Manage Complexity Through Powerful Workflow Tools

When it comes to managing workflows, you may find yourself spending more time managing and less time doing. If this is you, don’t worry (you’re not alone). Each year millions of mangers struggle to implement efficient workflows, leaving their employees feeling either stressed, overwhelmed, or downright clueless. Managing a business isn’t always easy, even for those with years of industry experience, which is why many organizations rely on business tools to get the job done. Before we discuss the tools, here are some tips and tricks for creating and managing efficient workflows.

Find out what makes sense for your business

There are many ways you can go about managing your company’s workflow, but its important to note that only a few workflow configurations actually make sense. Depending on the roles of your employees you must organize your workflow in a way that maximizes efficiency and ultimately gets the job done without creating any unnecessary bottlenecks. This can be achieved by first brainstorming how, why, when, and by whom each task is completed. Start by identifying the roles and strengths of each employee and delegating tasks accordingly. If you haven’t already done so, establish a hierarchy to determine who has what level of authority and assign permissions accordingly. Remember, that all workflows should be created with your end goals in mind (including deadlines and compliance), so try to eliminate any unnecessary steps that may keep you from achieving your objectives. If you are an engineer, this shouldn’t be difficult, since you typically specialize in efficiency.

Talk to your team

While your workflow configuration may seem to make sense, it is important to ensure that your team is on board as well. In design and development, you may feel confident that you have a complete understanding of each step and what it takes to complete it, but without talking to your team first, you may be left unaware of some of the possible challenges that come with each step. The truth is, only your experienced team members know what it takes to complete each task in your workflow, so it is always a good idea to consult them before making the decision to implement your workflow. Other people may be able to see flaws in processes that are not immediately apparent. You may not be able to act upon all the inefficiencies in your workflow, but knowing they exist can be beneficial to both you and your team members.

Automate whenever possible

Automation has become an important component in managing complex workflows, particularly in the engineering and manufacturing industries. Since design and development requires a series of review and approval processes, it is important that your workflow reflect these processes in a way that is simple for your team to manage. Engineering workflows are usually document-centric since managers are typically reviewing CAD drawings or blueprints. And depending on the nature of your organization, documents may require a voting process, which can easily be achieved through automation. You may need to adjust user permissions as a document moves between steps, depending on whether they are approved or rejected, which is just one of the many reasons that workflow automation can be so powerful. This is particularly useful for companies that manage telecommuters, as remote workers typically give organizations less control over their proprietary documents. At any given time, only those who are modifying, reviewing, or redlining documents should have access to them, ensuring the highest level of security and compliance.

Keep audit trails of all actions

Compliance is often one of the biggest concerns when managing workflows, but is not the only benefit of recording audit trails. Audit trails give managers full transparency into how workflows are actually being utilized, making it easy to spot inefficiencies such as bottlenecks. In most cases, people typically don’t get everything right the first time around, making audit trails extremely useful for working and reworking document-centric workflows.

Improvement is within your reach

Managing workflows can be as easy or as difficult as you make it, but with access to the right tools, it’s simple to create and manage your team’s workflows.

Colin Meyer is Marketing Manager for eQuorum, a leading technology provider for engineering workflow and document management solutions.