Enterprise Compliance Today

21 Best Practices in Workflow Management

Posted by Greg Carroll on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 09:13 PM

Return of Investment (ROI) does not come for automating a process but from using it to add value.  Value adding comes from targeting time and resources, risk based thinking, and Business Intelligence where they can deliver the greatest benefit to achieving the organisation’s strategic goals.   



By embedding GRC in Workflow not only turns it into a proactive tool but also is the means of showing measureable benefits.


ISO 9000 Quality Management Data Sheet
How Fast Track provides ISO 9000 management integrated as part of the day-to-day operational management method of work and decision making.

The 3 imperatives of best practice Workflow Management are:

  • Provide Efficiency in terms of Quality, Productivity and Performance
  • Add value to the organisation not just the process
  • Ensure Good Data Governance

Contrary to the prevailing view, Workflow Management Systems (WMS) should not be looked on as a tool for automating processes but really as the primary conduit to good Data Governance.  Workflow should be designed as an intrinsic component of Strategic Management that connects corporate objectives to operational outcomes.  And according to Robert Seiner, world leading authority on Data Governance, “will result in improved decisions”.


Provide Efficiency

Improve Quality

The problem with programmed or “designed” Workflows is that they are “dogmatic” and aren’t data or situationally aware.

  1. Workflows need not only be configurable and data aware to allow individual steps to be optionally mandatory, once off, conditional, etc  but be based on actions in previous steps, and handle difference in locations, depts, or activity.
  2. Connected to auto changing forms selecting fields to be mandatory, read-only or lookup filters applied, will also ensure confidence in the accuracy of data collection and therefore decisions made.

Increase Productivity

Productivity gains from software are a direct product of useability and user take-up.  In turn, saving user workload increases useability.

  1.  Mobile by providing consistent experience across devices & web browser familiarity interface.
  2. Further, the ability to lookup related records, history, guides and lesson learnt at the point of entry provides for greater productivity over the traditional method of having to refer to multiple data sources to ascertain what or how to do, before accessing the workflow management system.

Improve Responsiveness

30 year experience with large organisations has taught me that generating too many email from a widely used WMS becomes annoying and presents a greater risk of loss of user acceptance.  

  1. Better, consolidates most notifications into a start of day task list with hyperlinks directly into the WMS, restricting the use of immediate notifications to high priority issues.  By making it quick and easy for handle in a single Task List encourages managers to knock over all their tasks at one time. .


Value Adding

Make Sense by Adding Context

From ISO 31000 to the ISO 9001:2015 and 14001:2015 comes the realisation that for information to have meaning it must have Context. 

  1. Data has to be linked back to its Processes and Objectives to provide users with understanding of its Context.  This allows tasks to access related Risk Assessments bringing risk management into play.
  2. Also user maintainable data tooltip need to be added to Libraries and data as well as the usual functions.  Understanding context leads to better quality data and when made available to graphical data mapping tools delivers value adding to management for troubleshooting and decision making processes.

Minimise Risk & Set Priorities

ROI does not come for automating a process but from using it to add value. 

  1. Value adding comes from targeting time and resources where they can deliver the greatest benefit to achieving the organisations strategic goals.  
  2. Workflow Management should be integrated with Risk Management to provide a full range of priority setting and work scheduling functionality from a simple outcome/severity risk rating to more targeted Risk Scenario based assessments, right within the Task data entry screen.

Reduce Handling costs

How often do we reinvent the wheel?   Not only repeating the process of analysing and evaluation but also thru multiple courses of action. This can be avoided by looking up similar issues, lessons learnt and assessment checklists throughout the workflow process.   

  1. Lessons Learnt are just another volume of unstructured data unless actively employed in day-to-day task decision making. 
  2. Help or tooltip style access to Lessons Learnt based on the step of workflow, type of task, and subject matter, provide practical information to operator prior to taking action instead of part of a review.

 From knowing what to ask, to whom to refer, or identifying the next course of action, not only save resources and time but also presents better levels of customer service.


Data Governance

Ensure consistency of process – measurable

Any form of workflow management will improve consistency but process improvement and optimisation comes from it being measurable.  Without underlying process statistics, dashboards are just historical pictures.  (See “PDCA is NOT Best Practice”).  

  1. Six Sigma is the recognised standard to measuring, monitoring and optimising processes. 
  2. Any organisation requiring Workflow Management should first train a Six Sigma Black Belt
  3. As a minimum you need to track dates and times taken from step to step, along with personnel involved, and a KPI for each step to assess quality which will enable proper Process Performance reporting (in Excel).

Increase visibility and accountability

  1. Accountability and visibility comes from awareness, at all levels of management, along with escalation of overdue tasks and automated management reporting.  
  2. Techniques like the Harvard Business School approach of showing multi-coloured Traffic Lights, to highlight current levels of Risk, Priority or Status, are not only in your face every time the record is listed but develops peer pressure for action on outstanding or critical issues.
  3. All tasks are should be allocated to a position not a person but then the person linked.  This prevents loss of tasks when people leave and allows reallocation in a single click. It also facilitates management views of My Staff, My Dept, and all current alerts.

Good Data Governance

As mentioned in the intro, Workflow Management is really the facilitator of good Data Governance. Workflow needs to be designed as an intrinsic component of Strategic Management that fulfils Robert Seiner 4 principles of Good Data Governance:

  1. Data is an asset:  Data must be carefully managed to ensure it is clearly defined, properly accessed, and appropriately controlled. Company management and staff must be able to rely upon its accuracy and be able to obtain it when and where it is needed.
  2.  Data must have clearly defined accountability:  Data must be protected from unauthorized use and disclosure. Processes, procedures and automated methods will be used to ensure the security of data.
  3. Data must follow rules and regulations:  To improve the quality and value of data, and to avoid risk and compliance issues, accountability and rules for the definition, production and use of the data must be recorded, managed and communicated.
  4. Data will be managed consistently:  Common data standards are the foundation for quality systems interfaces and data use. A common place to record data standards will increase ability to improve the quality of the data.


Using Management Systems to Drive the Business

Invariably Quality Management, ERM or Regulatory Compliance are looked on as an impost.  But by embedding in Workflow Management you not only turn them from overheads into proactive tools but also have the means of showing their measureable benefits.


Fast Track can assist by providing a comprehensive systems management suite of software proven by some the world’s leading operators. We automate administration, allow for delegation of work while retaining control & approval. And provide the tools to analyse, develop, and monitor best practices. This frees management to concentrate on maximising value.

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Tags: Best practices, Quality Management, Innovation, project management