What Is a Workflow? A Beginner's Guide to Understanding & Optimizing Work

Rahul Roy
March 29, 2023
min read
January 10, 2024
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Mastering workflow: A beginner's guide to streamlining processes and boosting productivity
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A successful business is run on solid fundamentals and a profound system. Much of it is determined by the business's workflow and how well it has established it. Without a proper workflow, no work will ever be done in a business. But what is a workflow, and why is it so important for a business?

We have your back if you are new to the term and its concept. In this beginner’s guide, we will cover all you need to know about workflow and its various aspects. We will also introduce you to amazing tools such as Scribe to help you establish rock-solid workflows for your business. Let’s get started! 

What is a workflow & how is it beneficial?

Before you set up your business, you need to learn quite a few things to ensure you have a good start. One such essential piece of information is workflow. The introduction mentioned how a business could not be operational without workflow. It is because workflow helps you determine the tasks and their sequence that needs to be performed to achieve a certain goal. 

In better words, workflow is a series of activities performed in a particular order to achieve a goal or complete a task. These processes are usually repetitive and achieve the same task. There needs to be a goal or a requirement that creates the need for a workflow. However, keep in mind that workflows are not the same as processes. While processes are a much broader concept with more information and data, workflows only detail a series of tasks.

For example, your company needs to hire a new graphic designer, which becomes your goal. So, to achieve this goal, what do you do? You let your HR department know of the new requirement. The HR department then starts posting about the vacancy and receiving candidate applications. They conduct the interviews and select candidates. You select the candidate fit for the job depending on their interview performance. This will be called the process of hiring an employee. 

But the workflow example for this will be the need for a graphic designer by the management, informing the HR, interviews of candidates, and finally, the final selection by management. See the difference? While the process includes the hows and whens, workflow states what needs to be done after and before a certain action. Almost all industries use workflows for various reasons, including customer support, marketing, finance, human resources, etc. 

But how are workflows beneficial to your business? Let us give you an idea:

  • Workflows help eliminate unnecessary tasks.
  • It helps you simplify the delegation of tasks and establishes accountability for the same.
  • It helps you improve your working patterns by bringing up the efficiency.
  • It helps you save time by compacting the processing period.

Creating & documenting a workflow 

You may have understood that you must create detailed workflows for most business operations to ensure you finish the job. Because these tasks are mostly repetitive, they can be prone to errors and monotony. 

But that is a thing of the past, as tons of tools and software today help you automate them, which reduces the risks of errors. Before we get into more details about these tools, let us help you understand how to create and design a workflow.

Here are the things that you need to keep in mind while you come up with the workflow for specific purposes:

1. Take into account your resources

The first step in building an efficient and reliable workforce is understanding what you have at your disposal and what else you may require. For example, you want to set up a customer feedback portal to address customer complaints. You would need a tech team for that who will help you set the portal up. If you already have that in place, you are good to go. Otherwise, you would need to hire a team. This is just an example, but you get the gist.

To set up the sequences of actions, you must first understand if you have the right technical, human, and materialistic resources. Once you have secured the resources, you can build a workflow with a strong foundation. 

2. Set out clear goals

Next is to understand what you want your workflow to achieve. Once you have a clear goal, it will help you place the necessary tasks in the correct order. 

From the earlier example, say you have built the portal and received customer feedback. Some are complaints, some are queries about your product, and the rest are about orders. You want this feedback to go to Teams A, B, and C, who will address these issues, respectively. 

In short, you are defining what you want your workflow to do and, thus, will sort the feedback so that the right team receives the right feedback. The better you define your goals, you can build more complex yet efficient workflows.  

3. Create delegation & responsibility

Now that you have your resources and goals, it is time to fill the roles. That is, deciding who will be in teams A, B, and C and their responsibilities (continuing the earlier example). A good part of building a workflow is to delegate tasks and establish the need for accountability and responsibility. 

It helps you know who is in charge of what, and in case something goes wrong, you will know exactly where it happened. It also helps your workflow have more transparency and helps your employees better understand their duties. 

4. Visualize your steps

As they say, it is always better to write it out. So, the next step in building a workflow is visualizing it and creating workflow models. Workflows can be easily visualized in the form of flowcharts. Detailed flowcharts with apt instructions are called workflow models. So once you have all the steps and tasks in mind, imagine the process and build a workflow model. 

There are many tools available in today’s time that can help you with this step. We recommend a device that is easy to use yet has professional features, such as Scribe. Scribe is a process documentation application that can help you record step-by-step guides by tracking your mouse movement. Therefore, it can be a great tool to help visualize your workflow and later share it. 

