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What is workflow management software?
Workflow management software coordinates the flow of daily work tasks and ensures proper implementation of business processes. These systems provide a collaborative environment that lets users easily monitor and evaluate their processes.
Workflow management systems help businesses:
- Coordinate multiple projects and team members.
- Maintain accurate and up-to-date project and performance data.
- Synchronize changes across multiple calendars (such as Outlook, Google Calendar, and iCal).
- Test the effectiveness of business strategies.
The benefits of workflow management software
- Efficient approval management: In today’s collaborative business environment, almost all processes involve approval management. This means that lags in the approval process result in process delays and reduced efficiency. Workflow management software automates various stages of the approval process by letting users submit approval requests, assign approvers, and set deadlines. Upon creation of approval requests, these systems automatically send email notifications to the responsible parties.
- Effective process collaboration: Most workplace processes involve teamwide collaboration, cross-departmental collaboration, and cross-organizational collaboration. Managing these multi-method collaboration processes manually is time consuming, and burdensome. Workflow management systems help users design, customize, and monitor their collaborative processes with the help of custom forms, process flows, portals for process change requests, and approval management.
- Improved visibility of team performance: Workflow management software serves as a centralized storage location for process-related data, including ongoing tasks, pending and completed approvals, and completed tasks. Using this information, workflow management systems create reports on process performance within a business. Managers can also implement KPIs for their team members and assess employees on predefined attributes, such as timeliness and efficiency.
Typical features of workflow management software
- Business process automation: Design process workflows using a drag-and-drop interface. Users can add forms to capture data for each step of the process.
- Task management: Create standard task lists and checklists for different process stages, and track real-time task progress.
- Workflow configuration: Sequence stages (e.g., approval, review, etc.) within a process, and design process flows.
- Access controls/permissions: Manage data access for individuals or groups based on their hierarchy or department.
- Approval process control: Manage approvals at various stages; responsible parties are notified when approval requests are generated.
- Calendar management: Track due dates for activities and tasks using a calendar. Users can sync this information with calendar solutions such as Outlook and Google Calendar.
Considerations when purchasing workflow management software
- Reporting and analytics: Workflow management software eases managerial workloads by providing real-time performance reports on various process stages, such as in-progress, review, and approval. These systems can also provide insights on process improvement by helping users identify bottlenecks and eliminate redundancies. Software-generated reports also track and show individual and team performance, helping managers design training plans. Businesses should clearly define their reporting and analytics needs, and evaluate workflow management tools accordingly.
- WYSIWYG form designer: Process data lies at the core of workflow management systems. This data not only ensures the quality of deliverables at each step, but also provides users with meaningful performance improvement insights. This means that efficient data capturing is vital for workflow management software. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) form designers let users create forms with custom fields, fonts, formats, and layouts. This functionality also allows users to implement process logic (for example, based on a specific form selection, one process is automatically forwarded for approval), and ensures that mandatory fields are completed at each stage. Businesses with inadequate data capturing capabilities should look for workflow management systems that offer this functionality.
Relevant workflow management software trends
- Machine learning is driving automation in workflow management: Machine learning helps users design workflows and processes with minimal human involvement. Machine learning-enabled solutions help marketers create automated workflows for their campaigns, and let other users create automated task lists and process forms for each process stage. The adoption of machine learning among small and midsize businesses (SMBs) is growing. Our research found that 53% of SMBs are currently using or plan to use this technology in their businesses within the next two years.
- Chatbots will play a bigger role in workflow management software: Chatbots are conversational interfaces that simulate human communication and assist users with basic functions. Chatbots let users automate tasks with the help of written instructions. As an example, users can instruct a chatbot to create a new workflow or task within a process without manually navigating through the solution. With increasing chatbot adoption among SMBs , expect to see more chatbot-enabled features in workflow management systems in the next few years.