When a small company is just getting started, workflow management might seem pretty simple. After all, there just aren’t that many people involved in each task. As you grow, however, your processes become more complex. This can increase the chance of human error. Not only that, routine processes start to take precious employee and management time away from the tasks that produce value for the company.

When your organization reaches this stage, it’s time to look at workflow management tools. There’s a lot that project workflow software can do for you. It can keep track of budget and tasks in all of your projects. It uses tools such as Gantt charts to show the project at a glance and point out dependencies. Perhaps most importantly, it facilitates your project management workflow. For example, time entry and task status documentation can be passed along from person to person with the appropriate alerts and controls to ensure everything is done in the right order and nothing is left out.

When a project management workflow system such as BigTime is installed and working, you have the benefits of accurate and automatic oversight of the processes. Repetitive processes are automated as much as possible so employees can concentrate on more creative work. Workflow processes are streamlined so they’re done the same efficient way every time. If you add more projects and more people, your system is capable of scaling and supporting your productivity growth.

A project workflow management system provides you with an overall picture of the projects and of workflows. It doesn’t let uncompleted tasks stay that way, but it follows up automatically with the appropriate alerts. It gives you confidence that workflows are completed properly and on time. It points out where you might have opportunities to make adjustments to keep a project on track.

Workflow Management System

Every type of business has workflows specific to its line of work. Whether your company’s expertise is in accounting, engineering, architecture, IT or other consulting, you need a workflow management app that takes into consideration your field of competence. It must support the specific things that you have to do to meet the expectations of your clients.

A common workflow system example is the tracking and reporting of hours spent on projects and tasks. A timesheet workflow ensures that employees and contractors enter time when they’re expected to. It presents the time information to managers in order to keep the process on track. It ensures that only authorized people can correct timesheets. It can enforce documentation of corrections. A good system provides notifications in multiple ways, including through the app itself and via an external channel such as email. All in all, a timesheet workflow eliminates the kind of errors that require difficult analysis and rework.

While employee hours are often the biggest cost on a project, workflow software can also manage the control and approval of other types of expenses. It can govern the submission and acceptance of expense reports. It can enforce project budget limits. A manager will see all the expense reports for a project and whether each is pending, approved or rejected. They’ll be automatically notified when they need to take action.

A workflow system is key in keeping a project progressing as it should. It eliminates the delays that can occur when an expense or a time report is waiting for approval. Timely approval ensures that managers have the most up-to-date project status information. Most importantly, the system does a big chunk of the processes necessary to complete the workflow. Managers can spend their hours supporting their staff and overseeing the most critical aspects of a project. They don’t need to spend as much time worrying about how time and expenses are going to be tracked and approved.

Workflow Management System Example

There are plenty of workflow management systems out there vying for your business. A wide range of vendors have software to offer, including familiar names such as Microsoft, Google, and Apache. You can even find workflow management software free.

Excel spreadsheets are an ever-popular solution for the workflow management challenge. There is workflow software free based on Excel macros and templates. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the initial cost of software, whether it’s free, almost free or with a bigger price tag, is not the only expense. The total cost of software ownership also includes the cost of installing the software, the cost of learning it, the cost of integrating it with your other management tools, and the ongoing cost of keeping it up to date.

Every business should look at exactly what they hope to accomplish with project workflow management. Then they need to evaluate how well various solutions meet their needs, and what the overall work will be in bringing in those solutions and adapting them to their own business practices.

Here are some important questions to ask about workflow software. How much of the workflow will have to been done manually? What kind of reporting does the system provide? How well does it integrate with the accounting system, the client billing system and other systems that are vital to the company?

While BigTime is not a free system, we do offer a free trial. Rather than spending your time trying to adopt a “bargain” system, consider testing out a full-function system with its features and capabilities. You may find that you not only gain more control over your workflows but also see workflow status and project status reported in new ways. You might learn things you didn’t know about your projects. The right workflow management tool not only controls workflows; it’s an overall weapon to help manage your entire company across all its projects.

Workflow Management Meaning

What is workflow? The basic workflow definition is that it’s a series of tasks that complete a goal. These tasks can be a straight-line sequence, or they can have branches where the task you do next depends on what happened in the previous one. They can loop back and repeat previous tasks. All companies have workflows, whether they recognize them or not. The simplest workflow examples are ones drawn out with pencil and paper. If you blow up one of these diagrams to poster size, tape it on the wall and declare that this is how you’re going to do things, you’ve installed a rudimentary workflow management system.

