10 Benefits of Workflow

Toy car

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organisation, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  The most notable example of workflow being the assembly line (as previously presented), helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

The Toyota car company adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

So here are 10 good reasons for how workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing the unnecessary steps/processes.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with appropriate skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do. This is a compromise in quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organisation can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    It answers question like: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces wastage and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end to end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organisation. The ten identified are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organisation become more efficient by helping to save time, remove wastage, cut out unnessecary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organisation to grow and improve.

When is a Workflow System not a Workflow System

A while ago a friend of mine was talking about the workflow capabilities of a data capture system he was working on.  He said that it managed the flow of information from step A to B to C and then repeated steps B and C until C was deemed correct in which case the workflow instance ended.  He believed that he had a workflow system. 

Well he was wrong but he was not alone.  A lot of people think they have workflow systems because in some small component of their system it manages the flow of information or tasks. 

So what makes a Workflow System something different from a System that merely has workflow capabilities?

Well Workflow or BPM systems by their nature can be reconfigured at the drop of a hat so in my friend’s case he could add a step D without ever having to touch a line of code.  In addition workflow systems were not designed for one process or a set of processes or an industry or a particular problem or set of problems.  Instead workflow systems were created with the idea of a continually evolving set of requirements and continually increasing efficiency, automation and reach. 

BTW I am trying to compile a list of quotes from famous or semi-famous people where the quotes in some fashion promote a workflow and workflow software in someway.  For instance "The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order." – Alfred North Whitehead

If you have any quotes could you please post them as a comment.