Rarely do workflows go seamlessly from concept to everyday use, because it’s impossible to foresee all possible problems at the beginning.
Making the transition from idea to regular use can go more smoothly if workflow design is done in stages, starting with proof of concept, proceeding to a small pilot project, followed by training, practice, and deployment. Here’s how to ensure those stages of workflow development happen with minimal problems and backtracking.
Proof of Concept
This is where you come up with a solution to a problem and determine if it’s feasible. Suppose you head a local government department and have determined that citizen requests for oversize trash pickup should be made online rather than in person, on paper, or over the phone.
During proof of concept, you should ask important questions like:
- Can we afford the workflow software to do this?
- How will we let people know this is the new way to make requests?
- How much will we ultimately save in terms of time and physical resources?
- What objections might people raise to this new way of doing things?
A pilot project for your new workflow requires that you know how to use the workflow software and have created the forms people will use online to request services. People in the office have tested out the forms to make sure they work. The people who will eventually process the forms have seen what it’s like receiving completed forms and ensuring they collect all necessary information.
At this point, your pilot project can deploy on a limited basis. Perhaps you can start with a single neighborhood, to gauge reaction and willingness of people to use it. When people in the pilot project neighborhood start actually using the new process, you can collect feedback from them on what they liked and didn’t like, and what problems, if any, they experienced.
Information collected during the pilot project can be used to fine-tune forms and workflow to prevent bottlenecks, and to determine the best way to prioritize requests. Your pilot project gives you the opportunity to course-correct and make changes before taking the project citywide.
Pilot projects are great for listening to feedback and fine-tuning workflows.
Training and Practice
Once your pilot project has collected the data necessary to correct and fine-tune forms and the workflow itself, you still need to test the final workflow thoroughly before deploying it. Each person involved in the workflow, from clerks to dispatchers to truck drivers, must be trained in how to use it. Ideally, you can have a few practice runs to make sure everything clicks into place as it is supposed to. Only after everyone who will use the workflow has been trained are you ready to deploy your workflow for real.
The day a new workflow goes live, make sure all lines of communication are open. That day is not a good day for the workflow designer to be out of the office. It’s wise to have a handful of people designated to switch back to the old way of doing things if there’s a major problem, but hopefully it won’t come to that.
Once the workflow goes live, the workflow designer and key personnel should take stock after the first day, after a week, and after a month to find out if unforeseen problems or bottlenecks have emerged. This way, they can be handled before they cause major problems. When the workflow is in daily use and doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s smart to write up a report detailing project phases, problems solved, and lessons learned. This will make it easier when new automated workflows are created later on.
The right workflow software will help you not only design automated workflows, but also take them through every stage from concept to everyday use with ease. PerfectApps, with its intuitive drag-and-drop interface, makes creation of customized online forms and automated workflows straightforward, so you can create, test, train, and deploy on an accelerated schedule. We encourage you to read through some of the many PerfectApps case studies and see the results of automated workflows in a variety of real-world scenarios.