Are you a business professional struggling to keep your team organized and on track? Are you tired of feeling like you’re constantly putting out fires and not making progress on your long-term goals? Or perhaps you’ve been managing complex and high-risk processes without effective guardrails in place. If this resonates with you, having a better understanding of work management and how it can help your business may be in order. In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore the concept of work management and how it can streamline your business processes, increase productivity, and ensure you achieve your business objectives. From process management to task prioritization and resource planning, we’ll also delve into the key components of a successful work management system and how you can start using one in your business today.
Ready to take control of your work and drive your business forward? Let’s get started.
Work Management vs. Project Management
To begin with, let us clarify the difference between work and project management. The two are often confused, so this will give you a clearer understanding of the distinction.
Work management takes a big-picture view of a team, department, or enterprise overall. The discipline is about the coordination and execution of work to meet an organization’s overall business goals – across teams, departments, and the enterprise. It is a systematic approach to helping businesses create and manage simple to complex workflow and process structures across an organization, most notably in mid to large-size companies.
Project management is more specific and narrow in focus when compared to process and work management at scale. It involves setting a timeline for completing a particular project or set of tasks and managing the resources needed to do so. A project’s sub-components are often related only to the task at hand, i.e., the project, and are not necessarily to be repeated in a standardized, recurring manner.
A project manager will be responsible for making sure the project stays within its budget and timeline. Also, resources are likely to be assigned to executing certain components of a project for a finite time period of time. Whereas, work management is about automating repetitive tasks, orchestrating work and optimizing execution across a team, department or enterprise.
Now that we’ve explained the basic difference between work and project management, we should define what is meant by ‘work management’ more specifically.
What Is Work Management?
Gartner (a leading provider of research and consulting services) defines work management as – A set of software products and services that apply workflow structure to the movement of information as well as to the interaction of business processes and human worker processes that generate the information. Work management streamlines and transforms crucial business processes and thus can improve results and performance.
We’d say this is as good an explanation as any; essentially, work management is all about working out the best way to get things done in your business and implementing those steps. In Gartner’s definition, it can also include the use of technology and services to directly affect how work gets managed and executed at scale. But take note. You can have a work management discipline in your organization without the use of software or other platforms. But, to realize its full potential and accelerate gains, technology in the mix is imperative.
So, then what is work management? At its core, work management is a discipline, a framework, or an approach to effectively orchestrate how work gets done across teams, departments, or an entire organization. It’s about the techniques and methodology used to achieve better performance through that structure and improved coordination.
The term “system,” when used in conjuction with work management, refers to the use of technology and tools for managing work at scale. Software and platform are terms that can also be used interchangeably with “system.” In a separate article, we’ll discuss the steps to putting a work management framework or discipline in place, but for now, let’s focus on the technology, aka, work management system.
Components of a Work Management System
A successful work management system (also referred to as platform or solution) is the technology and related discipline for achieving better business performance through optimization. It also includes improvement of workflows and processes using advanced digital means. This stands in stark contrast to relying on email and spreadsheets for managing work or in managing daily activities manually. With this in mind and because there is a proliferation of tools and technology that can be used to manage some or all of a work management discipline, let’s take a look at the various components you’ll want to consider.
Even with the extreme importance of ensuring data integrity and information safety within corporate environments, some systems can leave your organization vulnerable. And even with the security protocols that can be enabled in any individual platform, loopholes are overlooked when getting solutions integrated to create one cohesive, company-wide technology eco-system.
Be sure to understand your industry’s regulations, your company’s current infrastructure and plans for future expansion. The work management system you choose needs to be able to scale and flex with the inevitable changes that occur in all business environments. Also, consider how tightly you need to control and permission access to information, workflows and processes. Mitigating risk, ensuring full auditabilitly in real-time and restricting access down to the smallest details such as fields on a form are just a few of the capabilities some of the more sophisticated solutions offer today.
At the core of any work management discipline is the effort to manage tasks. It’s the essence of any work environment. Without the ability for individuals and teams to execute tasks, the operational backbone of a company can come to a screaching halt.
However, the marketplace can get to be very confusing when it comes to ensuring this component is readily addressed by a work management solution. Also, the emergence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) further confuses the discussion. The important thing to remember is that work management systems do in fact automate repetitive tasks. However and more importantly, they serve to orchestrate work across disparate stakeholders and decision makers where human interaction is still required as part of a workflow or process.
