Improve your project delivery with workflow management
The order in which you complete tasks in your projects can influence your success more than you ever thought.
In fact, project management and task management are so closely connected that there’s a whole science to completing tasks in the right order: workflow management.
(You might even call it a trick of the trade.)
In this article, we’re going to show you how to use workflow management to wrap up your projects without a hitch.
Let’s take a look!
What Is the Difference Between Workflow Management and Project Management?
Workflow answers one very simple question: “How do you and your team get things done when you’re working on a project?” AKA: How does your work flow?
Do you make a list of tasks and then delegate them, leaving it up to your team members to choose how and in which order to complete them?
Do you meander?
Or do you have an efficient handover and knowledge-sharing process that works 99% of the time without fail?
If you’re a first-time project manager, or if you haven’t received formal project management training, chances are, you don’t really have a process. Yet.
And that’s exactly what workflow management deals with.
Workflow management creates an organized system for planning, executing, and completing tasks.
Where Does Project Management Come into Play?
Workflow and project management are incredibly connected.
While project management is about managing projects as a whole, workflow management gives you the processes to follow in order to successfully complete projects.
In short, workflow management helps you complete projects because it gives you a sequence of activities you can follow.
The massive goal of “Complete the project” suddenly becomes:
- Give Mary her tasks
- Mary gives her deliverables to Joe
- Joe completes his task
- Project manager review of deliverables
It’s all very linear. When you sequence activities and tasks, completing the project work becomes routine.
And even if you encounter a roadblock, you’ll know how to handle it with an efficient workflow.
Key Differences Between Project and Workflow Management
The goal of workflow management is to get tasks done.
The goal of project management is to achieve the bigger goal: complete the project.
Projects are one and done.
You complete the project and you move on.
But workflows are constant; the process you use to complete tasks repeats with every new task and project.
Workflows are triggered by tasks.
They connect different activities so that tasks can be completed, and consequently, projects.
Project management evaluates and monitors those tasks from the perspective of the entire project.
Workflow management dictates that tasks should be completed in a certain sequence.
Project management doesn’t really care, as long as you get stuff done.
The Benefits of Project Workflow Management
Project workflow management gives you the ability to structure your processes.
Consequently, you’ll easily improve them because the results become measurable.
Maybe you’re missing a step, maybe you’re making one step too many.
Whichever it is, project workflow management makes it much easier to measure performance and improve productivity.
Improved collaboration, accountability, and stakeholder engagement:
Workflows are the antidote to chaos.
When you clearly structure your processes, you and your team will know who is responsible for which task, eliminating confusion.
Similarly, it will be much easier to keep other stakeholders (e.g. top management or external clients) in the loop.
Improved knowledge sharing:
The majority of team members spend an inordinate amount of time just tracking down the information they need to complete their tasks.
Workflow management reduces this time, as you’ll create a specific process for handing over documentation and information.
You don’t want to get blindsided by a problem two days before the deadline.
So if you have a workflow management process that leaves no stone unturned, you’ll know exactly what could be a potential obstacle.
This will allow you to resolve it even before it’s started causing problems.
How to Use Project Workflow Management (and Make Your Next Project a Resounding Success)
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get to work!
Fortunately, it’s really simple to set up your workflow.
You’re going to need three steps to create a basic workflow (just like in your favorite recipe):
- Input: The resources you need to complete a task (e.g. A project brief from client)
- Transformation: Instructions for what to do with the input resources (e.g. You’ll take the project brief and discuss it with your team to create a project timeline)
- Output: The resources produced in this workflow, as well as the instructions for what to do with these resources (e.g. A project timeline, which you’ll then use to create and delegate project tasks according to urgency)
The last step – output – triggers a new workflow sequence.
And just like in a recipe, you’re going to add a few ingredients to create the perfect workflow:
- Actors: Team members who have to complete certain steps
- Activities: Things that have to be completed to finish a step (e.g. Discuss the project brief with your team, then create a project timeline, a list of actionable items or a work breakdown structure)
- Results: The resources/outcomes you will get after completing each activity. (e.g. A project timeline)
- State: If you’re moving from one processes to the next, it’s important to maintain flow control so that tasks are following the outlined procedure (e.g. The project timeline is being used by Mary to create a work breakdown structure)
Free Project Plan Template in Excel
Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.
Can I Use Tools for Project Workflow Management?
There’s some really great workflow management software out there, and it’ll make your work a lot easier.
Instead of creating diagrams on pieces of paper (and we all know how easy those can get lost), you can use project management tools with integrated workflow management features like Project Central.
Find a project workflow management tool that…
1. Fits Your Workflow
Every project team has their workflow.
You might complete activities in a sequential order, you might go back for more iterations…
Your workflow management software has to adapt to your project management methodology.
2. Automates Your Processes
Your tool should be your team’s main point of reference for what to do next.
If the tool can also send over the right documents to other team members when a certain team member marks their task as “Complete,” then it’s a keeper.
The same goes for notifications. Help your team by finding a tool that streamlines their work for them.
3. Helps You Monitor Performance
The best tools offer analytics, and some will even alert you when you’re not staying on track.
4. Your Team Likes
The ideal tool shouldn’t have a steep learning curve. Instead, it should be easy to use, and meet the needs of you and your team so well that your team members have no problem adopting it.
5. Meets Other Needs, Not Just Workflow Management
The ideal workflow management tool will help you manage tasks and projects, as well.
So if you find a tool that offers multiple solutions within one platform, that’s the droid you were looking for!
So, what do you say? Are you ready to improve your workflow efficiency?
Get Started With Project Central
Sign-up for your free 14-day trial and see how Project Central can help your teams to plan, manage, and collaborate with Microsoft 365.