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Benefits of Workflow Software

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The definition of workflow:

“The sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.”

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organization, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  One of the most notable examples of workflow is the assembly line which helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

Henry Ford set the standard for this workflow, and the production of the Model T is legendary.  Toyota adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

Just a couple of examples of how workflow enhances business.

So here are 10 ways workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing any unnecessary steps in the process.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with the skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do, which compromises quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business-oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organization can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    Some of the questions answered include: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces waste and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end-to-end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organization. The ten described here are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organization become more efficient by helping to save time, remove waste, cut out unnecessary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organization to grow and improve.

Adapted from Nathan Gilligan – All Things Workflow.

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting from the Field

Posted by | Accountability, Accuracy, Efficiency, Transparency, Workflow | No Comments

Volano was very fortunate this year to help two companies, Hunt Electric and Miller Electric, as they teamed up for the construction of a multi-phased million square foot data center. They were challenged with scaling their proven processes to a project this size and decided to leverage software to overcome this hurdle.

Volano created an end-to-end solution building both a reporting & management portal for the office as well as a mobile app that works together in real-time providing the communication and insight necessary for the successful installation of the electrical systems.

“Volano listened to the challenges we were up against and built us that solution. Their role in creating a mobile app for more efficient reporting helped our communication and process tremendously.” – John Lepak, Project Manager | HUNT ELECTRIC

Download the Volano Success Study for Hunt and Miller Electric (19 downloads)

Work Management Is Not Task Management

Posted by | Accountability, Accuracy, Efficiency, Transparency, Workflow | No Comments

You often hear of people complaining they need a better task management system. That’s why there are so many different apps for task management. But who needs an app for something that is relatively easy to manage with a good, old fashioned pen and paper?

Work management, however, is where people generally need help, but most don’t know the difference between managing tasks and managing work. There are so many differences that we’re going to cover the similarities first, of which there are two.

With both work management and task management, you have something to do and after you take care of it, you check it off the list.

Those two instances are the only similarities between work management and task management. Since work management tends to be a bit more involved, we will delve into its key features.

Steps

Work is always part of a multi-step process. In order to begin managing your work, you need to determine the steps and where they fall in the workflow. You also need to define who is responsible for each step.

Fields

Pertinent and ancillary information associated with your work will fall into fields. The information in these fields can range from contact information to the date a contract was signed. You define what type of data will be stored in the fields, including: text, numbers, web addresses, geo-coordinates, pick lists, or anything else you can think of.  We have found that many times, particular fields are filled in by the people responsible of certain steps.

Work Queues

Work queues foster the accountability we talk so much about.  They allow people to see what they need to work on and in what order. How does work end up in a particular queue? It can either be directly assigned to a person or can appear based on which team they are assigned to. For example, all of the work in step 1 is directly added to each team member’s queue. Pretty nifty, huh?

History

Having a history of work completed is essential to good work management. It brings the transparency necessary to know where the bottlenecks are in your process or to answer your clients when they ask, “what’s taking so long?”  It would be short-sighted to not keep a running history of who worked on what and when.

Reporting

The purpose of capturing fields, tracking steps and recording all other detailed information is to be able to produce reports. Reports are essential for both a high-level and micro-level view of the work. At a high-level, it is important to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks. On a micro-level, you need to be able to answer the questions of who, why and when for each aspect of the work.

Over the past 9 years, we have focused on architecting and implementing custom software that helps businesses manage their work, allowing it to flow through their unique processes.

What Has Workflow Automation Done for Me Lately?…A Lot.

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It’s no secret, we are big fans of automation. We love finding processes of all kinds that can be automated with thoughtfully developed software. It’s very satisfying to work with a client and find those processes that be redesigned to save time and valuable resources. The ROI of this type of software development makes workflow automation a no-brainer. In case you’re still on the fence about your organization’s need for workflow automation, we thought we should share some of the more impactful benefits of workflow automation.

Reduce Errors

It’s the simplest way to reduce errors -reduce the number of decisions a person has to make in a given process. At its core, workflow automation is an interactive checklist wherein the completion of one action, triggers the start of the next action. Everything happens in a predetermined order, making errors a thing of the past. The right software will notify relevant members of the team of late work, missing approvals and overlooked tasks.

