Don't Buy Workflow Software Without These 5 Features
Technology should take care of busywork so we can get back to what we do best.
The world is getting smarter, but are workers benefiting from their advanced tools in the right ways? People don’t need technology to take over their jobs. They need technology to fill in the gaps and take care of busywork so they can get back to doing what they do best. According to research from Monday.com, 38 percent of workers believe they could save five hours a week with tools that automate repetitive tasks, and 28 percent want to increase their time for creativity and focus.
Using the right workflow software with automation elements empowers humans to focus on tasks only they can perform and the ones where they stand to really make an impact. Whether you work for yourself or oversee a team of hundreds, the right automation tools can save you hours of headaches per week and help you achieve your goals in record time.
Not all workplace solutions are created equal, though. Pick the wrong one, and you could spend just as much time fiddling with your software as you did before you upgraded. The key is to find the product with the right features, not the one with the most. Evaluate your automation options carefully by looking for these important features.
Unless you follow a workflow no one's ever used, don’t start from scratch with your software. Templates that are tailored to your specific vertical save you time and help you remember all the little parts of your workflow that you take for granted in your everyday groove.
When you do need to start from scratch, project-automation company Rindle recommends drawing diagrams to map out your tasks. Once you see the beginning and end of every workflow, you can fill in the details as you expand your overview. As you develop these details, look for automation opportunities you may have missed in your original assessment of needs.
What do you need that most basic workplace tools don’t provide? Where do you anticipate problems with an out-of-the-box solution? Identify the areas where your workflow might differ from the norm, then evaluate solutions based on their ability to cater to those quirks.
CRM and marketing-automation company Insightly advises users to focus on hands-off moments when building workflows. One person may understand the implications beneath the workflow, but when tasks move to someone else’s desk, that person might not share the same assumptions and implicit knowledge. Find a solution that carries information forward, not just tasks.
Your team only knows as much as the least informed person in the chain. Better sharing and collaboration features ensure that everyone knows the story from beginning to end, improving the quality of your output as key details remain consistent throughout your processes.
Google knows the value of sharing as well as any company. The company built its G Suite product line around the concept of constant collaboration. In an era when connectivity has become the expectation, automation tools must facilitate easy sharing of conversations, files and tasks.
Web-data business Import.io believes strongly in the importance of data visualization. Humans can't look at black-and-white spreadsheets and pull insights from them like machines. With smart visuals, automation tools can bridge the gap between data and understanding to inform users about important metrics and trends.
A workplace platform, especially a work OS, does a lot of work behind the scenes, but not all of that processing should stay hidden. Smart tools know what you want to know and can deliver (and extrapolate upon) that information to give you digestible, actionable data that makes sense from the first look.
Odds are high that you use a bunch of different workplace tools and types of software. Instead of manually hopping back and forth between programs — which goes against everything streamlining your work stands for — find something that integrates with the software you already use.
Automations and integrations in your workflow platform touch a variety of processes, so don’t stop at integrations with Excel and Sheets. Look for something that integrates with communication tools such as Slack, storage tools such as Dropbox and scheduling software like Google Calendar. Monday.com and Airtable, for example, integrate with all sorts of other tools, including other automation solutions.
Related: 17 Essential Tools for Entrepreneurs
If your current or proposed solution doesn’t offer these five features, slow down and think about whether the software in front of you truly meets your needs. Maybe you've gotten away without a feature or two so far, but as your business grows, you'll need software that has the power and intelligence to grow alongside it. Check out your options and evaluate your growth trajectory before you start to feel the strain.
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