API Docs & Tools Blog Help
6 steps to streamline any business workflow - Intuit Developer Community Blog

August 11, 2020 | Andy Latkovskis

6 steps to streamline any business workflow

It’s not uncommon to experience delays in a business, only to be slapped with the phrase, “That’s how we have always done it.” While some tasks need to follow a specific process, you will agree that other processes are complicated for no good reason.

Streamlining business workflow is important in eliminating delays, lowering risks of errors, improving efficiency, and increasing productivity. In addition, a deep audit of workflow identifies areas with redundant tasks. It also helps in spotting workflow that needs automating for faster delivery and improved employee job satisfaction.

Streamlining workflow takes several steps. Here are six steps to follow in developing an efficient workflow:

1. Write down all the processes. Most businesses operate without a workflow inventory. While it may seem harmless, doing so covers up loopholes, including communication breakdowns, poor filing systems, disorganized areas such as the hardware and ineffective computer hardware, or software that ends up creating delays.

Start by documenting every process in your business. Include all the individuals involved with each process. Engage your team to establish the reasons behind each process. Ask for tasks that frustrate them. The idea is to identify areas of improvement and fixes that will allow work to flow faster.

2. Analyze each step carefully. After documenting all the processes, the next step would be analyzing the collected data. Do a thorough audit to identify areas where time and resources are being wasted. It could be a computer that stalls, a disorganized filing cabinet that staff members take hours searching for files, disorganized hardware that makes it hard to find items, or endless paperwork that requires a long chain of authorization. Analyzing the processes will help you identify areas where communication doesn’t flow properly, ending up in unclear instructions.

3. Make adjustments. After identifying areas that need attention, it’s time to implement the changes. From the above examples, that would mean investing in new computer hardware and software, reducing the authorization chain and giving instructions via email. Another key area would be to eliminate paperwork by automating the processes. Tracking inventory via software can make it easy to identify items in the hardware.

In addition, making use of technological tools helps manage workflow and eliminate redundant processes. For example, while working, employees will need tools that enable them to open and compress large files. They can make use of Zip files to achieve this. They will have an easy time keeping related files together. They will also have an efficient way to store, transfer, and download data.

4. Create smaller chunks and rank the workflow. After fixing the issues, you will have a new workflow to follow. Break down the processes into small, doable steps. This will help in making complex workflows more manageable. It’s also important to rank the processes in order of importance. This will ensure that employees are able to identify and prioritize important tasks. They will be able to manage their daily work better and find value in what they do at the end of the day. You will also have an easy time overseeing these processes.

5. Test and implement the new workflow. It’s now time to test and implement a new way of doing things. Before stamping the new processes, it’s important to test them out first in a single project. This will help determine their workability and identify the areas that need adjustments.

After proving that the process is suitable for your business, the next step would be to implement it in the day-to-day work. Ensure that you have made the necessary changes identified in the testing phase.

This is the step where you train your employees on the improved workflow. It’s paramount that they understand that everything was done to ease their work and improve productivity. Let everyone understand their responsibilities in making the new process work.

6. Re-audit and keep refining. You will agree that no work process is perfect. It might work for you now, but later prove to be inefficient for your operations. Leave room for improvements. Ensure that you conduct continuous audits on the processes to identify areas of weaknesses. And, as soon as you find them, refine the processes accordingly.

Moving forward with these steps

Adapting to changes takes time. Your employees might have a challenging time adjusting, or might even find themselves slipping back to the older processes. Exercise patience and keep offering guidance, whenever necessary. However, keep insisting the need to follow the outlined workflow for improved efficiency.