Improve Communication

Manual notification of completed tasks is no longer needed. The moving of responsibility to push an action forward is no longer up to teammates. Instead, automated notifications keep every project moving forward. Communication isn’t eliminated, it is fostered. With automated workflow software, notifications and project status updates are designed to keep all members of the team communicating about and working toward the same goals in a central hub.

Foster Employee Success

Workflow automation drastically reduces human error and lag times inherent in unguided processes. Employees are given the tools, information and accountability they need to be successful in their given role.

Reduce Costs and Save Resources

The element of human error in manual processes can have a domino effect and become quite costly. Additionally, the lag time in manual processes can be crippling. When a process is automated, it is optimized and streamlined, saving time and resources.

Provide Scalability

When the day-to-day tasks that burden your workforce can be automated, organizational resources are opened up for other, more dynamic work to be done. These vital resources are now available to drive the success of the organization, rather than continue to slow employees down with mundane, mindless tasks.

Improve Organization

Chats, email and the human memory will only get your organization so far. Organization is essential to growth and success, no matter what data or information we’re talking about. Information needs to be searchable and accessible and automatically presented to employees to move progress forward as quickly as possible.

Real-Time Reports

Paper-based processes can be painfully slow and inaccurate. With automated processes, information is documented and shared in real time. This makes reports immediately actionable, rather than suffering intrinsic lag times that often make information irrelevant by the time it is acted upon.

3 Common Development Roadblocks in Custom Workflow Software

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Our whole schtick is, “We make work flow”. So, it wouldn’t go over too well if our process wasn’t optimized for a smooth client experience. Can you imagine having the people promising to make your life easier guiding you through a total mess of a process? Yeah, that can’t happen.

Every custom software development project is different, because every organization is different. However, we’ve been in this business long enough to identify the common roadblocks in the custom software development process. If you’re thinking about investing in custom software, this is a quick and easy read to help you prepare for success.

Disconnect Between the Decision Makers and the People Actually Using the Software

The decision makers for investments like this are usually not the people who will actually be using the software. That means they are also not the same people facing the everyday pain points that lead to the decision to invest in custom software. Naturally, there is almost always a disconnect here.

Be sure to have a team of people who will be using the software involved in the development process. Ask them to supply you with a list of client-facing pain points, as well as their own. Then, ask them for a wish list -a list of tools or features that would be great to have, but aren’t necessarily must-haves. You might find that some of those wish list items make a lot of sense financially. We often find daily manual processes that can easily be automated, saving large amounts of company resources as time passes.

Desired Features vs Wishlist

Speaking of wish lists, they have a tendency to get a little…out of control. There is a big difference between automating a workflow and deciding what you really wanted looked more like the Star Ship Enterprise. Don’t get us wrong, we love when the creative juices get flowing, brainstorming gets exciting and problems begin to untangle. It’s exciting, and we definitely depend on our clients’ unique insights and industry experience for that to happen. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you would like a solution to look and feel like. It’s never too late to add the bells and whistles.

In fact, that’s part of what makes us different at Volano; we don’t enter agreements, we enter relationships. We make sure our clients know software updates are necessary and they’re given the support to know how to maintain their software and get the upgrades they need.

Failure to Properly Integrate and Train

Let’s say you’ve got this beautiful, customized Ferrari and then you realize that no one knows how to drive a stick shift. Don’t invest in custom software and then let it collect dust in the garage! Training and integration of your custom software is vital. There will often be an aversion to new technology or processes in the workplace, but that is easily overcome with the right leadership and encouragement. In true Volano fashion, we have a blog for that, here. Here’s the general outline:

Give Context -Why is this change happening? What benefits can the employees expect? What are the benefits to the organization? How will this change their everyday routine?

Customize TrainingInstead of whizzing through a one-size-fits-all training course, communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis about their specific training needs.

Plant Ambassadors -Target your most tech-savvy go-getters and get them familiar with the technology before you introduce it to the entire team.

Reward Buy-In -Consider gamification of the training process; making it fun, engaging, and exciting. Creating a buzz around the change with rewards is a really effective tool.

Avoiding these common roadblocks is easy; do some internal research, have a vision of the desired solution and don’t sabotage your own investment by not properly integrating or training. Custom software is intended to save resources and optimize processes. We want to do everything we can to make sure the entire process is as smooth as your new workflow.