Of course, such a system is difficult to enforce and subject to all kinds of human error. That’s why businesses find it’s worth their while to acquire and install automated workflow management software. Just about anyone can map out a project workflow, but it takes a well-designed automated system to implement that workflow in a way that is reliably accurate, eliminates human errors and actually increases the efficiency of the way a project is run. This sort of workflow manager is essential to the productivity of the entire business. 

Workflow Task Management

Workflows tie together a series of tasks. Each one of these tasks has specific inputs, specific outputs, and processes that take place during the task. A workflow management systems architecture will contain tasks that are done by a person, a computer process or a combination of the two.

To look at one of the common workflow management examples, time entry is a task usually done by a person with the assistance of a computer. The inputs are the company’s rules about time reporting and the actual data the specific individual has to report. The process includes presenting screens to the employee, the actual entry of the hours on the screen, prompting and editing to ensure proper hour entry and confirming that the process is complete. The output is the complete timesheet, which is now ready to be input to the next task, which is most likely supervisor approval.

Project management workflow software manages the process not only at the individual task level. It also manages the coordination between tasks needed for the overall workflow to be completed. It moved the outputs of each task down the line to where they’ll be the inputs of a new task.

Team Workflow Management

A team workflow is the flow of tasks done by a specific team. Quite often the overall workflow will be the responsibility of one team. To a robust team workflow app, it doesn’t matter much if the workflow is accomplished by a single project team or by individuals belonging to a number of teams. However, if there are two teams that do the same workflow, and they do it in slightly different ways, there could be a separate team workflow for each of the two teams.

It’s possible to acquire free workflow automation software that includes team workflow management free. Quite often free or “bargain” project workflow software can be adapted to meet a business’s needs. However, most businesses have better things to spend their time on than modifying software that doesn’t quite meet all their requirements. A full-function workflow management system such as BigTime is more likely to fit into your organization with minimum impact on processes and on other systems. The time may be right for a free trial of BigTime for your organization. Find out what a complete and integrated project management system can do for you.

Project Management Workflow Software for your Firm

Many small- to medium-sized companies (SMBs) use a project-based work model. This is a method of doing business where the client has a clearly defined scope of work that is to be delivered at milestones or specific deadlines. The most obvious business owner that needs project management workflow software is a general contractor, architectural firm, and engineering professionals that depend on bidding and winning contracts as a business model.

But, other businesses also require the type of workflow management software that the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry uses. This includes IT professionals, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers, and website developers. The best workflow management software can simplify a professional services business when they use and invest in a project management tool for their business.

Simplifying project workflows, business processes (like accounts receivable/payable), and administrative tasks (like employee time tracking) are critical for increasing productivity, being more reliable, reducing overhead costs, improving performance, and greater availability to handle your core business tasks.

Continue reading to discover what to look for and what the benefits are when choosing on-premise workflow management software. BigTime has developed one of the best workflow software for consulting professionals that are self-managed and depend on projects or caseloads as their main workflow method. Professionals are educated, trained, and experienced in their chosen field of work, but the business management side of their operations can sometimes be haphazard and a source of lost revenue.

And this is exactly what the best workflow software like BigTime can deliver. A more efficient and higher quality way of doing business based on project milestones and project deliverables. BigTime streamlines your existing workflows by organizing and automating time-consuming admin tasks.

Project management tools allow your company to work smarter, not harder at managing projects, employees, and invoicing. A world of increased productivity and profit opens up when your company is able to plan ahead and keep projects moving smoothly.

Workflow Management Tools

Workflow programs are a tool that any project-based service provider can use to manage project time, employees, and activities. The best workflow app for a small business consultant will be easy to set up, deploy, and use - without the complexity and burden found in big-name software applications like Microsoft Project. Workflow management tools can be used to organize the following:

Business Process Workflows

A set of repeated and predictable administrative workflows that take a specific path. Process workflows are common for HR, payroll, employee time tracking, and many other business support operations. Custom workflow software is best for business automation because the invoices, timesheets, etc, can be designed to fit the way your company does business.

Case Load Workflows

With professionals that deal with caseloads (accountants, lawyers, etc.), the project path is less predictable but will reveal itself as the case advances. These professionals use workflow management tools as a time and task managing system. Caseload management can have an unlimited number of tasks that must be accomplished until the client receives a final outcome.

Project Workflows

There are many open-source and proprietary workflow management tools built to assist with managing projects that have a structured path. For example, an architectural firm will typically deliver conceptual architectural drawings, building floor plans, building elevations and sections, and a final and complete set of architectural drawings, bill-of-materials, and details.

Basically, each project is delivered in the same manner. For these types of project-based workflows, it is the efficient use of time and talent for the completion of pre-set milestones, and the delivery of a final product.

