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Workflow Management Software

Workflow Management software coordinates the flow of work and ensures changes are properly implemented. Workflow Management tools offer a collaborative environment that allows businesses to easily monitor and evaluate their processes. Organisations use Workflow software to coordinate their business environment, facilitate instant access to accurate and up-to-date data on projects and performance, schedule and synchronise changes and test the effectiveness of business strategies. Workflow Management software is related to Business Process Management software, Requirements Management software, and Project Management software. Find the best workflow management system for your organisation in Australia.

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Workflow Management Software Buyers Guide

Workflow management software describes software solutions designed and developed to assist individuals and businesses with managing the flow of daily work tasks. These programs also allow organisations to analyse or assess their processes, evaluate performance, track progress, and monitor the status of individual projects. In addition, business leaders can use these software solutions to manage compliance issues and improve collaboration, which is especially important in situations where multiple departments need to work together.

A workflow refers to a repeatable sequence of steps, actions, or activities which can be carried out to accomplish a specific task. The creation of workflows helps to provide employees with a framework to refer to while standardising business processes and ensuring a level of consistency is achieved.

Ultimately, workflow management software helps businesses and their leadership teams oversee their daily operations, provide employees with the guidance they need to carry out their jobs effectively and improve overall employee and team coordination. In addition, the features of workflow management systems can be beneficial in situations where changes to processes need to be introduced, explained, and implemented.

Workflow management software is primarily used by businesses. However, it can be utilised by organisations of all kinds, including charities, academic institutions, and any other group of people who need to monitor defined sequences of tasks. The features and core uses of workflow management software mean it is often categorised alongside solutions like business process management software, project management software, and collaboration software. In many cases, workflow management solutions can be integrated with these other tools, reducing friction. Third-party integrations are a common feature because sharing information can help businesses to simplify and consolidate data.

Although workflow management solutions focus on assisting organisations with managing and tracking day-to-day operations and defined task sequences, there can also be significant variation relating to the range of features provided. Many workflow management programs include features associated with workforce management, project management, and project planning. With that being said, several common features help to define workflow software. As a general rule, by acquiring software of this kind, users will be able to:

  • Set up automation for repetitive, predictable, or unnecessarily time-consuming activities within a workflow
  • Create and edit the steps in a workflow through the use of a graphical workflow editor
  • Access up-to-date reports and performance data so that individual workflows can be analysed
  • Manage approval processes, set deadlines, and provide employees with options for collaboration.

What is workflow management software?

Workflow management software—otherwise known as workflow management systems—are software solutions designed to help organisations define processes and manage day-to-day operations. This is primarily achieved through the creation of visual workflows, which break down the various steps that will need to be completed to achieve a specific task or complete a specific business process. These repeatable steps can then serve as the framework for employees to use whenever that particular task or process needs to be carried out in future, providing a level of standardisation and consistency while helping to keep staff on track.

The acquisition of workflow management software allows organisations clearly define the procedures that need to be carried out, and analyse business processes, so that performance can be tracked and changes can be implemented. In addition, a big part of workflow management solutions will usually centre around automation, where some of the more predictable or repetitive tasks are performed automatically, to reduce unnecessary delays.

The use of workflow management software can also help to improve collaboration and coordination across departments. While workflow management solutions are most commonly used by businesses, they can be useful in any organisation that has defined workflows and want tasks to be performed in a specific way. This could include non-profit organisations, schools, hospitals, and science and research-based organisations.

What are the benefits of workflow management software?

The benefits of workflow management software are wide-ranging but based on the ideas of efficiency, automation, and the creation of defined frameworks for business processes. These focus areas then have several potential knock-on effects for businesses and other organisations. With this in mind, some of the most significant and specific advantages of using workflow management systems are outlined below:

  • Improved productivity: One of the biggest reasons to invest in high-quality workflow management software is its ability to boost productivity within an organisation, and this can occur for many reasons. First of all, workflow management can help employees become aware of what steps they should follow to complete a process, task or activity. Clearly defining workflows can help prevent delays caused by employees needing to ask what to do next. Secondly, many aspects of a workflow can be automated, meaning actions are performed automatically, even if no employee is available to act themselves. Thirdly, reporting and analytics side of workflow management systems can help businesses identify and improve inefficient processes.
  • Efficient approvals: Approvals are vital in most modern businesses, and a big range of workflows will include at least one approval phase that needs to be navigated. Through the integration of management software, the approval process can be managed and made more efficient. This can include automated approvals for certain workflows, manual approvals for others, or even a combination of manual or automatic approvals, with rules set up for situations where the approval process can be bypassed. Resulting in the speed-up of business activities and avoiding any unnecessary delays.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Collaboration is essential in the workplace, and it can take many forms. For instance, collaboration can occur within a single team or department or across departments. Furthermore, collaboration could also occur between different branches of the same business or even between multiple separate organisations. Regardless, collaboration needs to be as frictionless as possible, and workflow management solutions can assist with this. Using workflow management software, all parties can have a clear sense of what needs to be complete, when it needs to be complete, and when approval is required. Having a framework can be especially vital in instances where different departments, branches or businesses usually perform processes in different ways.
  • Standardisation: Finally, workflow management systems can help to provide a degree of standardisation to business processes. This can include ensuring that the same precise steps are followed each time and that actions are performed at the same time in the process. The creation of workflows helps to document and clearly define the steps that need to be completed and can remove any ambiguity. Furthermore, automation can help to move processes forwards at the right time. Altogether, this is especially important in any task, activity, or business process that needs to produce consistent results consistently.