Customer Question: Why Does Software Need to be Updated?

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Does it rot? Well, yeah, it does. Like everything else in business, life, the universe -software, the technology and people surrounding it are always changing and evolving. After discussing this with a client, we realized the discussion would lead to the meat of a great post. We want our clients to understand the necessity of software updates.

Software isn’t a set it and forget it solution. In fact, the investment in software is just the beginning of your relationship with it and with your provider -us. Workflow software in particular has to be able to grow with your team, other technology, and industry trends…

Software and Your Organization

Is payroll handled the same way it was 20 years ago? Are your operations the same? Are your marketing initiatives the same? Nope, nope, nope. Your organization is constantly changing. To think you will be running on the same workflow processes in the coming decade (or even five years) is even more unlikely than going back to ledgers and paper files (no offense if you’re still there).

We’ve done total overhauls on workflow software and we’ve done small tweaks. It’s important our clients realize that the creation of their software is really just the beginning of our relationship with them. The best part? The more we work with an organization, the more seamless and holistic their workflow software becomes.

Software and the Technology Surrounding It

Do you remember when your first generation iPad just started sucking? Or when you tried to update an application on your phone and it said you can’t because you need the newest IOS? Or when that Millennial made fun of your Hotmail address?

By definition, software is the programs and other operating information used by a computer. It’s technology within technology that operates with other technologies. Whew! What we’re getting at here is that you and your software aren’t in a vacuum. Your workflow software works with outside technologies. Depending on the purpose of the workflow software, it was can work in conjunction with any number of other technologies like your CRM, email marketing platform, accounting systems, employee or candidate portals, and the list goes on. As these other systems and technologies change, so must your workflow software.

Software and Your Industry Needs

Staying relevant means staying ahead of the curve, or at the very least, being able to keep up. I like to use Blockbuster as an example. When Redbox came out, it completely antiquated their business model. This happens to the best of us in business -someone comes out with a better, cheaper more awesome product. In those situations, what matters is that you’re able to make effective, swift pivots to your products and services. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s fast-paced.

So, what we really want our clients to know, is we’re in it for the long haul. We won’t set you up for a Blockbuster fail. We’ll help you create that nimble, pivot on a dime company you need to be to survive. Let’s talk about how to get started today.

7 Ways to Improve Your Daily Workflow

Posted by | Efficiency, Uncategorized, Workflow | No Comments

We are in an age of hyper-productivity. If you’re not doing five things at once, while ordering your paper towels on Amazon and catching up on Blacklist, then what are you even doing with your life? The problem is, with so much going on, has anyone noticed that not a lot is actually getting done. Our workflow software is ideal for transparency and accountability through processes, but there are some hacks you can add to your everyday routine to help you get more done by working smarter, not harder.

Take Breaks

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks while working, but breaks actually increase productivity. Researchers suggest eating small amounts of protein, taking a walk around the building, or reading a few pages from your latest book. It’s key to take these breaks before your energy is depleted. Schedule your breaks, so you get your recharge before you’re running on empty.

Stay Organized

This used to mean file folders and a place for your stapler. Now, your online workspace is what you have to keep in order, and that can often be harder than keeping your tangible items organized. The mismanagement of information eats up a considerable amount of time and energy. Yes, creating processes to stay organized takes time and discipline, but it’s well worth it!

Leave Work at Work

Burnout is real and it’s more likely to happen if there aren’t strong boundaries between work and your personal life. You have to be able to shut it off, put down the smartphone, and invest in your personal life and relationships. By keeping a healthy work/life balance, you give yourself the opportunity to recharge on a daily basis.

Use Collaboration Tools

Context, accountability and transparency are key pieces of team success. Are the project workflow tools you’re currently using actually being used? Truly being effective? Seamless teamwork doesn’t come naturally to well, just about any of us. We all need the right tools to hold us accountable and encourage transparency.

Step Away From the Email

We check our email far too much throughout the day. Yes, those emails have to be opened and responded to, but when we’re checking our email incessantly, we’re taking our focus away from other tasks, procrastinating and wasting time refocusing time and time again. We suggest checking email once every two hours or in between tasks. Stop the refocusing.