At basic level, a solid work management solution will allow you to effectively manage task notifications, provide real-time visibility into all activity streams and allow for customizable task lists to be created. Prioritization, efficiency, productivity and lower risk can all be derived.
As previously mentioned, technology eco-systems are becoming increasingly more complex and potentially risky for today’s enterprise environment. There is a strong desire to move to full digital transformation where possible given the business benefits that can be realized. Yet, internal technology teams are strained due to a developer shortage and possibly by other economic constraints.
The result is the proliferation of third-party solutions and platforms that are being leveraged. Some are even being deployed by small teams without the knowledge or input of technology teams. We don’t recommend this approach, but we do understand that the tides are changing and there are fewer environments where “outside” solutions are strictly prohibited.
More robust and easier-to-deploy integration capabilities are fueling the sea change. Work with your technology teams to ensure alignment. And make sure to understand what kind of legacy system challenges might exist within your company. Forward-thinking work management system providers will have already done the ground work to facilitate the integration process through approaches and philosophies that build trust with leading, enterprise technology leaders.
The next component to look at is resource planning. This is about more than just allocating the resources you currently have available to your business but also anticipating future needs. Resources can include people, money, materials, and equipment.
Depending on the size of your team, department, or enterprise and the nature of its operations, resources may need to be allocated differently. For example, larger teams managing more complex work typically require more staff or resources than smaller ones, and certain industries with tighter regulations place different requirements on resource allocation.
Taking a proactive approach to resource planning ensures that your business has the right resources at the right time.
Process and Workflow Management
A clear road map for how you want tasks to be completed is another component of a work management system that must be addressed. Visualization and planning tools are critical. Processes and how work will get managed s should be documented and communicated to staff, along with expectations of how the execution of work is expected to handled. .
Consistent processes mean that repetitive or routine tasks are carried out in the same way every time. And when they can’t, effective escalation and re-routing capabilities are possible. This will help to minimize errors and maximize productivity in your business.
Client Relationship Management
Although the majority of work management revolves around back-office operations, we must also consider the customer journey. Your work management system should include a customer relationship management (CRM) approach as well that allows you to build valuable insights about your customers and their experience with your organization.
It’s very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of operations and forget to focus on the customer experience. Focusing on relationship management ensures that customers are always taken into consideration, no matter how busy things get.
This is all about collecting, storing, and analyzing data related to your business’s performance. This data-driven component can be used to identify patterns and valuable insights within your business.
By collecting and analyzing the right data, you’ll be able to get a clearer picture of what’s working well and where improvements could be made. Business intelligence tools are readily available and can be easily included as part of your work management system. Real-time visibility and transparency is not only useful but critical in today’s business environment.
Ultimately, the key to successful work management is having all seven components working together in harmony.
When you implement a work management system, you can streamline processes, increase productivity, and achieve your business objectives more efficiently than if you are trying to deploy a framework without technology. You’ll be able to prioritize tasks, assign responsibilities, and track progress to ensure flawless execution and to ensure proper esclations when things aren’t going quite right. that everything is heading in the right direction.
Other critical aspects of more sophisticated tools include deep security and role-based permissioning, rules-based task activations, integration with core systems, and tightly controlled audit capability. Above all, having an effective work management system in place allows you to create far better business performance and a competitive advantage for your organization.
The Work Management Methodology
We’ve distilled the design and implementation of a work management methodology down to five steps, bearing in mind that each step is interdependent and should be addressed in order.
Identify Goals and Objectives
In the first step of creating a work management discipline in your team, department or company; you need to determine what you want to achieve when deploying a better way of managing work. This involves identifying the specific goals and objectives that you want to accomplish, as well as understanding the purpose and reasoning behind a new business approach. It might seem like a “no-brainer,” but many organizations fail to plan appropriately, or they simply underestimate the importance of goal setting.
Scope is another important element to consider when setting goals and objectives. We recommend that organizations not try to boil the ocean when getting started. Having a vision for how a work management system can improve the entire enterprise matters, but trying to set goals that affect the entire company from the outset is not only difficult but can sabotage the effort well before things begin.
To identify your goals and objectives, you can ask yourself:
- What needs to be done?
- Why does it need to be done?
- What should the end result look like?
By answering these questions, you can clarify the focus and direction of your workflow management effort and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Create a Plan
Your next step is to create a plan around how you will achieve your objectives. This is the part where you map out strategies and tactics and determine the resources that are needed. You should also consider potential risks and develop contingency plans for how these can be addressed.
Work management software can be useful in the planning stage as it allows for visually representing how work can and should flow.
