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Guide for effective workflow management

Rebecca Noori 10 min read
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Managing your workflows can feel like trying to untangle a ball of yarn, only to realize there’s yet another knot waiting for you. When you’re stuck in a web of tasks, unanswered emails, and looming deadlines, it can feel like there’s no end to the chaos. But there is another way.

A structured approach to your workflows can reduce redundancy, knock confusion on the head, and ensure your team’s energy is always channeled towards the work that matters. Our detailed guide explores workflow management, including its benefits, best practices, and how to use technology to document your workflows and keep stakeholders in the loop.

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What is a workflow?

A workflow is a series of sequential steps or tasks we complete to achieve a specific goal. Just as a recipe includes the ingredients and step-by-step instructions for preparing a dish, a repeatable workflow outlines the tasks and the order to complete them.

Some workflows require us to concentrate as we work through the steps methodically, while others are second nature to us. For example, consider the workflow involved in attending a video conference call for a team meeting.

  • Schedule a meeting: Log into your video conference software and set a date, time, and duration for your team call. The software will generate a link unique to your meeting.
  • Invite meeting participants: Add email addresses to the meeting template to send invitations to relevant team members.
  • Log in to the meeting: At the correct time, click on your video link to start the meeting, entering a password if required.
  • Admit participants from the waiting room: The meeting host will manually admit team members to the group call.
  • Enable your microphone and camera: Check that your microphone and camera are switched on, or make other adjustments to your setup, such as blurring your background.
  • Start your meeting: When everyone has joined the call, you’ll begin your meeting.

Each step is essential, and the workflow will only progress once the previous task is complete. For example, your colleagues can’t join the call unless you’ve sent them the meeting link. And they won’t be able to hear you if your microphone is on mute.

What is workflow management? 

Workflow management is the practice of organizing, documenting, tracking, and optimizing your team’s workflows to ensure they produce the desired results as smoothly and effectively as possible. Successful workflow management involves a few core elements:

  • Stakeholders: The people executing the workflow, such as your team members, people from adjacent departments, business partners, etc. These individuals or groups have a vested interest in the workflow’s outcome.
  • Input: Essential items you need to complete your workflow. For example, your inputs for a project might include data, physical tools, or scope requirements.
  • Output: The final product or result produced by the workflow could be a physical product, a completed service, a report, or any deliverable that marks the workflow’s completion.
  • Steps: Each step is a building block designed to move the workflow towards completion. For example, your steps might be drafting a document, approving a design, conducting a review, notifying a team member, or any other action required by the workflow.
  • Conditions: These conditions set the framework within which the workflow operates, including the resources, budget, time constraints, and other requirements necessary to execute the workflow.

With your core elements in place, the practice of workflow management involves:

  • Setting and sequencing the steps: Proper sequencing progresses the workflow logically and efficiently, with each step building on the previous one. In software development, your steps might include gathering requirements, designing, coding, testing, and deployment.
  • Monitoring and adjusting: Keep an eye on timelines, resource utilization, and the quality of outputs at each stage to ensure everything is on track and in line with your current business needs.
  • Troubleshooting bottlenecks: If a particular workflow stage halts or slows down progress, identify any inefficiencies or resource shortages to speed things up.
  • Securing your workflows: If any sensitive information forms part of your workflow, take steps to encrypt your data and control access to your processes.

Want to get better at organizing your tasks? Check out our guide to task management.

A screenshot of how to set up a team planning board in monday work management, suggested as an alternative to Smartsheet project management.

Workflow management vs. project management: What’s the difference?

If you’re confused about the differences between work management and project management, remember that:

  • Workflow management optimizes a specific set of tasks or activities to make them as efficient and effective as possible.
  • Project management refers to a broader set of tasks, resources, and stakeholders with the ultimate goal of completing a specific project.

Smooth workflows are undoubtedly part of any successful project, but workflows can also exist outside of project management. For example, employee onboarding is an ongoing process rather than a project—the process requires slick, repeatable workflows for making team introductions, completing onboarding training, providing security credentials to the new starter, etc.

In this way, project and workflow management overlap to form part of business process management. This is an all-encompassing term for handling any process required to drive your business forward.

Benefits of an effective workflow management process

With an organized approach to workflow management, your teams become more efficient, empowered, organized, and goal-driven. Here are some specific benefits you can expect when you commit to the workflow management process.

  • Increased accountability: Mapping out your workflows and assigning roles and responsibilities to each step ensures everyone knows their part in the workflow and the importance of completing their tasks on schedule and to a high standard.
  • Greater transparency: When everyone can see what their colleagues are doing, it’s easy to seek support or raise queries with relevant parties in adjacent departments.
  • Eliminated redundancies: Taking a granular look at your existing workflows can highlight areas where multiple team members inadvertently complete the same work.
  • Quick resolutions: If a process breaks down or needs refining, team leaders can easily refer to their documented workflow management strategy to adjust and optimize the steps.
  • Enhanced compliance: Detailed workflows ensure you stay within legal and regulatory boundaries, reducing the risk of non-compliance.