Learn to Say “No”

While we aren’t fans of the ol’, “That’s not my job” we also realize that everyone has a threshold. We can get so caught up in being team players that we take it too far and over extend ourselves. Then comes the burnout, things fall through the cracks and although you started off with the best of intentions, you’re now the problem employee who can’t get work done on time. Knowing your threshold and making transparency part of your everyday workflow can help prevent taking on too much.

Sleep Your Way to the Top

We stole this quip from a great speech by Arianna Huffington. The premise is that once she realized that working 13 hour days and bragging about how little sleep you get actually gets you nowhere, she decided to start putting herself first. She decided to start getting more sleep, taking time to exercise and making it a point to fuel her body with healthier foods. She saw her productivity increase and her work/life balance actually start to balance.

The Need for Strong Workflow Management Increases Over the Holidays

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‘Tis the season to be undermanned. The holidays are hectic for everyone, both personally and professionally. Even if the end of the year happens to be a slow time in your particular industry, there is always work to be done, an opportunity to catch up, or even get ahead (who are we kidding with that last one?). None of that happens though because our lives get down right hectic this time of year. People need to take time off to travel or host guests from out of town, or do the unthinkable and carve time out just to be with their loved ones.

Requests are pouring in for PTO days or work from home time. Although stressful, your employees earned that time or that flexibility. With strong workflow management, everyone can get what they want this holiday season, and business doesn’t have to suffer.

Take Inventory

Perhaps more than any other time of year, you need to know exactly where you stand with deliverables and projects in a prioritized fashion. The Monday before Christmas isn’t when you want to find out you’re behind on a deadline. Firstly, productivity slows down during the holidays and secondly, there are fewer hands on deck, and you’re likely working with a short week. Strong workflow management is essential to ensure nothing falls through the cracks during the holidays.

If you’re like most organizations, you’ve tried about 342 different project management softwares and either couldn’t get employees on board, or the software simply didn’t work for your organization and the established workflow processes within it. Tailored, customizable workflow management software is the solution. Invest in software that your people will actually use, software that does what it says it does, manage work!

Plan Ahead

Now that you know where you stand, you can be transparent with your team about needs and work together to see that they are met. If we can get A, B and C to stage D, then we’re golden. If we can’t, these will be the expectations… It really can be that simple, the problem is that leaders are more often than not, out of the loop with the status of what needs to be done. That’s when you end up with a fully staffed office on Christmas Eve, although a few people would have been adequate. And now everyone hates your guts.   

Offer Structured Remote Work Opportunities

We know why so many leaders aren’t willing to offer remote work or flex work opportunities; they believe they’ll be taken advantage of and communication will suffer. Actually, that is completely the case, unless you have the right workflow management tools. Flex and remote work opportunities are one of the most favored employee incentives you can offer, but without the assurance and proof that work is getting done, employers aren’t willing to let that power go. When a team leader is offered a virtual bird’s eye view on every stage of every workflow, they can let go of that fear, and instead embrace accountability and transparency.

What would you need to see and be in control of to offer an incentive like work from home days, or flex hours? Whatever it is, I’m betting we can make it happen. We create customized software that can track and report on, well, just about anything. Let us help you get through the chaos. Call today 402-943-3733

5 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Hiring Process

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As organizations grow, it’s important to make sure key processes like hiring are evolving as well. When you have a few resumes trickling in each month, there probably isn’t a need to revamp your hiring process, but anywhere from a few each day to a few each hour, calls for a hiring process upgrade. Human capital is the single most valuable asset you can have in business, how is that the processes we use to vet and obtain our human capital are often, so tragically disjointed and thoughtless? Know when to step it up a notch.

Sales Suffer

You will almost always see a dip in sales when hiring is a pain point. If your hiring process sucks, you are likely scraping the bottom of the talent pool, leaving your sales team to suffer with a slew of bad hires. Bad hires then lead to increased turnover, until you’re left in a costly cycle of hiring and firing just to stay up and running.

Time to Hire is Painfully Slow or Not Tailored to the Candidate

A disjointed process is also a slow process, which means the organization will be undermanned for even longer. In addition, good candidates will drop out if they’re made to wait too long, especially if they aren’t kept in the loop about the process. The current average time to hire is about 25 working days, which in our opinion is way too long. There is still onboarding, training and the learning curve to get through. If you needed this position filled last month, you’re farther behind than you thought. Beyond lag time, a poor hiring process is one that can’t be tailored to the timeline of the candidate and how quickly or drawn out they need the hiring process to be. 

