Workplace efficiency is one of the most important pieces of emphasis for teams everywhere and having a hybrid work structure can make creating efficiency very difficult. While it might be difficult to create efficiency through traditional means, creating a workflow process might just be the key to unlocking a new gear for your team.
In this article, we will define a workflow process, talk about some of its biggest advantages, and demonstrate why using online whiteboards to create and monitor workflows helps improve overall team efficiency.
Workflow Process Definition
What is a Workflow Process?
A workflow process is a visual diagram that walks through the tasks required to accomplish a business goal.
This definition may seem simplistic, but in reality, this is all that a workflow process really is.
It’s very likely that your team already has many established workflows, whether it be responding to customer requests, troubleshooting an issue, or starting a new product sprint.
All of these projects and more require a certain flow of tasks to be accomplished, and this is essentially an informal workflow. All of these things are already running behind the scenes but it’s important to document them in a workflow map to better understand and improve them.
You might be wondering what the difference is between “workflow” and “process”. After all, they are very synonymous. There is a very simple distinction which links the two together but also differentiates their meanings.
In short, a workflow looks at the individual steps that it takes to finish a task, and a process is the sum and flow of the tasks that are required to accomplish a goal. This means that they refer to similar processes but on different scales. People commonly group the terms into “workflow process” because it accompanies all of the various use cases that could be associated with these two terms.
While this distinction does provide some wiggle room for using the terms separately, try not to get bogged down on the difference between the two. Given that they are so similar there is bound to be a lot of crossover between them, and the most important thing to understand is how they refer to similar processes of accomplishing tasks, just on different scales.
If you’re still wondering what a workflow process might look like, here’s an example. It walks through a given scenario, showing multiple options for each path and how they relate to the overall completion of the business goal.
Why Workflows are Important
Sometimes teams can get stuck in inefficient ruts and will be resistant to changing the way they approach projects. This is sometimes due to the fact that they might not realize they aren’t working at full efficiency, and are locked into a thought process that looks like the best possible way simply because that’s what they’ve always done. Workflows are a good opportunity to break out of inefficient teamwork and utilize a new strategy of collaboration. Here are some reasons that workflows are important and advantageous to implement.
Improve Team Efficiency
Teams will always be more efficient if they share a common set of information and can work from a shared set of assumptions. When you don’t have a diagrammed workflow process to create this shared knowledge, it’s much more likely that you encounter miscommunication and collaborative breakdowns.
By diagramming the arrangement of tasks within your project you can ensure that there is a blueprint for how people will solve problems going forward. Not only can you ensure this blueprint is followed, but you can also make sure that the blueprint includes the right order of people, the most efficient task management, and you can specify a timeframe for each item.
Formalizing a workflow process will help everyone understand their role in the process and this will allow people to work much more efficiently with one another.
One of the biggest causes for inefficiency within teams is redundant work. When people work on the same thing or ignore their task because they think someone else is doing it, there is so much wasted time and effort. This redundancy can be eliminated by formalizing a workflow process.
When creating a workflow process, one of the most important details is diagramming each step with a specific individual/role in mind. This means you are able to create specific tasks for specific people and completely eliminate any room for misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Not only can you eliminate miscommunication, but you can eliminate redundancy of tasks as well. When visually collaborating on a workflow process you will encounter items that, when displayed in a visual flow, seem to be fairly needless.
Unless you added a visual element to your workflow it would be very difficult to understand how redundant some tasks are. By updating your workflow process to a visual interface you can eliminate another kind of redundancy.
Increase Team Alignment
Having team alignment is critical to operating as a successful team, and aligning your team becomes much easier when they share a visual interface.
Creating a workflow process allows every team member to view and collaborate on the same document. This collaboration means they have a better understanding of not only their tasks but the tasks of everyone around them.
This sense of mutual understanding fosters team alignment and will help everyone work together more efficiently.
Create Rapid Team Response
Because workflow processes are made online and can be collaborated on, they can be manipulated and adjusted very easily. This means you can create a workflow process that’s flexible and responsive to environmental changes, something that has never been possible before online whiteboards.
Having an adaptable workflow process means that people can easily change their approach to problem-solving depending on what the needs of the team are. This adaptability creates rapid team response, not only for changing situations but existing ones too.
When people understand their roles and know where they fit in the workflow process, the time between tasks is minimized and the entire sequence can be streamlined.
Through team delegation, people can find the most efficient route to a solution and create an environment that enables rapid team response.
Not only does mapping a workflow process increases employee response time, but it can also point out areas that can be automated. For example, maybe through diagramming you find customer response areas that can be automated with a response email. This is just one example of a route to issue automation that is exposed by the creation of a workflow process.
How to Integrate Online Whiteboards into your Workflow Process
It’s extremely likely that you already have multiple different workflow processes operating in your workplace, and identifying these is a great way to begin optimizing them. The first step might be looking at common problems that your team solves, then writing down the steps taken to accomplish your goals. After doing this, you can begin creating your workflow process.
Creating a workflow process is a really easy thing to do once you have a better understanding of how to use an online whiteboard. Online whiteboards allow you and your team to collaborate on the creation of this diagram and other templates and save them in a permanently accessible space. They are the best tools to create these diagrams and incorporate your entire team to foster an environment of team alignment.
Hopefully, this guide has helped with your understanding of how using a workflow process can be an incredibly effective tool to improve your team’s efficiency. If you want to learn more about virtual workshops make sure you check out Fresco.