface
  • Standard formatting and alignment tools for visual consistency
  • Table creation and formatting
  • Linking of charts to jump from one process/subprocess to another
  • Grammar and analytical tools
  • Automatic shape or line drawing
  • Optimization of images
  • Process Overview Information and control information
  • Step labeling and description along with work instruction tasks
  • “Performed By” entries and record
  • Publication of visual workflow to cloud-based platforms or integration with office suites
  • Export features to distribute workflows
Only when your visual workflow designer is equipped with the above features would you be able to implement a formal visual workflow that communicates expectations, assigns priority, and allocates resources effectively.

Final Takeaway

A visual workflow can elevate your business’s position.
Final Remarks
It is one of the most effective ways to realize small, focused tasks localized within a team or department or meet large-scale efforts spanning throughout the organization. The higher level of engagement through visual stimulation is bound to improve the team’s performance.

Most importantly, visual workflows eliminate any communication or collaboration issues, thereby making a company’s fundamental unit, the teams, more productive. It ensures that everyone speaks the same language, and every process adheres to the standard business policies and regulatory frameworks. Further, it optimizes resource usage and allocation that can deliver stellar results.

So now, you can not only meet your organizational milestones but surpass them by leaps and bounds!
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