“Wait, we need to make changes to the project, again?!” That’s how project managers feel in most cases, even though you simply hear an “okay.” Why? Simple. Making changes to the project workflow is as risky as deactivating a bomb.

Cutting the wrong resources might doom your project for failure. To eliminate this risk, it’s crucial to conduct a proper project management workflow concerned with the optimization of scheduling, assignments, and evaluation of both single tasks and the entire project. Employees can work more efficiently on their projects and avoid exceeding the budget or missing deadlines.

In this article, we’re taking a close look at the use of tools and routines to optimize the workflow process from its creation and afterward.  

Start Reviewing Past Projects & Workflows

The failure or success of past projects is a clear determinant of what works and what doesn’t. Instead of trying to guess the appropriate task-scheduling or communication apps, the most productive employees check past projects, review workflows, and talk with team members. You will find that most of the answers you’re looking for are already there. 

Get Feedback from Coworkers

Feedback from coworkers equips you with fresh insights, strengthens your relationships, and shortens the time it takes to find solutions. However, collecting feedback from coworkers shouldn’t be daunting or unplanned. Let’s break it down into four steps:

1. Approach with Attention

Before asking the first question that pops into your head, start writing them down. Prepare questions that revolve around what feedback you will take, from whom, and when.

2. Present the Feedback Request as an Opportunity

Giving feedback shouldn’t feel like a task. Try to make it sound more like an opportunity for employees to improve your and their work experience in the company.

3. Be Specific in Your Requests

Our minds go blank when we’re asked broad or vague questions without a set clue. Instead, ask coworkers about performance in specific processes, such as interviewing, presentation, or other tasks.

4. Be Open-Minded and Listen

Honest feedback might trigger you at first, but you should contain yourself and listen without interrupting. Also, calmly ask questions to clarify the reasons behind the feedback.

Perform an Honest S.W.O.T. Analysis

This technique focuses on assessing four crucial insights within a business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Such analysis identifies what processes are yielding a satisfying outcome and which ones are slowing down the progress. 

A S.W.O.T. analysis covers both external and internal factors that affect the productivity and outcome of a business. Normally, some of these factors (especially external ones) are difficult to control. The other ones we can control are beneficial for better decisions. 

Considering strengths separately reveals little comparative data, but if we place them against threats and weaknesses, we see whether they’re useful and reliable. Tracking down both weaknesses and strengths locates hidden opportunities not seen before. 

Below we’re including an example of a business, a fictional restaurant upon which a S.W.O.T. analysis has been made: 

project workflow review

Now, you may ask, “What are the preparation phases to make a proper workflow?” So let’s get right to them.

Project Workflow Preparations

Behind celebrating the fruits of a successful project is the enormous amount of work that goes into its organization. Without a seamless workflow that delegates, manages, and schedules tasks, the whole business mechanism could stop. 

So, it’s vital to show the necessary information, such as statistics and facts, to stakeholders. The best way to bring this together is by using a project brief. Such briefs explain the project and its goals in sufficient depth.

Creating a Project Brief

A brief is essential to the success of a project because it presents the planned approach and processes to be followed for its completion. Less detailed than a project plan, a brief is used by stakeholders and project teams to explain a project in short, focusing on the main elements, such as: 

  • scope 
  • objectives 
  • deliverables 
  • timeline
  • milestones

Points to be kept in mind while creating a project brief include the following:   

Project Overview

Select general but important information about the project. Knowing who exactly the project is for, client contract data, their operating sector, the customer base, and contact information remains important for creating a well-structured brief. For example, if your project is about email marketing, make sure you mention some of the top tools like Mailchimp and other Mailchimp alternatives available in the market.

Project Objectives

Jotting down the final project objectives to refer to during execution helps you envision the big picture of the project. Guide yourself with the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound), and pay close attention to the last deliverable.

Project Timeline

After clarifying what’s required, try to estimate the needed time to accomplish the deliverables. It’s important to coordinate tasks properly and prioritize the most urgent ones. Which milestone is to be finished sooner, and what’s the tolerance for delays?

Target Audience

Even a genius invention would be forgotten if there’s no market for it. That’s why your project brief must describe the ideal target audience. Delivering a project on time and within budget is worthless if you’re not directing it to the proper demographics.

Host Focused Team Meetings

Two minds are better than one. More than two bring priceless ideas to the table if a skilled leader is coordinating the participants. Team meetings provide a clearer vision for all employees, their expectations, and the overall goals the company should meet. 

However, these meetings should share a few elements to be effective. Not only should these meetings be straightforward and short but also engaging and results-driven. If your team is fearing the weekly meetings like the plague, then it’s worth re-evaluating their organization. Here are a few tips from our side. 

