6 Steps to Streamline Workflow in Any Business

Businesses that can streamline workflow ensure their internal processes are running efficiently and produce desired outcomes while minimizing operational costs.

Regardless of the industry, companies contain several internal workflows that operate to complete a larger task, such as order fulfillment, marketing promotions, and inventory control. However, if these processes run inefficiently, businesses can fall behind competition due to unnecessary expenses, elongated wait times, and subpar results.

Through detailed monitoring and analysis, organizations can improve individual process performance to streamline workflow. When processes are optimized, businesses can limit the time and capital needed to run an operation while maintaining desired results. Therefore, companies should understand how to streamline workflow and what advantages efficient processes can provide.

Benefits of Streamlining Workflow

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While business process and workflow are often used interchangeably, there are key characteristics that separate them.

A process is a repetitive procedure that is routinely performed to reach a goal set by an organization. On the other hand, workflow refers to a series of processes that must be executed to complete a specific task. For example, cycle counts are processes that are performed routinely to ensure that stock levels are optimized. This process, along with others, such as monitoring reorder points, combine to create the inventory management workflow, which encompasses all stock operations.

Streamlining business processes means simplifying operations, often by removing complicated and ineffective steps that don't contribute to the quality of execution. When companies establish efficient workflows, they unlock several business advantages, such as-

  • Cost Savings
  • Enhanced Productivity
  • Improved Communication
  • Optimized Time Management
  • Minimized Risk

6 Steps to Streamline Business Workflow

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Workflow management helps to streamline business processes and increase productivity by scrutinizing and manipulating operations to remove inefficiencies. While the streamlining process requires attention to detail, it can ultimately boost profits by reducing labor and operational costs. Businesses can begin improving workflow by following six steps-

1. Document Business Processes
Especially when handling several different processes, businesses must document detailed reports and analyses on each operation to clearly define their functionality.

First, management should pull together a list of each process within a workflow or department, as well as their intended purpose and every employee involved in the task. Even if the process seems menial or simple, management should describe it in as much detail as possible. This outline allows businesses to see how much effort it takes to conduct one operation and further determine ways to improve efficiency.

2. Rank Operations
Once the list is finished, management may be surprised to see exactly how many processes are necessary to successfully run one workflow. With this list, each process and workflow should be ranked numerically from most to least important.

While every existing process serves a purpose and is essential, some are dependent upon others to function. For example, a marketing project management team may rely on actionable insights generated from sales and demand forecasting software in order to develop impactful data-driven promotions. Therefore, ranking operations can help define which processes need to be streamlined first, followed by its dependent systems.

3. Dissect Each Process
Beginning with the most critical process, each operation should be further broken down into detailed steps. This can be done with a pen and paper or on a virtual spreadsheet. It is helpful to consider the employees involved in the process and have them assist in creating a detailed model.

The key to a proper outline is illustrating an operation's beginning, middle, end, and desired outcome. By breaking down the workflow into simple steps, complicated systems become more comprehensible. Simplifying business processes allows management to pinpoint exact areas that need improvement to streamline workflow.

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4. Generate Feedback
Improving business workflow is a continuous process, not a one-time solution. As technology and customer behavior changes, internal operations need to adapt and evolve accordingly.

An excellent way to receive suggestions on how to improve workflow is soliciting feedback from peers, employees, and supervisors. Opinions on process steps, efficiency levels, and outcomes are also valuable as they provide specific references. Input from those directly and indirectly involved can provide new perspectives and insights regarding the business operations, which may help in developing a unique approach to streamlining workflow. While significant changes are unlikely, finetuning small functions can make an impactful outcome.

5. Implement Workflow Automation Software

Studies show that 70-80% of modern businesses use spreadsheets to track and report their projects and processes. Although this traditional method has been proven to be helpful, manual tracking can lead to human error and other inconsistencies. Besides the risk of erroneous data entry, spreadsheets are difficult to update, share, and keep accessible.

Fortunately, advanced management software is available to both small and large businesses to help streamline their processes. This solution uses workflow automation to perform basic operations without the need for human intervention, eliminating the risk of human error. For example, businesses can integrate their sales forecasting software with the POS system to automate the demand projection calculations and perpetually track sales orders to identify trends in customer purchase behaviors.

Integrated software optimizes communication by automatically sharing real-time data and functions between management software, allowing employees to access information through a universal interface. With complete access to operational data, management can generate reports to develop actionable insights that show where further process improvements are needed.

6. Monitor and Refine Processes
Even when changes have been implemented and workflow has shown improvements, the work is not done. Processes will need to be refined over time as long as industries continue to evolve. However, with advanced software tools, organizations can easily monitor performance metrics to discover how to continuously streamline the overall workflow.

Streamlining workflow is an ongoing project in which businesses need to prioritize processes to establish efficient operations. When the workflow is optimized, companies can minimize their operational costs and promote overall productivity.