Workflow management best practices

Every business has different goals, preferences, and processes, so there’s no one way to manage workflows in your organization. However, there are some best practices you can follow:

1. Create clear documentation

Taking control of your workflows starts with documenting specific details such as:

  • Who will complete the project or task?
  • Will there be multiple task owners?
  • Are there any bottlenecks or dependencies to consider between owners?
  • What are the hard deadlines?
  • Are iterations required?

Add more information as you build out your workflow documentation further. For example, you might attach best practices, useful templates, resources, or anything else that helps your team complete the work at hand. Ensure your entire team can regularly refer to your workflow documentation as required.

2. Consider your task dependencies

When workflows consist of a series of tasks to complete in a certain order, consider the relationships between them. These relationships are known as dependencies, and they’re crucial to note down as they’ll impact your scheduling and resources.

For example, a team member may only start Task B after Task A’s owner has notified them that their work is complete. team tasks view

3. Audit and adjust

Your workflows may change as you accept new projects, adopt new technologies or increase headcount. That means updating your workflow as steps, plans, and team members change.

To keep your documentation relevant as a reference point, aim to perform a quarterly workflow audit, where you and your team discuss any needed updates, changes, or optimizations to your current workflows.

4. Repeat

Once you’ve optimized your workflow, keep going! As you add team members, tasks, projects, dependencies, and more, you’ll go through the process over and over until you have a smooth process for managing your work. Eventually, tweaking and running through workflows will become second nature and your team will accomplish more using fewer resources.

What are the challenges of effective workflow management?

Workflow management isn’t always plain sailing. Some common challenges may crop up when you’re trying to get things in order, including:

  • Resistance to change: Team members who are used to working a certain way may not appreciate new workflow implementations. Remember to communicate the reasons and benefits behind the changes to gain buy-in from your team.
  • Resource constraints: Limited time, budget, and personnel can impact the efficiency of your workflows. To maximize your available resources, try to review and optimize your workflows regularly.
  • Lack of communication: Poor team communication leads to delays, misunderstandings, and workflow process errors. Lead honest, open discussions to keep everyone talking and updated.
  • Technology limitations: Outdated or inefficient technology hinders the effectiveness of your workflow management. Consider using a dedicated work management platform to streamline workflows and improve efficiency.
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What are the must-have features for managing workflows with software?

A manual approach to workflow management will get you so far. But the right software can transform your workflow management approach by introducing clarity and speed to traditionally cumbersome processes. With so many solutions available in the market, we recommend you prioritize the following features:

  • Visualization: Top of the list is the ability to view your workflow in various ways so you can analyze, tweak, and monitor its success. For example, you can switch between a simple to-do list as part of a linear workflow or visualize complex task dependencies in a Gantt chart format. monday work management offers 27+ views, allowing you to see your workflow from every angle possible. With 36+ columns and 25+ widgets, you can customize your dashboard with the precise workflow data you need. task management board
  • Automation: Workflow management is about efficiency. In the digital era, you don’t need to be there to press every button manually. Instead, you can set up automation recipes based on trigger conditions. For example, if you finish the first task in a workflow, you can check a box that sends an automated email to your teammate to begin the next task.
An example of an automation in
  • Integrations: The best work management platforms will seamlessly integrate with other tools in your tech stack, so there’s no need to hop from one system to another continuously. For example, you might integrate your workflow management tool with a time-tracking app to understand your time on specific tasks. monday work management integrates with 72+ other tools you’re already using.
An example of the integrations available in monday work management.
  • Collaboration: Workflow management is rarely a solo activity. Invite key stakeholders from your team to see, discuss, approve, and collaborate on workflow items. Ensure you choose a platform that allows communication in the app—to keep all discussions organized and relevant. For example, monday work management enables you to comment on specific board items, tag colleagues and guests into discussions, or pull in emails and direct messages from Outlook, Gmail, Slack, and more.
One example of business process management is the IT requests and approvals board on

Optimize workflow management in your organization

We’ve seen that workflow management is a critical part of any team, regardless of the project or task. When implemented correctly, managing workflows ensures that teams stay organized, on track, and efficient.

Take it from Officeworks, Australia’s leading retailer for office and school supplies, furniture, and technology. After feeling frustrated by its approach to product management, the company switched to to streamline its workflows. The practice of mapping out its core business processes enabled them to understand where they were bogged down with unnecessary admin. Since switching to, Officeworks has sent 10k fewer emails, and replaced 635+ working spreadsheets.

Ready to optimize your own processes? Sign up for a free trial of monday work management today.

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Rebecca Noori is an experienced freelance writer who specializes in writing and refreshing long-form blog content for B2B SaaS companies. When she's not writing, you'll find her knee-deep in phonics homework and football kits, looking after her three kids!
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