These 3 workflow software examples can be obtained in a single project management solution built specifically for professionals that deliver projects or complete caseloads, and require business automation. What is common is that these professionals often use supporting staff to operate. BigTime Project Management allows business owners to hand off work between staff, subcontractors, or partners with associated approval levels to make sure the project manager is aware of what has been done and what still needs to be done.

Workflow Management Apps

So, what should a professional consultant look for when choosing between different workflow management apps? The best workflow automation software and workflow apps for teams will feature the following:

  • Flexibility and agility in managing projects from start to finish
  • Basic workflow patterns or templates to start new jobs
  • Workflow approvals between owner and supervisors
  • Automatic task assignments such as HR or payroll tasks
  • Team communication via messaging or emails
  • Forms, tables, and chart generation tools
  • Report generation that offers project insight

These features present a workflow management system example that is most useful for project management. The best workflow software for small businesses should also feature document management because many of these firms will include project documentation that must be secure and delivered when the project is done.

Your clients judge how well you are accomplishing their mission by the documents you deliver. Workflow apps for teams should allow for the sharing of documents with stakeholders, business owners, management, engineering, technical support, administrative workers, vendors, and subcontractors when needed and only with access control, permission levels, or document version control.

Workflow tools examples include:

  • Project planning
  • Project execution
  • Project delivery
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Employee time tracking
  • Expense reports
  • Purchase orders
  • Project reports

Each of these workflows contains a long list of actionable items. Some will be automated, some must be delegated, and others are handled solely by the owner or top management. Planning, performing, and completing each of these workflows will contribute to a successful project or case delivery.

BigTime has been designed with management tools that streamline projects for smoother running operations, less overhead, less undercharging, and more productivity.

The BigTime platform also allows you to work within your existing workflows and software stack, such as CRM programs or QuickBooks. The result is a single source of project data to keep you informed on how your project and your team are doing.

Best Free Workflow Software

The best free workflow software will give you a bare-bone structure for project management. BigTime, while not free, will allow you enough time to test the app and see how it can benefit your project delivery. BigTime is easy to use, but includes sophisticated features that a free workflow tool won't have. Rarely does free workflow software open source allow for seamless integration with existing business process software.

And, free workflow apps are not guaranteed to offer continued support to fix system bugs or future updates to keep up with new firmware or operating system releases. What can happen with free workflow diagram software is that at some point, all the data you've input into the system becomes useless or lost. Free workflow apps can cause a project to end in chaos when the system crashes or data becomes corrupt.

All projects depend on data, and that data is critical to the success of a professional consultant. It becomes easier to juggle multiple projects at one time when work-in-progress can be seen and forecast earnings can be reported. Optimization of administrative processes with a free Google workflow tool is great, but is it custom-built for the way consultants deliver projects or caseloads?

BigTime allows you to initiate, track, and review project processes within one centralized location. This level of organization for a small business owner can help them retain top talent and experts that are skeptical of how efficient a small professional firm is being managed.

When you streamline your workflows, you have more time to be creative, more time to commit to customer acquisition, and more time to enjoy non-work activities with family and friends. Running a professional consulting firm is a serious business, but can be extremely profitable when the entire business process and project workflows are organized, orderly, tracked, and managed.

Don't depend on a workflow software free download to handle such a critical part of your business' success.

Workflow Management Software Free

Also avoid workflow management software free that doesn't integrate with your existing client information databases, financial data, and other information that you have collected. The old saying that you get what you pay for applies to free automation software. You can end up doing more work to get your different systems integrated while BigTime seamlessly integrates most business financial and operating systems with the program.

Free workflow tools online are offered piecemeal, and not as a complete and total project management program. For example, you can download a free employee time tracking app. But, that one app will likely have nothing in common with your project management database of information. So, instead of being able to see how much time an employee spent on multiple projects and which tasks they spent the most time on - you can see that the employee worked in an 8 hour day.

The BigTime Project Management Tool features the following:

  • Project Estimation
  • Project Management
  • Resource Planning
  • Time and Expense Reporting
  • Employee Time Tracking
  • Employee Payment
  • Billing and Payment
  • Human Resources

This level of business integration results in a high level of business intelligence. You can see where money and time are spent, all in one centralized location. When different aspects of running a business come together like this, your company starts working smarter and not harder.

Visit BigTime to see just much our project management tool can streamline your operations. Business automation and project management make your company more competitive. When you can deliver projects at a lower cost of overhead, with a faster turn-around, and with better and more professional results, clients take notice. New contracts come in due to word-of-mouth referrals and your professional consulting not only thrives but is able to grow.