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Workflow Optimization – Strategies and Examples

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Workflow optimization is the process of improving the existing workflow by addressing the issues slowing it down. Read about 5 tips & strategies with examples.

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Workflow Optimization

The workflow process is crucial in any business or industry. It directly impacts efficiency and output rates. Here, a workflow is defined as the sequence of tasks associated with processing a set of data right from its inception to its completion. It may be related to either industrial, administrative, or both of these processes involved in the task.

An optimized workflow leads to better results and problem-solving capabilities. Workflow optimization is the process of improving the existing workflow by addressing the issues slowing it down. This may include reducing operating costs, increasing work efficiency, introducing new functions or features, reducing the workflow time, and trouble-shooting other glitches in the process.
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Tips for Workflow Optimization

Workflow Strategy
There are many factors influencing workflow efficiency. To overcome such challenges, automation might seem like a good option. However, misdirected automation may not address the required issues. You need to recognize simple optimization techniques that will result in benefits.

You may first ask yourself: how do you optimize process flow? Does it only need automation of workflow components? Or are there certain workflow optimization tools and tactics that you can implement? We have the answers.
  1. Link all your data to one source
    While processing Purchase Requisitions, companies often find themselves dealing with a bulk of data that needs to be processed together. For example, if you are filling up a form to stock a warehouse, you will need access to all associated data like stock requirements, holding capacity, allocated budget, approved vendor, etc.

    If you search for all the data manually and enter into the form, it will result in a lengthy and error-prone process. Instead, if you automate the form to fill all the associated details once you enter the name of a vendor or item, the margin of errors and rejections will be cut down.

    You can use this process to create budgetary reports, employee acquisition forms, and many other such automated workflows.
  2. Create conditional steps to ensure quick turnabouts
    Automating all workflows in the same process may lead to confusion and negative results. For successful and efficient automation, you need to recognize each process’s needs and set up the conditions accordingly.

    If your workflow has certain glitches but runs smoothly, you might consider using a conditional optimization technique. For example, if you need your Manager’s approval to file a reimbursement report, you can set a spending limit for it. In this case, the Manager will not be notified if your expenditure is below a certain amount, and the process will go through more smoothly.

    In the same situation, if your expense report crosses a certain amount margin, the signature of your Manager will be made mandatory. These parallel paths will lead to a quicker turnaround.
  3. Link smaller workflows to the bigger picture
    This workflow optimization tactic works well in case of long and elaborate workflows involving several different processes. For instance, if your workflow is designed to onboard a new customer, the cycle would include reaching out to the customer with presentations and sales strategies, creating a customized offer, and finally, onboarding them.

    If all the above processes are a part of one big workflow, it might create confusion and throw errors. Here, a good optimization strategy is to separate the workflows but link them to occur one after another as part of a whole process.
    Bigger
  4. Integrate other software into your workflow
    A workflow is created every time raw data is processed. This implies there will be many automated and manual tasks involved in its successful completion. Relying on one specific software will not yield efficient results in this case.

    Integrating other useful software like cloud-based apps, tracking solutions, financial aids, etc., into your workflow ensures the process runs smoothly, and all the data is categorized for easy availability.
  5. Tweaking optimization processes and notifications based on priority
    Through different steps of the workflow, your priorities and requirement for attention might vary. To optimize this, you may choose to apply configurations that send you regular updates via notifications for a certain step and not send any emails for another.

    These settings can be changed or modified according to the stage of development or priorities involved. This workflow optimization trick lets you keep track of important updates while not being bothered by trivial decision-making or notifications.
    Optimization Priority

5 Key Automation Features for Successful Workflow Optimization

Business process management can give you an idea of where exactly to focus your optimization efforts and how to increase the overall efficiency of your workflow, with a focus on business components.
a) Define business goals and stress points
For any successful automation, defining the business goals is key. You first need to analyze your current workflow and discover the stress points that need to be improved. Once you know the targets, you can apply directed automation for better results.

Your goals may be anything, from reducing production time to getting rid of hard copies and papers. The goal of automation should be to address your needs without hampering the other aspects of the business flow.
b) Identify redundant and repetitive tasks
Every manual workflow has a set of repetitive tasks that slow down the entire process. Identifying these steps and automating them will immediately cut down the total time required and make the process simpler and more effective.

For instance, if you need to deal with several versions of the same file, you may automate certain versions to reflect the changes in the final copy once the changes are locked in. This will save the time and effort needed to go back to each version and change them manually.
c) Choose the best automation solution for your workflow
There is a wide range of automation software choices available in the market. Recognizing the pros and cons of each software is necessary before implementing them into your workflow. Popular software solutions may not address all your issues adequately, so it is unwise to go by general reviews.

You need to consider a few factors before choosing a suitable automatic solution for workflow optimization. Check whether it works with your existing technology, has data security, covers all your stress areas, and cuts down workflow time. Concentrating on these points will ensure you choose a valid and optimal solution for your automation needs.
Automation Software
d) Train users accordingly
Once you zero in on an automation solution, you need to ensure your workforce gets acquainted with it. Any new process can be initially daunting, which often leads to users deeming it unnecessary or more complicated than before. In such a scenario, the users have to be trained to use the software effectively.

In the absence of training, you might get opposing results to your requirement as users would take more time to do their daily tasks with the new technology. Ensure you provide a transition path and period for all users to adapt to the automation process and use it for maximum output.
e) Review performance to improve workflow
After implementing the automation software successfully, you must ensure regular follow-up with the users. Do not neglect the users’ concerns with certain steps of the process. Initial glitches and inconveniences should be fixed as soon as possible, to avoid leading to a bigger issue with time.

Once all problem areas have been identified, you can optimize the workflow further to address them. It is also a good idea to suggest improvements in work processes and removing bottlenecks to increase overall efficiency after the new implementation.

Workflow Optimization Examples

There are several workflow optimization tools like the KPI-based reports, robot process automation (RPA), and lots more to guarantee automation. In the following examples, we will look at a few instances of successful workflow optimization.
  1. Busy airports in times of COVID-19
    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to practice social distancing in public spaces, and the most affected areas are airports. Since worldwide lockdowns have been eased in many regions, airports have had to enforce several preventive measures. This is where automation has helped them.
    Airport Management for Covid-19
    To study real-life workflow optimization, you can take a look at the kiosks and virtual gateways that provide boarding passes and baggage tags to passengers. These self-operated kiosks have drastically reduced human interaction, shortened wait times, and ensured social distancing measures are in place. When it comes to the most basic optimization of business processes , this is one of the best examples.
  2. Time and expense cards at workplaces
    Earlier, employees in most organizations had to punch in time cards to record their login and logout times every day. To submit an expense report, they had to draft a letter or mail to HR with the attached bills. In the case of bulk submissions, the HR might overlook some requests, leading to delayed response and resolution.
    Workplace Management
    Now, this has been replaced widely with an HR portal with an account for every employee. They can use the site to record their work hours, leaves, reimbursement requests, and so on. Then, the Manager, HR, and other concerned people would receive notifications asking to take action. This optimization technique has been the workflow faster and simpler.

Final Thoughts

Workflow optimization and automation is the need of the hour. Especially in present times, it has helped several organizations to reduce waste, minimize work timings, fix errors, and address stress points. All in all, smart optimization is the key to a successful process flow.
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