Definition – What is Workflow Analysis?

Sonia Pearson

in Tallyfy Workflows and BPM

Workflow analysis is a process in which businesses examine the progression of workflows in order to improve efficiency.

Workflow and usability are not afterthoughts; they impact the core of any project and dictate how it should be engineered.Ryan Holmes

Workflow analysis identifies areas for improvement, for example:

  • Bottlenecks
  • Redundant tasks or processes
  • Inefficient workplace layouts

By improving workflows, your resources are used more efficiently, and your staff is better able to work to capacity. It’s particularly important in situations where teams handle core processes in succession. For example, if Team B often finds itself waiting for Team A to complete its process before it can proceed, or conversely, can’t keep up with input from Team A, you have a classic bottleneck situation.

It also works for individuals performing a task. Any task is divided into phases. Particularly in established businesses, individuals could be performing unnecessary tasks simply because they were once told to get their work done that way or always have implemented a certain process.

Why Your Company Needs to Perform Workflow Analysis

The leaner and the more efficient your business processes are, the less it costs to get each task done. Small time wasters can cumulatively cost your businesses a great deal of money. So, for example…

Practical Example
A sales clerk who has to cross the office every time he or she prints an invoice may only need a minute to do so. Let’s say that by the end of the day, he or she has spent ten minutes fetching printouts. By the end of the week, that’s 50 minutes of selling time wasted. Multiply that by the number of clerks doing the same thing, and you have wasted hours of potentially productive, moneymaking time.

Redundant tasks that could be eliminated or automated can be even more costly. Records and reports that are never analyzed or used can take hours to compile, and your employees may never question them. All they know is that they were told to complete the report as part of the process years ago, and they’re still doing so because that’s the way the work is done.

Plus, efficient workflows will have a lot of knock-on effects. Your clients will experience shorter lead times, for example, or your staff will feel more motivated because they recognize the potential to get much more significant outcomes faster than before. If you’re able to simplify workflows, it’s also a lot easier to onboard and train new employees or even work remotely.

How Should You Perform Workflow Analysis?

It’s a good idea to do a full workflow analysis for every task and process in your business, but there are clear areas where improvements will have the greatest impact, and these should be analyzed first. They are the core tasks that your business performs, and core tasks are the ones with the greatest value-add. In most businesses, for example, the admin would be seen as a support function, while the revenue-generating activities the company engages in are the core tasks.

Since each business is different, it would be difficult to give a step-by-step breakdown in detail, but in effect, you’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What do we do? Which core processes generate revenue for your business? Your business has an internal value chain. From an overview perspective, how does revenue generation begin and end? For some businesses, the sales process comes first, for others, production or purchasing is the first step. Be critical. For example, if production comes first, how sure are you of sales? Is there a way to secure orders before production even begins?
  1. How do we do it? In order to complete work what steps are followed? Record every single task that goes into producing the end result in each of the areas you identified in the first step. Every single activity, no matter how obvious, small, or trivial it may seem should be included.
  1. Why do we do it? Examine each of these smaller steps. If there’s no answer to the “why” question, you may well be doing something that’s a complete waste of time and resources. Non-value add steps in the value-adding process are clear targets for simplification. Record keeping and storage activities are clear areas with no profit. Sometimes, they are necessary. However, sometimes they can be eliminated with no impact other than efficiency improvement.
  1. Which departments do what? Workflows invariably pass from one person to the next and from one department to the next. For example, in making a sale, your sales representative gets an order from a customer. Now, your warehouse staff must draw and pack the order. Dispatch staff sees that it’s sent off, and accounts management staff will now track payment. There will also be intra-functional workflows. For instance, what does your accounts department do between being made aware of a dispatched order and collection of the bill?
  1. What does each person do? To complete a task, what steps are required from each employee who forms part of the workflow? Why do they do it, and what are the benefits?

Analyzing and Improving Workflows

Keep your eyes firmly on the goal. The entire process is aimed at improving efficiency. Take a fresh look at your workflows as if you were an impartial outsider. Indeed, many companies even hire consultants to do this for them.

Ask yourself whether modified or even completely different workflows could be more effective. Get as much input as possible from the people involved in each process. You may find that they have already identified areas that are holding them up and preventing them from delivering greater productivity. The more input the people who execute workflows have, the more easily they will accept any changes you ultimately decide to make.

A lean workflow will use the least amount of workforce resources, time and effort possible to produce the desired result. That means that you don’t lose an ounce of quality or service-orientation. On the contrary, it allows your employees to focus on the tasks that matter most to you and your clients.

Automating Workflows with Software

One of the easiest wins with workflow improvement is to use software. Workflow management software allows you to make your workflows more efficient by automating all the communication.

Your employees don’t have to spam each other with emails on who’s supposed to do what – the software manages the tasks automatically.

Meaning, once employee #1 is done with their task, the software automatically assigns employee #2 the subsequent task.

This allows for a lot more efficiency for your business overall – your employees will be able to spend time on tasks that create real value. And the best part? Tallyfy’s workflow management software is free for up to 5 users. Give it a try and see the increase in efficiency first-hand.

Want to learn how more about workflow software? Our comprehensive guide explains how the software works in practice. Stuck choosing between different software providers? Read up our comparison of different workflow management systems.

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