What are the features of workflow management software?

The features of workflow management software assist organisations to create clearly defined workflows. These sequences provide a clear framework for employees to work from and can help to provide a level of consistency to the work produced. However, the features of workflow management do go beyond this too, and although there can be significant variation, the majority of high-quality solutions will offer most of the following:

  • Workflow configuration: Break down a process, or business activity into a sequence of steps, or create more complex process flows. A process flow could also have different clauses, creating branching options within the workflow. For example, once something reaches the approval stage of a workflow, it may be that certain activities will require manual approval from a senior business leader, while others will be suitable for automatic approval. More complex workflows could also include multiple steps that need to occur simultaneously, leading to parallel branches in the workflow. Ultimately, the workflow configuration component of this software package should allow users to configure everything from simple sequential workflows to much more complex processes, and workflows can usually be created using drag-and-drop controls.
  • Business process automation: Implement automation for the most common, predictable, or repetitive business processes within a workflow. Using automation can speed up workflows because it removes delays associated with relying on employees to be available and requiring manual confirmation or approval before moving to the next stage. With the best software solutions, specific rules can also be determined, governing when automation should occur and what should occur automatically. This also can free up more employee time, which can then be spent on more complicated tasks, increasing productivity across the board.
  • Task management: Create a list of the necessary tasks for each workflow, and manage progress continually over time. The task management component of a workflow management system should allow individual tasks to be tracked in real-time. Meaning managers and other senior staff can see precisely where their teams are, what has been done, what still needs to be done, and how long the entire process is likely to take.
  • Access controls/permissions: Set up access controls and manage permissions so that workflows can only be accessed by those authorised. This is important because some workflows will contain sensitive information not intended for all eyes within an organisation. The best solutions on the market will allow business leaders to set permissions based on job roles and an individual level. For example, all people in a particular job role can be encouraged to see workflows that are relevant to them, but it also means that permission to access or edit workflows can be either granted or withdrawn from specific individuals too.
  • Approval process control: Manage all of the different stages of an approval process so that a workflow is as efficient as possible while including any necessary checks. The approval process control component allows for an alternate approval process to implement for each workflow. Additionally, notifications can be set up so that the relevant employees are alerted when approval is given, and a process can move to the next stage.
  • Calendar management: Track the progress of tasks and manage deadlines and due dates. The calendar management component of a software solution will typically allow users to see deadlines using an internal calendar, which can break down months, days, and even hours. In many cases, notifications can also be set up, alerting users of actions that need to be performed or approaching deadlines. The very best software packages will also provide integration options with third-party calendar applications, such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Reporting/analytics: Monitor key performance indicators and access up-to-date analytics information to optimise productivity and business performance. When a new workflow is created, it is crucial to understand how it is working in practice. This means tracking how long a process takes, which stages of the process take the longest, and where there may be potential issues. Through reporting and analytics, users can understand which processes are working well and which are taking longer than they should. Furthermore, it becomes much easier to optimise workflows based on real outcomes.
  • Graphical workflow editor: Create clear, concise and aesthetically pleasing workflows through a graphical workflow editor. The defining trait of this feature is the ability to see what the workflow will look like while it is still being created and edited. Historically, the creation of workflows has often relied on complex coding. However, modern solutions should allow users to make professional-looking workflows without needing specialist knowledge because the software automatically handles the technical side. Ideally, organisations should look for a solution that allows anyone to create, edit and automate a workflow with basic training.

With the use of Capterra's workflow management software directory, users can sort through the various options on the market based on the specific features they have to offer. This means organisations can begin the search process by eliminating software that is not going to be suitable, focussing on the options that provide the features they need.

What should be considered when purchasing workflow management software?

