To be truly functional and have the potential to scale, all types of businesses need workflows. When you’re busy serving clients, it can be hard to focus on and maintain processes behind the scenes, so defined and updated workflows are arguably even more important than they are in a non-client-facing industry.
Because Accelo was built to streamline and implement workflows for professional services businesses, our team understands what it takes to maintain them over time.
We’re sharing our top tips for keeping your existing workflows in good shape and ensuring that your team applies them appropriately as your business changes.
Be sure you’re using a workflow type that makes sense for the recurring process you’re trying to achieve. Some workflows apply to small daily tasks and others serve larger business functions. Setting up your workflows correctly from the start will give them a better chance of being long-lived, no matter who’s implementing them.
Need some help? Read our blog about three common types of workflows.
An established workflow is only useful when it specifies who’s responsible for each step. Clear delegation is key for holding your team accountable and detecting the source of any bottlenecks. Depending on the size and structure of your business, assignees might change, so you may need to have a system for keeping records of who’s currently assigned and whether each person is responsible for just one task or an entire workflow.
Workflows are only as effective as the people who keep them going. As your staff grows and roles change, it should be standard operating procedure to revisit workflows. This should be part of your new hire training, but it’s also critical to conduct regular retraining as you take on new and different clients or duplicate workflows. The more complex your business becomes, the more important it is to keep your team comfortable with their assignments and conscious of their contributions to the big picture of what your business achieves.
Don’t assume that any task is obvious. From sending emails to taking notes to filling in a quote template, everyone tends to do things a little differently. Tightening up your workflows means listing every mandatory responsibility and even how you prefer things be formatted. Especially for workflows that involve external-facing documents or content, it’s better to be too explicit than it is to leave an employee doubting what’s expected.
Since workflows apply to both internal and external tasks, you don’t want these processes to be siloed. For example, your project management team might fail to start producing a client deliverable if there isn’t a trigger between that workflow and the one dedicated to approving the work request. Time and missing steps between your workflows could lead to expensive errors and oversights.
Accelo can help! Find out how custom triggers can connect your workflows.
Even with the best of intentions and great documentation, workflows won’t always function perfectly. When you have to put a process on hold, what happens? Some types of workflows, such as rules-driven, can account for delays and others aren’t so flexible. How will your team get things up and running again, and who’s responsible for making sure that happens? Like in any emergency or disaster scenario, these are decisions that should be made before a potential problem arises.
Not only is it helpful to retrain people on their workflow assignments, but the workflows themselves need careful reevaluation on a regular basis. The easiest way to accomplish this is to create another workflow! Have those in management positions assigned to review their teams’ processes, fix errors and adjust for changes. Ideally, they’ll receive automatic notifications to do this, so it will become a built-in task rather than an unexpected heavy lift.
Nearly all of the above can be accomplished without manual effort. Once you’ve delineated workflows, keeping them rolling and updated can be a background job with the right tools. Aim for all workflow documentation to be digital to prepare for using technology solutions to automate everything you can. Your team will be more efficient and you’ll have reliable records of what’s been accomplished at any given moment.
A smart tech platform can help you insert automation into the most appropriate steps and facilitate collaboration throughout. The best kind of platform to sustain workflows is one that’s multifunctional — capable of accompanying your team through the entire client journey. Of course, implementing that software will work best if you’ve already done the leg work of putting workflows in place and testing them out.
Ready to build and digitally manage workflows your team can sustain? Schedule a demo of Accelo and find out how a client work management platform can help.