1. Encourage team members to leave their input

Make it clear that everyone is free to leave their comments, and don’t be too harsh towards flawed opinions. The heart of team meetings is engagement and getting everyone to contribute.

2. Discuss inclusive topics

You might center a meeting around major problems that affected one or two departments, but as a team meeting, you should include topics that concern all team members.

3. Sub-divide the main topic through an agenda

Great all-inclusive meetings have many items worth discussing. Separate the agenda by respecting the trail of thought and coordinating who should lead the discussion in different parts.

4. Prepare well

The most revolutionary ideas have indeed been sparked spontaneously, but those moments are small fractions of long meetings with materials prepared beforehand. Assign participants materials to gather, prepare, or read before the meeting starts. Consider using an online video maker to create interactive and informative videos for your meetings.

Create an Environment That Fosters Consistent Communication

Fostering a positive and productive work environment requires encouragement for employees to interact more with one another. When positive energy is spread in the work environment, employees will be incentivized to push themselves more. Here are five pieces of advice worth keeping in mind to achieve this: 

1. Encourage Communication

Teams deliver more results if presented with open-door policies that promote communication and gather feedback. Also, one-to-one chats strengthen the bond and add credibility to your role as a leader.

2. Be Appreciative

Congratulating your team members after a successful task boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel important and more productive.

3. Entrust Responsibilities

Lurking over the shoulders of your employees and trying to control each step of their tasks makes them feel unreliable and incapable. Instead, allow them to work independently.

4. Criticize Them Individually

Avoid giving harsh feedback in front of all the team members. One-to-one conversations are more effective if you intend to make them improve instead of feeling embarrassed.

5. Avoid Being Extremely Strict

Maintaining a professional work environment doesn’t mean keeping everyone focused only on work. Allow them to joke, decorate the office with funny posters, and schedule time for fun activities.

Project Management Tools

Finishing projects successfully requires succinct management of tasks and their progress. Project management tools facilitate this process by planning, monitoring, and executing projects through a clear and easy-to-navigate interface.

These tools are ideal to keep everyone updated on the tasks others are working on, have finished, or plan on doing. They’re also great for teams or companies that foster remote working. Designed with different view modes, analytics, search filters, and other practical features, these tools are a must for a moderated business workflow.   

Track Project Activities & Tasks

The first and foremost feature that accompanies an efficient project management tool is the ability to schedule and track activities and tasks. Project managers can distribute tasks with ease, and members are notified through a pop-up or email. 

These tools come with useful features, such as calendars, templates, folders, and integrations, where you can manage tasks and subtasks and enhance the workflow. Moreover, members can exchange comments on tasks easily. 

Time-Tracking Tools

Projects are completed in two major ways: on a per-task or an hourly basis. The hourly basis system is a bit challenging because you should have special tools that monitor and track the time spent on tasks. Such tools should be equipped with features that monitor users’ devices (for example, capturing screenshots) to prevent deceptions about the time spent on tasks. 

When choosing a tracking tool, check and ensure what features it comes with and whether it has the basic functions all the tracking tools have. These functions include stopping, pausing, and starting the timer conveniently, editing the hours of work, compiling invoices, and transferring data to business intelligence teams.

In 2022, there exist numerous apps and productivity tools that can be used by both businesses and individuals. The most popular ones include TrackingTime, RescueTime, Harvest, and Toggl Track. They integrate easily with project management tools like Slack and Asana. 

Asana

Founded in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his partner Justin Rosenstein, Asana is a simple tool for project management. The interface is well-structured, with simple menus, spacious blocks for tasks, and a clean layout. The tool counts thousands of paying customers, and it comes with hundreds of integrations, like Outlook and Google Drive.

Slack

While Asana focuses on project management, Slack is responsible for seamless team communication. Founded by Steward Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr, Slack is one of those essential productivity tools where your team chats, laughs and shares responsibilities. Integrations allow Slack to add versatility to other tools to simplify file sharing, team communications, and task management through both private and public rooms. 

Mailbird

Regardless of the different communication tools, email communication will never go out of fashion. However, we can’t say the same for the headaches when we see a huge pile of unread emails. Mailbird attempts to help you win this battle by unifying and organizing all your emails in one place. You can add multiple inboxes and integrate with other apps easily. 

Keeping these tools in mind, the next step is to properly plan your time.

Proper Project Time Management

“Time is of the essence”, they say. The most wonderful tools out there can’t save you from bad scheduling. They will still ping when deadlines arrive. This is why you should pay close attention to organizing tasks effectively. Although these tools are instrumental for completing projects, allocating reasonable time for each task comes first and foremost. 

Maintain a Realistic Timeframe

You might be lured by the increase in revenue and end up taking on more projects than you or your team can handle. Before searching for available dates to schedule a new project, consider a realistic timeframe for finishing it, the preceding projects, the unexpected delays, and the workload or availability of your team. 