When purchasing workflow management software, there are many different variables to consider to reach the best possible decision. It is important to remember that some considerations will matter more to one organisation than to another, this is why buyers need to focus on finding the best solution for their specific needs and circumstances. In general, a good approach is to work through some key questions, such as the following:

  • How much does workflow management software cost? The price of a workflow management solution will be a major consideration for the vast majority of buyers. Generally, organisations will have a budget to work with, and they will need to find an option that is in keeping with that budget, but pricing considerations need to go much further. More specifically, businesses and other buyers need to consider the total cost of ownership and use over the software's life cycle. This means not only the price of acquiring the software licence—or the fees associated with a subscription service—but also the cost of training employees to use the software effectively, the cost of accessing technical support, the cost of updates and upgrades, and the cost of making changes to IT infrastructure.
  • How easy is workflow management software to use? Another vital consideration when purchasing workflow management software is the ease of use. This includes having a user-friendly interface and all necessary compatibility, but it also means the core features should be reliable and easy to get results from. For instance, with a workflow management system, users with limited technical knowledge should still be able to create a workflow after some basic training, and it should be easy to set up alerts and automate steps within a workflow. One of the best ways to explore this issue before purchasing is to read customer reviews. Capterra's workflow management software directory provides access to written customer reviews and even allocates an 'ease of use score for each product based on these reviews.
  • How in-depth are the reporting and analytics features? Workflow management software mainly focuses on assisting businesses with the creation, and automation of workflows. This software is essentially a business performance and productivity solution, and this means the reporting and analytics features need to be up to scratch. Key performance indicators should be readily available. Ideally, all of these should be able to be viewed from a single report section of the app. Additionally, it should be possible to see which specific parts of a workflow are performing well and which parts are causing a bottleneck effect and may require changes to be made.
  • What integration options does the software offer? A workflow management system will form one part of a wider software strategy, but businesses utilise a variety of other solutions too. Integration options can streamline and simplify processes because data can be shared between software packages. This ensures data consistency but also means that unnecessary data duplication can be reduced too. In particular, integration options with tools like workforce management software, project management software, and collaboration software.
  • Does the software offer mobile and remote access? Many businesses allow employees to work from home, while others have certain employees who work in the field or travel around the world and require remote access. Therefore, it can be crucial to acquire a software solution that allows for remote access and, ideally, mobile access too. Cloud-based software is a simple solution to this problem it will usually provide compatibility with many different devices from anywhere in the world, as long as the device is connected to the internet. However, on-premise options can allow for remote access too while software that has a dedicated mobile app could be a potential solution to mobile accessibility issues.

The most relevant workflow management software trends should also be factored in when making a purchase. Businesses and other organisations need to know that the software they acquire will allow them to capitalise on these trends. At the same time, purchasing software designed with the latest workflow management trends in mind can help to future proof an organisation and ensure that the software will remain useful for years to come. Some of the most significant trends to be aware of include:

  • Cloud-based Software: Cloud technology has been one of the biggest software developments of recent times, and a growing number of organisations are turning to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions rather than using on-premise software deployment. The debate about whether to opt for cloud-based or on-premise deployment is increasingly swinging in favour of cloud-based options. This is especially true with workflow management software because many companies benefit from the data security features, the ability to update information for all users in real-time and the remote and mobile accessibility provided. This has become more important as remote and hybrid work models have grown in popularity too. Cloud-based solutions also have lower upfront costs, and setup is far easier. Furthermore, the long-term costs can become higher—due to the ongoing subscription fees associated with the SaaS model—so these pros and cons need to be weighed up carefully. Nevertheless, in the future, cloud-based software will likely gain an even greater share of the market.
  • Machine learning: Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that continually and automatically improves through data collection and experience. It is especially valuable when it comes to automation within workflow management systems because it has the potential to perform crucial actions at the best possible time, without the need for human involvement. Machine learning technology could allow a marketing team to create a fully automated workflow, for example, targeting the right platforms with the right content, at the right time, based on information collected through the marketing campaign. Additionally, machine learning could also determine when a workflow has performance issues and make intelligent recommendations for what could be done to improve things.
  • Workflow chatbots: One of the most vital workflow management system trends to be aware of is the changing nature of user interfaces. In particular, chatbots are likely to play an increasingly important role. This refers to AI-powered chat interfaces, which mimic conversations with real people and can be instructed to perform specific tasks. For instance, a user might instruct the chatbot to make an amendment to a workflow or even create a new workflow, and this can be done without having to manually perform the specific tasks. Chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence, and as this technology continues to improve, chatbot technology will become more accurate and reliable. This will, in turn, make it a more sought after feature in the years ahead.
  • Voice control technology: Finally, voice technology is another way the user interface is changing. As mobile assistants and smart speakers have taken off, users have become more reliant on voice commands in everyday life, and this technology is implemented within common work-based software solutions. With voice control, users can ask the software to carry out specific tasks, and the software will then understand the command and carry out the requested activity. This can be especially valuable in organisations where employees are required to multi-task or carry out detailed work that requires constant focus. At the same time, voice control has the power to improve accessibility for users with certain disabilities or impairments.