Create a Schedule and Timeline
The third step is all about ensuring that the deployment of the system runs like clockwork and meets its deadlines. To do this, you’ll need to create a timeline and schedule that assign tasks and prioritize actions.
Of course, as you know, if you’ve been in business for long enough, you should also take into account any delays or unexpected issues that might surface, so leave a little slack in your schedules just in case.
Execute and Monitor the Work
In the execution phase, everything comes together – the plan, the schedule, and the resources – to get your plan off the ground. If your new approach to work management is executed well, important milestones will be achieved, and everything will stay on track.
As you’d expect, this stage is where team collaboration and communication are paramount, ensuring that team members understand their roles and responsibilities.
Work management software can help here, too, by providing real-time updates to track work progress and to achieve transparency into how things are getting executed. Ultimately, putting a new work management approach in place will be challenging. And while having a “new way” to do things will get you on the path to better business performance, automating the work is where real acceleration and higher levels of achievement come into play. Your choice of technology to facilitate and effectively coordinate the work is paramount.
Analyze and Adjust
Now that you’ve executed your plans, you might think it’s time to take your foot off the gas, but that’s not entirely true. While this is a good time to reward your team for their hard work, now’s also the time for refining and improving business processes.
You’ll look for areas of improvement. Did you miss any objectives, and why? Did you meet your timelines, or did things take longer than expected? Have the new processes made improvements to the business? If not, what was missed? Through this analysis, you can better understand what worked while avoiding the pitfalls of what didn’t, ultimately improving future workflow plans.
One thing to consider is that using a work management platform to track your team members’ time on tasks, evaluate resource allocation, and understand bottlenecks and escalations makes things easier. Actionable insights you need to pivot or iterate on improvements can be available in real-time.
Common Work Management Challenges
As the common saying goes, the devil is in the details. While work management processes may appear straightforward on paper, many challenges can arise during implementation.
Knowing ahead of time some of the potential issues you might face can help you be better prepared.
Some common challenges include:
Lack of transparency – We understand that in most organizations, not everyone can be privy to every detail of work and their related components. However, there should be a suitable level of transparency so everyone can understand their roles and responsibilities.
Low engagement – This can be the result of anything from lack of motivation to confusion around tasks or your vision. Providing employees with clear roles, regular check-ins, as well as rewards or recognition for their efforts can help increase engagement.
Poor communication – When team members fail to communicate effectively, progress is hindered. Encouraging open discussions and sharing information can help streamline communication between team members.
Unrealistic estimates – While estimating resources and timelines can be challenging, biting off more than you can chew can lead to missed deadlines and frustrated team members. Make sure your estimates are realistic by getting input from everyone involved in their work.
Task management – Knowing who is working on what and when can be challenging, especially for more complex workflows and ones that need to meet regulatory requirements. .
Work Management Software
Many businesses rely upon work management software to improve efficiency and boost productivity. In fact, without it, improving work at scale or processes overall could be a major headache, especially in the case of large enterprises.
There are still businesses out there whose work management systems are a glorious jumble of spreadsheets, emails, and paper files. While such a setup may have worked in the past, today’s businesses need something more robust and purpose-built to streamline their operations.
To reduce complexity, businesses are turning to work management solutions that allow them to plan, manage and track their tasks and work in one central place.
With the best work management software in place, teams can stay on top of their tasks and collaborate seamlessly across departments and geographies.
So, what can you expect from a cutting-edge work management solution such as HighGear?
- Heavyweight security – to meet the needs of even the most regulated industries
- Iron-clad auditing – whether you use the tools as a system or record or system of assignment, the platform creates an unchangeable audit trail of every activity
- Real-time visibility – to see how every task and component of your workflows are being executed
- Always-on dashboard and reporting – to ensure your business intelligence engine is delivering the right insights at the right time
- An expansive integration infrastructure – allowing the platform to become an integral part of your organization’s tech stack and not another stand-alone piece of software
- Easy-to-use “drag and drop” functionality – delivering a true zero-code experience; no developers needed
An efficient work management system can transform how a business operates and to really make an impact, it’s important to choose the right technology platform. You’ll want one that orchestrates all aspects of your organization’s work, maintains the highest level of security, and offers real-time visibility across the enterprise. Most importantly, you’ll want a system that can be used and deployed by everyday business users without requiring developers or IT. By investing in a quality work management platform, you’ll not only save time and money by streamlining your operations, but your employees will also benefit too. You will empower your team to reach their maximum potential with clear roles, better communication, and more control.