A realistic timeframe creates space for breaks, chatting, team meetings, and games. These contribute to a more productive team and improve the workflow while keeping your clients satisfied. Having a monthly or weekly work schedule template for everyone to see helps coordinate team members and avoids panic when deadlines arrive. 

Look Out for Project Scope Creep

A scope creep describes those projects whose requirements, objectives, and perspectives change while developing the project. The project becomes confusing, and defining responsibilities or predicting its completion are blurry and challenging. Recognizing a possible scope creep is not that hard. These are some of the signs you should pay attention to:

Stakeholders want certain features prioritized

During the project execution, stakeholders might want to add new ideas to the project. Not only does this overload the team with extra work, but it also changes the scope of the original project.

Team members spend extra resources on satisfying clients

Managers try to keep their clients happy to maximize performance. This means offering services outside of the regular procedure scope, causing time loss and workflow delay.

Requirements weren’t defined well

The requirements of a project must be defined in detail before working on it. Meet with stakeholders and jot down all the project’s parameters. It might seem tedious, but it will save money, time, and a lot of stress.

Performance doesn’t follow the pace of schedules

Weak performance and poor management lead to task delays and, eventually, scope creep. When you see members underestimate tasks or slip over the budget, it’s time for a change.

Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenarios

The challenging times of the past three years taught us one clear lesson: we never know what tomorrow has in store for us. This strongly applies to marketing and maintaining a stable business workflow as well. Keep these three tips in mind if you want to be prepared for unexpected scenarios. 

Allow access

When organizing events, meetings, or gatherings, make sure you’ve been given access to the resources, spaces, or tools needed by more than one person. In case of an emergency, someone from the team could keep the workflow going.

Stick to trendy apps

Zoom, YouTube, PowerPoint, and Google Drive are four examples of apps used by the majority. Instead of asking users to download new apps to access your materials, stick to the ones they already know. Otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of time, especially if you ask this during events.

Keep everyone prepared

Are you pitching a new project to investors and they’ve asked you for certain tests or statistics in the middle of the presentation, but your marketing team is off that day? Make sure everyone knows where to find the necessary information when they need it so you don’t have to bother employees on their days off.

Pro Tip: You can mitigate those marketing worst-case scenarios by ensuring you use the right automation tools which enable teams to react to multiple data in real-time. A good PPC management software, for example, takes a lot of pressure off marketing teams’ workflows by handing real-time tweaking and optimization for them.

Preparing for the worst-case scenarios builds a flexible workflow that can handle difficult situations. However, this doesn’t mean you should stay satisfied with one set of systems. There is always a better combination of tools, processes, and schedules worth testing. 

Experiment with Different Workflows

We all know that perfect formulas just don’t exist when the variables are humans. Companies have different work cultures and staff mindsets. Therefore, you have to keep on testing different workflows until you find what works best. Feedback from your team will speed up the process of finding this ideal workflow, and not just in the beginning.

Asking for feedback after the workflow implementation will help you refine and enhance it. This means conducting surveys, asking direct questions, and comparing the number of completed projects during workflow changes. 

Ace Workflow Management

Completing projects within deadlines requires stellar management that guarantees everyone works in a stress-free environment that continuously evolves its daily processes. Time is the most precious asset we have, and finding ways to manage it with minimal waste remains challenging as much as is necessary. 

Workflow management tools, coupled with a set of productive routines kept under constant updates, will improve your results. Even though you have to test different tools, schedules, and processes before finding what works for you, it’s all going to be worth it. 


About the author:

Victoria is a Content Marketer at Mailbird, an award-winning email management app that allows you to save time managing multiple accounts. Victoria specializes in all things digital and content marketing. When she’s not experimenting with new content, she’s on a podcast or recording on YouTube.


How to manage project workflow?

  1. Review past projects and workflows

    The failure or success of past projects is a clear determinant of what works and what doesn’t. You will find that most of the answers you’re looking for are already there.

  2. Prepare your workflow

    It’s vital to show the necessary information, such as statistics and facts, to stakeholders. The best way to bring this together is by using a project brief, to explain the project and its goals in sufficient depth.

  3. Use project management tools

    Finishing projects successfully requires succinct management of tasks and their progress. Project management tools facilitate this process by planning, monitoring, and executing projects through a clear and easy-to-navigate interface.

  4. Manage your time

    The most wonderful tools out there can’t save you from bad scheduling. They will still ping when deadlines arrive. This is why you should pay close attention to organizing tasks effectively.

  5. Experiment with different workflows

    Keep on testing different workflows until you find what works best. Feedback from your team will speed up the process of finding this ideal workflow, and not just in the beginning.


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