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Shared Workflows - Working with Others

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Sarah Lee Parker

One of the problems we face with a gig economy is the shifting nature of work. Work is no longer something that happens in a business at a desk with a manager and colleagues, but now also happens with multiple managers, multiple colleagues, and all of them using their own systems to manage their business work. Enter the workflow products.

Workflow products themselves are not new, however previously were very expensive and used by large businesses.

A workflow product is a handy tool for business owners who need to map out and organize their processes. With the decrease in price and increase in accessibility, workflow products have become an everyday requirement for any business. By using a workflow product, you can easily create diagrams of your procedures and track the progress of individual tasks. This can be a huge timesaver, especially if you have multiple employees working on different aspects of a project. Workflow products come in many different shapes and sizes, so it's important to do your research before settling on one. In this blog post, we'll discuss the features of some popular workflow products and help you decide which one is right for you.

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Learning new systems fast is a crucial skill for freelancers and contractors.

What is workflow software and what are the benefits of using it

A workflow is a great tool for a number of reasons. If you can accurately map out your work activities, it can lead to gains in efficiency and also in work load sharing. You can also start to see what duties your business does regularly, and locate your most lucrative activities. In many small businesses, there are a thousand ways work can be managed and passed between employers, and these days workflow apps are big business.

You can assign tasks to anyone with an email address, and have them manage and update their task as actions are completed. You can add any one into your business work without requiring a laborious onboarding process, expensive software or training.

This also gives great freedom to hire specialists to do exactly one thing, and keep them out of scope creep and picking up additional unexpected duties.

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A picture of spider plants in a shop with a neon FLOW in the centre.
Flow is ensuring you get the right information for the right job at the right time, and is crucial to effective use of your time, money and skills.

How can you find the right workflow software for your business

If you already have some grasp on the workflow types in your business, you can start sorting through your options from here. I am a big believer in deciding important features away from your webpage, as it is very easy to start shopping around and get bogged down in features you might not need but seem very attractive. Grab a piece of paper and draw how you think your workflow moves. Then take it to the people who do the work, and see if they agree.

How does your company like to work? Will there be a need for management approval? Is your company mobile, do you want an in-house system or a web-based application? How many workflows do you intend to move into the new system at a time?

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A desk with a clock timer, a pen and paper.
Multiple workflow programs are cheap and effective, but starting with pen and paper, away from a PC, is always a great start to this sort of endeavour.

Tips for setting up your workflow system and getting the most out of it

To learn quickly, spend some dedicated time on looking at each of the products that might suit your needs, and make a checklist as to the importance of certain features, and how important they are to you.

  • Use the colours and markers on your work items. Colour is a great way to scan task lists and see the status of a job, and many of the online apps will have priorities, tags, and unique categories.
  • Use the inbuilt templates and explore
  • Use all the statuses and priorities
  • Have a good look at the dashboards, calendars, flow charts and other inbuilt features
  • Watch some of the training videos - how difficult is it to add extra fields or remove them?

Many work flow applications can also be programmed to add or remove extra features, and change the view of the work items. Allow time for practice and learn where the system is causing conflicts and smooth over areas of friction. Check to make sure the system you have designed in the app matches the system you actually want your employee to follow! If it’s not easy, no one will use it, and the data you pull from the system will not be accurate.

You can also set expected timeframes, schedule start and end dates, and set reminders. Dashboards are a fantastic way for staff to see their jobs for the day, and notifications keeps the comments and questions exactly where they need to be - on one specific task. Relationships can also be drawn between tasks which can help with workflow and creating Gantt charts.

Some apps handle document creation and editing intuitively, and others require some training.

Your staff will also need training in any new systems you devise, so factor that into your choice of application.

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A fountain pen and a notebook on a woodgrain table with a coffee stain.
Combining effective notifications and systems will give your business ease when onboarding new staff, checking for inefficiencies and spotting breakdowns in communication.

The templates are created by experienced project managers and users in a good workflow app like Trello, Asana, Click Up or Monday and can help guide you to great systems.

In summary

Any workflow software can help you run your business or even home life better. However, at the end of the day, any of the current online versions are just to-do lists with some sexy features. If you have the time to invest, or you’re looking to take on a new staff member, a decent workflow program will definitely be worth the investment. If you are just starting out, the features are all very similar, and the good ones will have different views and methods of delivery to ensure they work for all types of people. These products range from free versions through to expensive, depending on the legal and other requirements of your business.

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