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How to choose and implement the best workflow apps

The best workflow apps are tailored to specific users and the business processes they rely on to do their jobs. And streamlining workflows saves companies time and money.

Employees want to use apps that make their jobs easier, not more complicated -- before implementing new workflow apps, companies should always take the employees using the apps into account.

Organizations that turn to workflow apps stand to benefit in a number of ways. For one thing, the best workflow apps can save companies time and money by enabling users to work more efficiently. Overall, users will spend less time logging in, clicking through features and juggling different interfaces, and more time getting their jobs done.

A workflow app integrates key functionalities from multiple apps into a single interface that allows users to carry out business operations that coincide with their daily workflows. An effective app enhances or improves on that workflow, providing a centralized way to extend the user experience beyond a single-function app.

Introducing the workflow app

Some enterprise mobile apps serve a single purpose, providing users with a tool that is easy for them to understand and adopt into their business processes, much like a consumer app they integrate into their daily routines.

But business processes seldom fit neatly with such a targeted strategy, resulting in users needing several apps to carry out their typical workflows. For example, a sales rep in the field might use Trello to track issues, Office 365 to share and collaborate on documents, Evernote to record sales-related notes and Salesforce to manage customer information. Thus, one sales call can result in a time-consuming and cumbersome orchestration of apps.

Workflow apps attempt to address the realities of business processes by integrating the dispersed functionality into a single interface designed around the targeted workflow. In this way, users can accomplish all the tasks that make up that workflow from a single interface, without having to jump from one app to the next.

Companies need to ensure that any workflow app they implement is a good fit for the employees that will be using it.

The workflow app takes the idea of the user experience beyond a single-focused interface to a cross-functional platform that provides a unified experience based on how the user works, with the goal of streamlining or enhancing that workflow. For example, with a workflow app, the sales rep can use one interface to manage the entire sales process.

Advantages of the workflow app

An effective workflow app takes into account the user experience throughout the workflow process, providing the tools necessary to integrate with various systems and services, communicate with stakeholders, and carry out both internal and external collaboration.

Prove your knowledge of enterprise apps and the business planning process

The dependency between enterprise business applications and business process management has never been stronger. Test your knowledge about their relationship.

Possible use cases for a workflow app can vary widely from one environment to the next and the type of workers it supports. For example, a workflow app might do one of the following:

  • Provide a system for remote workers to track hours, expenses and resource usage;
  • Allow retail sales staff to retrieve and share product information, verify inventory and service availability and generate orders;
  • Give support personnel a unified system for receiving, tracking and processing requests;
  • Provide field workers with the tools they need to retrieve on-site information, locate resources, request support and submit reports;
  • Offer field reps the resources they need to access customer data, communicate with stakeholders, retrieve and send product information and update account information.

Implementing the workflow app

Organizations might turn to a service such as Zapier to integrate and automate workflows or they might develop their own system. Whichever they choose, the primary concern when implementing a workflow app is ensuring it adequately and accurately reflects the specific workflows of its users. Thus, those participating in the planning process must fully understand the workflows that the app is trying to address.

Companies need to ensure that any workflow app they implement is going to improve business processes and is a good fit for the employees that will be using it. No one wants yet another tool that is difficult to learn and does not take into consideration the day-to-day tasks that workers need to perform. A good place to start is by trying to understand employees and their roles, then figure out which business processes to address.

Not only should decision-makers come out of this process with an in-depth knowledge of the business operations that drive their employees' day-to-day workflows, but they should also start seeing ways in which a workflow app might be able to improve operations without adding to the company's overhead. Only then can they implement the best workflow apps that make sense for the organization and the people who will be using them.

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