Creating the right workflow for your IT team is imperative for success. It has immense power with the ability to eliminate redundancies, reduce errors, boost productivity, and ensure the team hits their deadlines.
While there are many ways to manage workflow, what follows is a broad framework for tackling the process. Use it as a guide, customising to suit your particular team and work requirements.
Workflow management steps
Tech teams are used to working at a fast pace, up against ever-changing (and often competing) demands.
This is why an ideal workflow strikes a good balance between automation and collaboration, with a degree of built-in flexibility for individuals to improvise as needed. It’s important to keep this in mind when implementing these workflow management steps:
1. Identify who owns the workflow
Taking ownership is the first step in the management of a workflow. It may be you as the overall leader, your tech lead or scrum master. Working out who bears ultimate responsibility sets the stage for all the steps that follow.
2. Invite the team to collaborate
Depending on the workflow, asking the team for input from this point on can be invaluable, particularly if they are the subject matter experts.
3. Work out where the process begins and ends
Clearly define the parameters of the workflow, mapping out the start and end points. Identify if there are points where the workflow could be triggered to end early due to other impacts. It might be an interdependency on another team, or a problem with another department in the company.
4. Uncover the inputs and outputs
Determine what information is required before the workflow can start, along with the specific outcome/s that need to be produced on the other side.
5. Map the process
This step drills down to the finer details of who is involved, what tasks they need to complete, and what tools they use to do so. This is the ideal point to uncover bottlenecks or other problems that impede the workflow.
Ask the team to assess how the process is currently working, and identify:
- What works well
- What doesn’t work well
- Major complaints from other stakeholders (other departments, customers and so on)
- The automation tools involved (or the team’s wishes for new tools)
Take the time to assess this intel to uncover repetition, communication breakdowns, delays and poorly delivered outcomes. If any of these issues are uncovered, the workflow needs adjusting.
6. Make improvements to the workflow
Based on team input, consider the steps you could take to enhance the workflow. It could be paring down, eliminating or automating steps. Can the team make these improvements themselves, perhaps by writing scripts to speed up repetitive tasks?
Improvement can also come in the form of workflow software to automate steps. Your team may already have tools they use and if so, it is worth reviewing them to ensure they are being utilised effectively, and meeting the workflow’s needs.
If not, spending some time researching other options might be a wise move. Should you go down this route, be sure to involve the team. This increases the chances of securing their buy-in down the track if you decide to introduce a new system.
Another tip when it comes to automation is to have a designated automation lead; a go-to person when automation fails (as it invariably does). This team member is tasked with manually intervening and ensuring the process moves forward, so workflow isn’t impeded.
7. Test the improved workflow on a small audience & adjust
Pick one or two team members to test out the new workflow in action. This helps iron out any kinks before deploying it to the whole team, and beyond (if needed).
8. Roll out the new workflow
Implement the revised workflow amongst the team, taking the time to provide appropriate training if required.
9. Continue to measure and improve the workflow regularly
Reaching this point will likely have taken considerable work. However, optimisation of the workflow should continue. This includes regular check-ins with the team - as often as every two weeks initially - to see if further improvements can be made. If the team is organised around sprints or iterations, this may form part of their regular retrospectives.
10. Keep people informed
This final point should be applied throughout the process of changing the workflow. Your team will likely be involved – and should be if it is their daily workflow that’s being tweaked – but consider other important stakeholders who might need to be apprised as the process evolves.
These 10 steps are lay a good foundation for evaluating your team’s workflow and making adjustments, helping them increase their productivity, whilst freeing up your time to focus on the core elements of your business.
If you would like further supporting in implementing transformational change in your organisation, please let us know. We have a vast pool of highly skilled experts, along with further resources you can draw upon to meet the tech challenges you face.