We’re a year into lockdown and it’s clear that remote working is here to stay. After all, working from home has a lot of perks: no crazy-early wake-ups, no traffic, no one stealing your snacks, no pants. But for teams, the transition from operating as a unit to operating as a system can feel like you’re working hard but you’re never on top of things. A good workflow-management system can fix that – but which one do you choose? Start with this guide.
1/ What is a workflow-management system?
Essentially, it’s a tool that helps you keep track of your projects – how far they are, who’s working on what, when they’re due by and how they’re tracking in terms of making or missing that deadline. In the office, it might have been called a whiteboard. Simple, analogue, effective. A workflow-management system gives you the same snapshot view, but digitally. And often with a lot more functionality that, like all those extra apps that came preloaded on your smartphone, you can either use or ignore.
2/ Choose a system that matches your existing way of working.
The system should slot in with how you work; you shouldn’t have to change how you work to fit the system. And with many options out there, you’re bound to find your fit. Here’s a comprehensive list of workflow management systems and what they offer.
3/ Play to your audience.
Some workflow-management systems look like pure wizardry. And if your team consists of young, dynamic early-adopters who love playing with the latest tech, by all means, Dr Strange, issue sling rings for all. But if there are people on your team who get nervous when there’s a new coffee machine, simpler is better. You can always start unlocking more features later.
4/ Don’t skip training.
Workflow management systems are designed to be intuitive, but you get those people who rip off the packaging and those who read the manual. And both sets need to be on board. Emphasise that it’s not possible to break something; if you make a mistake, it’s digital – you can change it.
5/ Try before you buy.
Most workflow management systems have a free version that gives you a decent amount of functionality before you have to part with any moolah.
Workflow Management Systems We Dig
Slack: The onscreen equivalent to swivelling your chair around and saying, “Can I tap your brain for a sec?” Less convoluted than WhatsApp, because different channels allow you to have different convos on the go – for example, a channel for general banter becomes the virtual canteen; a channel for a specific project will be for that project team only.
Trello: The job bag system, but make it techy. Create project cards (job bags) for every task and drag them to whoever is working on them in the same way you would drop a job bag in someone’s in-tray.
Airtable: Your digital white board. Good for plotting out project calendars when you have many different projects on the go. The interface resembles a spreadsheet, so it will appeal to teams who work in programmes like Excel.
Asana: The clean, simple interface and drag-and-drop functionality will appeal to teams who are nervous of technology. Different views allow team members to customise the look according to how they prefer to process information. Profile pics make it easier to move items to the correct person, reducing your chance of making mistakes – and the stress that comes with that.
VMLY&R is a global brand and customer experience agency that harnesses creativity, technology, and culture to create connected brands. Named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Global Marketing Agencies for five consecutive years, VMLY&R is made up of more than 12,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kansas City, New York, Detroit, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners including Absa, BAT, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Nando’s, New Balance, Pfizer, Vodacom and Wendy's. For more information, visit www.vmlyr.com. VMLY&R is a WPP company (NYSE: WPP).