The main reason behind this step is so that you can have a good look at the bigger picture. It can also help you notice if you have missed a step or left any detail out.  

5. Give it a test run

Your resources, tasks, and roles are all in place. It is time to give it a test run. What better way to test the effectiveness of your workflow than to implement it and see for yourself?

Have your teams in on the test run to ensure every aspect of the workflow operates smoothly. Involve them in the process and collect their feedback to modify the workflow further. Once you have run it enough times to ensure that it does indeed work properly, it is time to put it to work for real. 

6. Train your team

Your team will always be the biggest part of the workflow, even when you automate it. Therefore, to successfully implement it, train your team properly with the right tools. Highlight everyone’s roles and duties. 

Ensure you address all their questions and clarify their confusion. Sometimes, your team may need to be more comfortable with past methods, making it difficult for them to get into new habits. You must ensure thorough training programs and visual aids using tools such as Scribe. 

All you need to do is review the workflow while recording on Scribe. Scribe will track where you click and drag to create automated step-by-step guides that you can easily edit and share. You can also stack different process recordings to develop Scribe Pages and share them as a training manual among your team members. 

7. Put the workflow into action

It is finally time to put your workflow into action. Start by releasing the workflow to a smaller team and see how it operates in real-time.

Once you are satisfied with the results, you can release them on a larger scale. However, keep regulating the workflow to ensure that it continues to operate smoothly and does not get outdated. 

Ways to optimize workflows

So far, we have told you what workflow is, how it benefits your company, and how you can create one for yourself. Next, we will leave a few tips and advice for you to optimize your workflow further and get the most out of it. 

Optimizing a workflow is essentially trying and implementing different strategies to improve existing workflows and ensure better results. Here are a few strategies that you can apply:

1. Don’t squeeze everything into one

The point of a workflow is to make everything simpler. One look, and you will know the next step or what should be done next. But if you try to squeeze everything together, irrelevant of the fact that they might be remotely connected, you will unnecessarily complicate your workflow. 

Instead, try having different workflows for different requirements. For example, hiring, onboarding, and new employee training processes should have different workflows. This way, you will better understand which processes start and end where, who is responsible for what, and what must be done next. 

2. Always opt for automation

We highly recommend you abandon the idea of any manual documentation. It will always end up being a monotonous job that will give rise to errors. Also, when your workflow becomes a bit more complex, it can cause confusion regarding responsibilities and accountabilities among your team members. 

Instead, opt for automation with workflow management software and other tools and create digital workflows. Automation eradicates any risk of mistakes and errors while throwing in additional benefits like efficiency, time-saving, more dynamic, and so on. 

💡 Looking for workflow management software that won't break the bank? Check out this list of the top free workflow management software.

3. Bring in other tools

Another great tip would be to integrate your workflow software with other tools. That way, you can easily pass on data between various tools, creating a sophisticated cloud-based network for your company. It will quicken the processes while leaving no scope for mistakes. 

For example, you may integrate your workflow software with HR or sales management software for better implementation. 

4. Always check on shortcomings

A great way to do this is to collect feedback from your employees and customers. Because they are the people who will be using the workflow the most, they will be able to tell you better what can be improved or what is doing just right. Reviewing the workflow time and again will keep it relevant, efficient, user-friendly, and more profit-bearing. 

5. Form a data bank

Forming a data bank will allow you to store all kinds of information, including inventory, customer details, product details, etc. Therefore, if an employee needs to access this data anywhere in the workflow, the workflow will have it ready as needed. 

This will undeniably speed up your workflow, ensuring accurate data presentation, eradicating errors, and saving time. All the information your team may need will be gathered systematically in one place for them to access.  

Wrapping up: what is a workflow?

Workflows are similar to essential founding pillars of business operations, and now you know what they are and how to create them. Therefore, start building workflow guides for your business today with Scribe!

Record all your processes and create visual how-tos — in seconds. Scribes are are captured in the flow of work, so you won't miss a beat as you document and share what you know.

Here's how it works.

‎Take advantage of the free workflow documentation Chrome extensions or upgrade your team to pro to get the desktop app that makes process documentation a breeze.

As per Chauncey TK Hamilton’s tweet,

“Scribe is such a game changer… it’s been such a time saver for sharing workflows for our team.”

As they say, you won’t know it till you try it — try Scribe today for free and see its potential for yourself. Incorporating a data bank in your workflow is a game-changer. With organized data, you can improve efficiency, accuracy, and productivity.

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.