You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed by the number of enterprise workflow solutions that exist out there. From nearly zero cost solutions like paper mapping to the most sophisticated business process management software, the options are endless. Figuring out exactly which solution answers your organizational needs is crucial to saving time, money, frustration and—most importantly—the integrity of your enterprise. Following these four key guidelines will help make the process easier, from decision to implementation.
Determine what your business really needs from the start
Among all those enterprise management tools you’ve browsed, there are two main categories of solutions—and depending on how you’re looking to shift your enterprise, you may want to choose one or the other (or both).
Workflow management tools focus in on the people at your enterprise and the individual roles they carry out. Often, when a process involves multiple players and multiple actions happening at the same time, workflow management helps organize, streamline, and reduce hiccups. Don’t make the mistake of believing that big bucks are required to obtain the best workflow software. As Amit Kothari of Tallify says in his article, “Improving Efficiency – Workflow vs Business Process Management,” great solutions don’t necessarily require forking over large sums: “They’re merely there to define key steps in a specific task where multiple people are involved and they outline each individual’s role.”
A workflow management tool is the perfect choice for an enterprise that needs to:
- Take control of routine processes
- Automate processes the enterprise repeats often
- Make sure no steps are missed in a process
When it comes to workflow management, digital is not necessarily better than paper. What really makes workflow better is automation. If all the steps in a workflow are manual, it’s time to start examining it to find points that can be automated.
On the other hand, business process management (BPM) tools define the individual processes of your organization. Imagine holding up a microscope to one process being carried out by a member of your team; what you would see are a multitude of details that make the process go. In a workflow solution, each step is focused on the individual completing it; but each step may also be broken down into the processes that make it up.
You may be looking for a BPM tool if:
- You’re expanding
- You need to reduce inefficiencies or bottlenecks
- The enterprise needs to “tighten up” by sticking closer to a standardized procedure (customer satisfaction, speed of service, accuracy of service)
It’s important to fully understand your purpose for seeking out a BPM tool. Be sure to allow yourself and your organization the space to examine what’s not working (for many enterprises, this is more than one thing). When you’ve clearly identified the rough patches, consider which process is the right one to tackle first—then, be honest about the amount of time it will take, and expect delays. And, of course, having a plan in place to document the process (and brainstorming space to keep and grow it) will help keep things organized.
Open lines of communication and listen to feedback
In an enterprise, no man is an island—and management is no exception. Inefficiency scouting within the organization should be a group activity. Before you decide on workflow or BPM software that will affect the entire enterprise, consider the team that will be using the software and carrying out the processes. Is everyone on the same page about what’s not working in the day-to-day? Gathering teammates in to openly discuss points of difficulty will empower you to choose the best enterprise management tool. In that respect, this factor may be the most helpful in whittling down those endless software options.
Select vendors with the right software and training
If you’re spending a lot of money to implement software, it’s crucial that it serves all the functions your enterprise truly needs—and the vendor should be completely invested in helping your team make it work.
As you prepare to implement your new management solution, keep the statistics in mind. According to a recent study, 68% of enterprise workflow solutions fail. These solutions rarely fail because of a fault in the technology—if it fails, it’s most often due to one of the following:
- The software salesperson lacks experience with the product and makes faulty promises about speed of implementation
- The people at the enterprise are not properly trained
- The people at the enterprise do not receive adequate support from the software vendor
In his article, “Consequences of Incorrect Enterprise Content Management / Workflow Implementations,” Paul Pitts of All Star Software Systems explains, “The importance of selecting a vendor who not only provides the software and training, but also implements the solution adequately is extremely important.” There are several components Pitts recommends for successful implementation of a new enterprise management solution:
- A design document
- A project plan and tracking
- Proper test staff and a defined test plan
- A “go live” plan and on-site “go live” support
- End user training
- Customized end-user manuals
Software vendors should be willing and ready to provide all the above. Ask as many questions of the software vendors as you need to feel comfortable with your decision to hire them, including references for the implementer, sample project plans, and a summary of their methodology.
Start with a beta test team and then implement company wide
“By having a wide variety of technical and non-technical employees from your company demo products, you’ll see which products appeal to specific end-users, helping you find that just-right automation software,” Terrie Elliott of OnTask advises in her article, “How to Implement a Workflow Automation Solution.”
Whether you start with a few members of the team who will be handling the process you’re planning to rework or you pull teammates from distinct departments of the enterprise, you’re not only one step further toward training the entire team; you’re making 100 percent sure this software is right for your organization.
“Through several rounds of testing,” Elliott says, “You’ll have full confidence that you’re picking a tool that can actually make impact on your entire firm’s productivity—not just your own.”
The challenge of finding the right key to efficiency for your enterprise can be daunting. By zeroing in on the processes that create sticking points in your flow, asking vendors a lot of questions, and involving the entire team in training and testing, you’re guaranteed to improve your organization’s workflow and success.
This article was first published on Sage.com.
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