You’re Not Sure Where Candidates are in the Process

If you’ve asked a candidate for their resume three times and you’re not even really sure what position they’re applying for, you need a solution, a streamlined workflow for hiring. Beyond wasting internal resources sorting through emails and figuring out who needs to be part of this decision making process, you’re making a terrible first impression on potentially awesome hires.

Email is No Longer Working

Email has several realistic applications in business, but it is certainly not meant as a candidate management tool. It doesn’t really matter what add-ons or apps you’ve acquired, email is not effective here. You need search, collaboration, workflow queues, automated candidate emails and a bird’s eye view of the hiring process for every candidate. Yeah, email can’t do that.

Good Candidates Turn You Down

A slow, inconsiderate, disjointed hiring process makes good candidates withdraw from the process. Transversely, the hiring manager likely won’t even know the candidate has moved on until they’ve offered them the job, putting them back to square one at a later time than if the candidate were made a part of the process. Good, experienced candidates have an advantage that means they don’t have to wait for you, and they certainly won’t continue a relationship with a company who has only shown them a negative employer brand.

In the end, a good hiring workflow frees up resources for what all organizations really need, recruiting. The hiring manager can get away from tracking resumes and focus on creating a pipeline of relevant, quality talent. While there are countless tools and products out there to help organizations with general hiring pain points, we believe in customized, total solutions at Volano. Out of the box solutions get organizations to an 80% solution, while customized hiring workflow software can get you to 100%.

To find out more about how Volano upgraded the hiring process for YMCA in Lincoln, click here.

The 3 Ways You Can Start Supporting Your Sales Staff

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The sales team. Their success is your success, yet so many companies do little more than offer the same standard, played out incentives to drive success. Investing in your sales team makes so much business sense, but you have to know what investments to make. Maybe let’s skip the ping pong table this year and reconsider what your sales staff actually needs from you to be successful.

Implement Workflow Queues

We run into this often. A sales team works their collective butt off to lock customers in, and then the customer is lost to poor customer care. Instead of that customer representing recurring revenue they are likely bashing your products or services. The crying shame here is that it usually isn’t a person’s or department’s fault, but rather the unfortunate outcome of a flawed process. When something is no one’s job, no one is doing it.

Workflow queues should be put into place to, well…help work flow. Consider all the steps between the sale and when the product or service are delivered. Depending on your industry, there can be dozens. Workflow queues are created to make sure that once a step is completed, an automatic queue is given to keep the process in motion with right people and information needed to get to the next step, in a transparent effective way.

Find a Sales Friendly CRM

When decision maker considers the tools, software and technology for their sales team, they don’t often hit the mark. Consider these stats from the 2011 CSO CRM Sales Effectiveness Study-Key Analysis

  • Only 19% of companies reported that increased revenues was a benefit of CRM.
  • 64.1% rate their CRM system as Somewhat Useful or Minimum/No Value in understanding consumer market.
  • 50.3% rated their CRM as Somewhat Useful or Minimum/No Value in ensuring their reps have identified key stakeholders.

You wouldn’t give a chef an Easy Bake oven, and you shouldn’t give the staff that drive the success of your organization tools that aren’t right for them. Instead of the out of the box CRM, go with a customizable option. Your company is unique, your processes are likely of your own design. Bring something to the table that complements and supports your team. The software should tailor to your team, not the other way around.

Revamp Your KPIs and Incentives

Out of date and irrelevant performance metrics have a sad way of sticking around. Be sure your KPIs are measuring the actual factors that drive success among your sales team, the rest is just plain annoying and a waste of company resources. In an earlier post on the blog, about common KPI mistakes, we learned that no more than 10 KPIs are useful, beyond that it can get hairy.

Still giving away those blenders when someone hits a sales goal? Ditch the old school incentives and find out what actually motivates your team. We’ve found the best way to find out what your team’s drivers are is to -get ready, this is very scientific- ask them! Days off, flexible work schedules and work from home time are gaining popularity, especially among Millennials. The best part? These types of incentives won’t put a dent in your budget.

These are just a few of the simple, yet effective ways you can start supporting the backbone of your company -your sales team. Help them help you by providing them with the support and motivation they need. Find out what Volano’s role in that looks like now.