The Ultimate Guide to Workflow Management

Workflows help you get work done by completing a sequence of tasks. Moreover, they’re how you get repetitive tasks done, over and over again. If designed well, workflows can save you and your company time and money.

For the most part, workflows are useful—that is, until they become unruly and take more work than they free up. In this case, if they do become unmanageable, it’s helpful to put a workflow management system into place.

But what exactly is workflow management?

What is workflow management?

Workflow management is the control and coordination of many business processes within a system; it helps companies achieve repeatable goals. Likewise, a workflow is a set of steps your team members go through to complete a specific business goal regularly—repetitive processes. In other words, workflow management is business process automation.

Workflow management vs. project management

Workflow and project management systems share some similarities. For example, they both coordinate the process of completing tasks to achieve goals. However, they differ in the type of goals they attempt to achieve, who completes the specific task, and how tasks are measured.

In general, the lists below compare how workflows and projects relate and contrast.

Workflow:

√ Series of tasks

√ Simplifies and organizes processes

≠ Purpose: To achieve a repeatable goal

≠ Tasks are simple and sequential

≠ Measured by task and completion

≠ Worked on by the company or long-term teams

≠ Focuses on linking the tasks

Project:

√ Series of tasks

√ Simplifies and organizes processes

≠ Purpose: To achieve a single goal

≠ Tasks are complex and separate

≠ Measured by time and quality

≠ Requires a short-term team or interdepartmental collaboration

≠ Focuses on outlining, observing, and evaluating the success of tasks

Why use workflow management software [+ a use case]

Managing a workflow through email or another manual method can leave a team confused about the status of the workflow. In particular, you might recognize these common questions asked during a manual workflow process:

  • Who has completed which task?
  • Where are we in the workflow, and where’s the document?
  • What’s next?

Losing track of the process and missing deadlines leads to a loss of productivity. But it’s not the team’s fault. The real culprit is the lack of an efficient system—a workflow management system.

Use case: It’s one thing to create a policy. It’s another thing for your employees to accept it. For instance, HR teams should work with IT to maintain visibility into if and how they govern SaaS adoption. Using automated processes to track SaaS adoption, changes, and high-risk usage will make it easy to identify when security breaches occur and faster to remedy them. Employee onboarding is a period when a workflow management tool would be beneficial.

Read more: “SaaS Security and Compliance for HR.”

What is a workflow management system?

A workflow management system (WfMS) is a software tool that allows an organization to document its processes, standardize them, and store them in a central location. Through this optimization, all stakeholders can access, arrange, control, and track workflows as a team.

Therefore, the process reduces the need for asking fact-finding questions that the system can answer. In other words, no more losing track of email threads.

Another benefit to a WfMS is that it can automate tasks not requiring a human hand. For example, suppose the workflow awaits someone to complete a pending assignment. Using workflow notifications, the tool reminds the assignee about the task if they forget about it and don’t complete it by the due date and time.

WfMS is also known as business process management (BPM). BPM denotes many workflows and processes, supporting the entire business process development cycle.

Learn “What is Workflow Automation? Examples and Tools.”

Workflow types

Workflow management systems can make three different workflows:

  1. Sequential workflow: Linear like a flow chart, this workflow moves forward step by step and never backward.
  2. State workflow: This workflow might move backward but only for a dependent reason, switching “states” in the process.
  3. Rules-driven workflow: Non-linear in form, this workflow uses rules or conditions to determine the progression, using expressions, such as if, then, or else.

How to choose a workflow management system

Not all workflow management software solutions are alike. So before you choose a WfMS, first conduct internal research. In other words, ask these questions about your company’s needs:

  • What does your company need in a workflow solution?
  • Are there features your company can’t do without?
  • How many users will the WfMS serve?
  • How quickly do you need the WfMS?
  • Will your company need additional IT support for the WfMS?

About workflow management system features

While asking the previous questions will help you understand your company’s needs, the following will help you choose the right tool and vendor. A proper WfMS will offer the following features:

An easy-to-use interface

The tool should be simple, user-friendly, and empower you to design, manage, and track workflows with no-code, drag-and-drop ease.

Cloud app integration

The WfMS should be cloud-based, and it should connect with other cloud apps like CRM, ERP, and HRIS systems. Integration ensures your workflows accomplish any task on any tool in any cloud.

KPI-based reporting

Key-performance indicator (KPI)-based reporting will take productivity and efficiency to another level using metrics. So choose a WfMS that helps you evaluate your methodologies, measuring and monitoring your KPIs to find and eliminate bottlenecks.

Automation

No WfMS is worth its salt if it can’t automate processes, from automated workflows to automated routing. It should also automate workflows and tasks that don’t need human intervention, like financial reports and approval workflows.

Notification automation and management

One of the better benefits of automation is notification automation, and the WfMS should automate all notifications.

Parallel task-branching

Workflows without dependencies should have the ability to create tasks that happen simultaneously. This ability is called parallel task-branching.

Access control management

A WfMS should give you the ability to grant access and access levels to your team. And as such, access control management should allow you to customize each user’s view and permission level. This way, you share information with only the right people.

Transparent pricing

Choose a WfMS tool and vendor with transparent and flexible pricing models. Whether it’s a monthly pay-as-you-go on a per-user basis or a flat fee, make sure it meets your company’s needs.

Why Blissfully is the best workflow management system

With Blissfully, use workflows and automations to manage, control, and track SaaS changes across the organization. It’s a real-time source of truth, giving you visibility into your entire app ecosystem. Blissfully also automatically creates an audit trail after every workflow for security and compliance. Other features include:

  • Vendor workflows: Begin a vendor approval, renewal, or termination in seconds. Plus, delegate critical tasks to the responsible parties while making sure essential vendor information is accessible.
  • SaaS operations: Blissfully is the #1 SaaS operations platform on G2 with advanced functionality to streamline your processes.
  • Employee workflows: For onboarding, offboarding, requests, approvals, business rules, and more, Blissfully automatically executes what it can and triggers notifications for everyone with an open task. Also, regular reminders make sure everything gets done.
  • Advanced workflow logic: Capture complex processes with ease, and use role-based assignments, scheduled tasks, blockers, and more to make work happen as planned.
  • IT automations: Blissfully’s powerful IT automations take care of repetitive tasks, saving time and money.
  • API connections: Connect your stack for maximum automation and integrate with Blissfully’s API to sync data and trigger actions with your other tools.

To learn more about how Blissfully can help you manage your SaaS workflows, request a demo.

Read next: “Workflow Application – Comprehensive Playbook [2020 Edition].”