You can probably think of five or 10 different workflows used in your own organisation off the top of your head. But when you start detailing the steps in each one, it’s easy to get tangled up where roles and processes overlap.
You can make each workflow easier to improve by diagramming it in a more simple way. This will help you easily find both the pros and cons of your workflows, then plan ways to make them more efficient — the key to successfully optimizing business processes.
A workflow diagram is a visual model showing the primary activity steps in a specific business process. It’s the easiest way to find bottlenecks and areas where you could improve efficiency.
Diagramming workflows is its own specialty, so we’ve gathered some resources at the end of this post if you’d like to learn more about how to do it. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Try using a pencil and paper or whiteboard for drafting these workflows—they may help get your mind flowing better than digital tools.
- Include all the steps in each process, even minor ones or those that seem efficient already.
- Identify a clear start and end point for each process.
- Brainstorm with key personnel and lower-level employees; they’ll know their processes best.
When the workflow is down on paper, look at each step closely for inefficiency. Is that step causing — or likely to cause — slowdowns, backlogs, or excessive costs? Does it require unnecessary or onerous permissions or approvals?
Look at the diagrammed workflow and think about the questions we discussed for analysing workflows for optimization. What’s going right in this process? How could it be improved? Ask yourself:
1. What’s going right in this process?
- What are the best steps in the process? Define “best” by practice goals and visions such as efficiency and client satisfaction. Use your judgment.
- What is working in your best steps?
2. How can this process be improved?
- Which steps could use improvement? Which are the least effective?
- What makes those steps the least effective?
- How could we improve those steps?
Next time, we’ll look at two specific workflows and break them down for optimization. For a more in-depth explanation, take a look at the full, free Soprano whitepaper How to optimise workflows with mobile messaging: A guide for healthcare organisations.
Learn more about diagramming workflows for business process optimization
- Chapter 9 of Document Engineering: Analyzing and Designing Documents for Business Informatics & Web Services, UC Berkeley
- “Process Analysis,” NetMBA
- “How to Analyze a Business Process,” WikiHow (we promise it’s good)
- “How to Diagram a Workflow”, Bridging the Gap
- “What is Business Process Design and Why Should I Care?,” Jay Cousins and Tony Stewart
- “Document & Analyze Phase – Process Improvement,” University of Michigan