From small to large projects, a workflow template can help you identify everything needed to complete a project. This guide covers the six steps to creating a successful project management workflow.
When you’re working on a project, organizing and approaching the task methodically ensures consistent, timely results, and the best way to do that is through workflow management. The following step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of creating a project management workflow template that you can implement for all your future projects.
TO SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (Tech Republic Premium)
What is workflow vs project management?
Project management is the science of all things necessary to complete a project or task. By making all aspects of the project transparent, formalized project management tries to answer what will be delivered, by whom and when.
Workflow management is the next level of detail under project management. While project management is broad, workflow management is more narrowly focused. Workflows are the specific, sequential steps required to complete a task or project. In short, while project management has the task of answering what, who and when, a workflow is mainly focused on the how.
Why is the project management workflow important?
It is quite possible to deliver a project without workflow management. That said, it’s not recommended.
While you can make a reasonable argument that when you deliver the project the workflows will emerge, failing to manage your workflows will result in missed dependencies, manifesting as delays and work stoppages. This lack of efficiency makes it difficult to say when a project will be completed, one of the desired outcomes of good project management.
The goal of workflow management is to create efficient, repeatable ways to get work done. The repeatable aspect is especially important if you are managing similar types of projects. For example, if you’re part of a team that primarily provides software, you’ll find that once you’ve defined a good workflow, your ability to predict other aspects of project management, such as resources and timelines, will improve significantly.
Ultimately, the best project managers use project management and workflow management to deliver a project successfully.
How do you build a project management workflow?
There are some good ones project management software tools on the market to help you create your project management workflow. Products like Guard† Smartsheet and Monday work management they all have some template workflows that you can use or customize right away.
You don’t necessarily need tools other than a pen and some paper to design your project management workflows. These are the steps we recommend.
The first action of designing a project management workflow is to think about all the steps required to complete your project. It is important to think categorically versus discreetly. For example, a typical software workflow might consist of:
- Interviewing stakeholders
- Create Wireframes
- Building the software
- To test
These are repeatable steps that you can apply to multiple projects. As you document your to-do list, do your best to put the items in chronological order as this will come in handy later.
TO SEE: Checklist: Project management (Tech Republic Premium)
After you’ve outlined the tasks required to complete your project, it’s time to consider what kind of resources you’ll need to get it done. These usually fall into the tools and people categories. If you deliver software, you need developers and visual designers. Be sure to not only list all the resources you need, but also highlight any gaps or areas where you lack the people and/or resources needed to be successful.
To make sure you haven’t left critical steps out of your workflow, it’s a good idea to write down exactly what the output of your project will be. For example, if you’re designing a new report for the accounting team, your results could be the new reporting software itself, documentation on how to use that report, and a training course to teach the accounting team how the new software works.
Going through this thought process may lead you to re-evaluate the tasks and resources you identified earlier. Perhaps there should be a documentation task between the build and test steps. Or maybe you need a change manager as a resource in your team to deliver the training successfully.
4. Roles and Commands
Once your list of tasks and required resources has been determined, you can decide who will contribute to which tasks to complete your project. Remember, the goal is to design a reusable workflow, not a specific project plan. So think of roles as user experience designer instead of names like Tracy from creative.
5. Map your workflow
Visualizing a project management workflow can be particularly effective. There are a number of ways you can visualize the workflow from a flowchart to a Gannt chart. The table below is an example of an easy way to create a diagram for a project management workflow.
Last but not least, don’t let good enough get in the way of perfection. You’re unlikely to get everything right with your project management workflow right away. Don’t let that stop you from putting it into practice. If you’re constantly inspecting and adjusting along the way, your project management workflow will be buzzing in no time.