How to Fix Broken Workflows With Project Management Software
One of my favourite things about onsite consulting is listening to agencies discuss their workflows. Sometimes, it’s very cut-and-dried: “Our client sends in a work order. We respond with a proposal. The client approves it, and we schedule the job. When it’s done, we invoice it for 100% of our time and expenses.”
More often than not, though, the conversation goes something like this:
Person A: “Well, my client sends me an email, and then I tell Person X to create a scope of work.”
Person B: “What? Person X does your scopes for you? She always makes me do my own! And how does she even know what goes in them if you haven’t assigned your tasks yet?”
Person C: “I never assign tasks.”
And it goes on like that for awhile.
One of the advantages of employing a financial and project management software is being able to define workflow so everyone knows what to do and when to do it. You don’t duplicate efforts, lose job-related information, or waste time on administrative busywork.
If that doesn’t sound like your agency, don’t worry. Here’s how to whip your workflow into shape:
1. Understand Your Process
One of the first things we do during onsite consulting with our clients is to initiate a discussion about the current workflow.
Schedule a meeting with your department heads and get everyone to answer these questions:
- When a new job comes in, what happens?
- Who gets notified, and how?
- What do they do with that information?
- How do they let the relevant people know it’s time to start work?
- Do they group related jobs together? Do they manage them with a single budget?
- How do they invoice? Hourly? Fixed fee? Pre-bill? Monthly? Upon completion?
- Does any of that change depending on the job and the client?
Often, what emerges is a patchwork of ad-hoc processes with no defined standard.
2. Evaluate How Well It’s Working For You
Once you’ve figured out what the current process looks like, dig deeper:
- What confuses people?
- What do people hate about it?
- Are you entering the same information more than once?
- Is it tough to find things?
Anything that feels cumbersome or breeds resentment should change.
3. Find Efficiencies
Knowing what’s wrong empowers you to fix it. Are you creating estimates and copying the same information to your invoices? Maybe it’s time to implement a system that carries that stuff over automatically. Are you producing separate invoices for each and every job? Project management software can let you create and send all your invoices at once, with just a few clicks. Do you have a lot of similar jobs? The software should let you make templates. Do you negotiate every rate for every service with every client? Think about implementing a few standard rate categories and sticking to them.
4. Make Someone Responsible
Once you’ve nailed down your new process, make a specific person accountable for each step. That’ll stop things from falling through the cracks.
5. Be Clear But Flexible
So you’ve figured out what you’ve been doing and what you want to be doing instead. You’ve delegated every part of the workflow, and the relevant people understand their roles and responsibilities. The next thing is to communicate your leaner, meaner workflow to the rest of the company. Make sure everyone understands what you’re changing and why you’re changing it.
Finally, as awesome as your new workflow might be, it’s important not to get too attached to it. Businesses change, and what makes sense now might be ungainly in a year. Revisit your workflows annually, and don’t be afraid to tweak them as you go.
Function Point offers a project management software that streamlines your workflow processes for optimal results. Contact one of our workflow experts for a personalized demo to find out how the FP system can further benefit your company.
This article was contributed by former Function Point employee, Amanda Truscott.