What’s the difference between project management and workflow management? They share the same project elements, like tasks, assignments, timelines, goals and, often, reporting. But when startups talk about project management, it usually implies a single, one-off project. Whereas workflow management addresses a project that repeats itself over and over at a company or department level - a process. Startups often require project workflow management software for common processes like content production, recruiting and platform releases.
Your startup’s workflow management needs will depend on your business model, sector, size and the nature of the workflow. Here are 5 tips all startups should note before selecting their workflow management software:
Do not pick workflow management software until you know what your workflow is. Use shared docs, spreadsheets, and email to get to know your needs and process - whether you're launching a new company, department or project. "Workflow" is a very broad term and can apply to anything from customer service to product launches to content management to issue tracking. So the better you can define your workflow, the better able you'll be to pick the right software.
Remember that all of the awesome software and tools out there have an individual philosophy - and it's imperative to know what your team's specific needs are before selecting and ultimately adopting the framework of an external piece of software.
The right workflow management software for your company might not actually be called "Workflow Management Software." So keep an open mind and look around at a variety of options based on your needs and goals with software. While there is certainly software that markets itself explicitly as workflow software, some very popular solutions for workflow management actually take the form of CRMs or project management tools.
At Stacklist, our research involves a complex, multi-step process around interviewing entrepreneurs. We used a shared Google Sheet until we were bursting and needed real software. After a look around, we found that a sales CRM - a company built on the Google Suite that launched about 2 years ago, was the best option for us even though our research workflow has nothing to do with sales.
When you've whittled your options down to 2 or 4, spend some time trying to actually use each one. For example, try loading your workflow with all of the bells and whistles you need, and then run 5 mock instances that take different paths through the workflow. Even if this takes a few hours for each piece of software it's worth it. This is one area where switching costs down the road will be steep - you're going to want this software to last years with you.
Workflow management is where the rubber meets the road in successful processes. You’ll need good reports to know that you’re succeeding, identify areas for improvement and monitor the impact of changes you make to your workflow. Before selecting workflow management software, make sure that the report mechanics make it easy to produce the reports you need.