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What is Workflow Analysis?

By Paul Woods
Updated May 16, 2024
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Workflow analysis entails reviewing all processes in a business with a view toward identifying inefficiencies and recommending improvements. The work begins with establishing desired results from the analysis with a firm’s senior managers. Analysts then interact with the company’s employees to document the current state of business processes in the firm. The final stage is the recommendation of processes that need to be changed, automated or left in place in line with stated goals.

A typical business continuously seeks to improve its processes, and two primary factors lead firms to undertake a workflow analysis. First, ongoing technological advances can offer more efficient and less costly ways of doing business, and firms often choose to review processes with a view toward automating them or incorporating the latest technology. Second, it is typical for so-called legacy processes to be firmly entrenched in a firm, which means a certain task has long been done a certain way and can be overlooked as a process in need of improvement. A goal of this process is to expose such legacy processes.

Outside consultants can effectively perform a workflow analysis as they are experts at it and have no loyalty to any particular way of doing business. In initial interaction with senior managers, the workflow analysts usually begin with interviews to determine how top managers view the company currently, including what is working and what is not. Analysts next determine the desired end state that managers hope to achieve by the workflow analysis project.

The majority of the work in workflow analysis takes place with trained analysts interviewing employees and supervisors to document how business is done. This includes all aspects of a business such as processing paperwork for sales, collections, compliance, and human resources. It also can cover manufacturing processes such as receiving raw materials or parts, processing or assembling them, and shipping finished goods.

Analysts will also review time spent and effort expended interacting with customers, including sales and customers service. Workflow analysis looks at everything every employee of firm does with a view toward documenting how each task begins and moves through the organization.

After the initial documentation, workflow analysts typically present findings to lower-level manages to ensure the results of the analysis match the reality of the company. Adjusting the analysis as necessary, the analysts then examine the workflow to identify areas in which processes can be streamlined, automated or both. This information then is usually presented to top managers along with recommendations for improvements.

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Discussion Comments
By anon943898 — On Apr 04, 2014

Companies often make the mistake of ignoring internal concerns from employees. I worked for a company that sold workflow solutions, but, they refused input from their own employees about inefficiencies within the company and often treated such feedback as a negative.

By Perdido — On Aug 19, 2011

Everyone in my office had been working a lot of overtime just to get their daily tasks done. The bosses were sick of paying us all that extra money, so they did a workflow analysis to see how they could get around it.

The people in my department and I all agreed that the computers, programs, and scanners were very outdated and slow. It took us twice as long to scan one photo as it would with a newer scanner.

The programs on the computers were slow to respond to commands at times, and all we could do was wait. In the morning, it took about ten minutes for my old computer to finally get started up and ready.

The analyst recommended getting all new computers and scanners. Though it would cost a lot, it would save the bosses in the long run, because it would eliminate the need for overtime.

By cloudel — On Aug 18, 2011

The company I work for recently decided it was time for a workflow analysis. Outside analysts found a problem that most of us employees knew existed all along, but nothing had been done to fix it.

Two employees handled the majority of the workload. Three others took on a moderate load, while the last two in our department barely worked at all. I was one of the two with the most work.

The other guy and I had politely asked the other employees if they could take on a bit more to help us out, but they all said that they had as much as they could handle. We knew this wasn’t true because of the amount of time they spent browsing the internet and watching funny videos.

We mentioned this to the analysts, who informed the manager of the problem that he already knew existed. Having an outsider point it out to him motivated him to do something about it. He officially divided the workload equally among us, and he made sure everyone did their part each day.

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