As more businesses have their employees working from home, productivity is an understandable concern – this is where a workflow management system can come in handy.
We’ll run you through what a workflow management system actually is, some terms you might not be familiar with and then do a comparison of a selection of the best platforms for the UK small-to-medium sized business.
What is a workflow management system?
A workflow management system is a programme that allows you to manage your team’s tasks for maximum workflow efficiency. You can track your employees’ progress through maps, boards and automated processes.
Workflow management systems are typically available on all devices so you can switch between mobile and desktop, checking off tasks on the go.
For an extra element of communication, most platforms have capabilities like emails or instant messenger which allow you to send files and share images.
Plus, to keep on top of how everyone’s doing, many workflow management systems produce data reports and analytics. They’ll tell you who started a task, how long it took and whether they met deadline.
Integrate platforms like these with other apps so you’ve got easy access to Microsoft Office, G Suite, Slack, Paypal and more.
Workflow management glossary
Once you sink into the finer details of workflow management systems, you might find yourself baffled by some of the terminology.
We decode some of the most common terms below.
Bottleneck: A point of congestion in workflow which could lead to stalls in production and lower staff morale.
Gantt chart: a type of bar chart that illustrates a schedule over a set period of time in relation to the amount of work planned for those periods.
Kanban: A Japanese word for ‘visual signal’, a Kanban board uses cards and columns to let others to see what you are working on.
Scrum: Scrum is a type of agile project management. Where a Kanban is a continuous flow, a scrum involves working in short bursts, with success being measured at the end of each burst.
Timeline: A timeline is view of historical activities associated with a workflow, such as tasks and approvals. Yes, it’s very similar to a Gantt chart.
Monday.com is one of the biggest workflow management systems in the world, used in 141 countries across 201 types of industries.
It’s based on templates and drag and drop building blocks so you don’t need to know how to code.
- Customise with columns
- See plans in any given timeframe
- KPIs displayed in chart form
- Consolidate data from multiple projects into charts
- Create and package custom Monday.com apps
- Little staff training required
- Weekly task round-ups
- 50+ integrations including Dropbox, Excel, Slack, Google Drive and Trello
Pricing (based on five users): Basic: £35 a month; Standard: £43 a month; Pro: £69 a month; Enterprise: bespoke (contact Monday.com for more details). The price decreases according to the number of users. It has a two-week free trial if you need help to decide.
Best for: HR, marketing, media and production, IT, sales and remote work.
Asana is one of the most well-known workflow management platforms. It focuses predominantly on drag and drop Kanban project management that you can add images and video to.
For a more linear way of seeing your team’s workflow, use the timeline function which has drag and drop blocks.
- Move blocks over a timeline or Kanban boards to set tasks
- Colourful interface
- Monitor tasks in real time
- Over 100 integrations including Gmail, Slack, Dropbox, Microsoft Teams and Google Drive
- Make certain projects and teams private
- In-platform insights
Pricing: Basic: free; Premium: £9.49; Business: £20.99; Enterprise: bespoke (contact Asana). Free 30-day trial of Business and Premium versions.
Best for: Marketing, sales, operations and product teams.
Kissflow’s digital workplace encompasses project, process, collaboration and case management.
One of its key draws is that it integrates with Zapier, a programme allowing you to connect apps and build workflows.
- Design, create and customise apps
- Drag and drop workflow designer and form designer
- Pre-built project templates
- Polls and surveys
- Workflows to manage different processes including bug tracking, helpdesk tickets and employee onboarding
- Collaborate with posts, announcements and polls
- Customised reports
- 50 pre-installed business applications such as employee onboarding and vendor payment
- Use customisable forms to automate processes
Pricing (per month): Starter: $480 (£403); Growing: $690 (£579); Enterprise: $1,300 (£1094). Offers a free trial.
The Starter package starts with 30 users, Growing starts at 50 users and Enterprise starts at 100 users.
Best for: Larger businesses with larger teams to manage.
Wrike’s main takeaway is that its users can work as one from anywhere and be productive at any time. The platform features Gantt charts and dynamic request forms.
- View real time reports and the status for all your team’s projects
- Unlimited external collaborators
- Integrate with 40 different platforms
- Predefined project templates and forms
- Graphical analytics
- Analyse work by project, team member, timeline and more through shareable reports
Pricing (per user, per month): Free for up to five users: £0; Professional (five, ten or 15 users): $9.80 (£8.15); Business (five-200 users): $24.80 (£20.64); Enterprise (five-unlimited users): bespoke (contact Wrike). A free 14-day trial is available.
Separate packages are available for marketing and creative teams as well as service delivery teams.
Best for: Marketing, creative, project management, product development, business operations and professional services.
Trello works off a Kanban-style workflow called Trello cards. Much of its free offering is geared towards personal productivity (perhaps you could open a side account for yourself), but it has some terrific features for teams on its premium packages.
- Butler gives you built in workflow optimisation through automation with rule-based triggers, custom card and board buttons, calendar commands and due date commands
- Pre-built Trello team playbooks including team management, design, marketing and sales
- Add comments, attachments, due dates, and more directly to Trello cards
- Integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote and other platforms
- Syncs across multiple devices
Nintex is a process platform for management, automation and optimisation. The website has examples of how Nintex can help your business, by department and by industry.
- A lot of app integrations through Nintex Connector including Dropbox, Adobe and Salesforce
- Design simple process maps
- Third party consultants on hand to help
- Process management and optimisation
- Docgen and e-sign to generate documents and enable e-signatures
- Monitor processes to quickly identify your issues and use data visualisation to improve processes
- Full real-time audit logs
Pricing: Nintex’s offering is made up of largely bespoke packages. It says that the standard edition starts under $950 (£812) a month which gives you 100 processes for unlimited users. The Enterprise edition starts under $1300 (£1,111) a month. Again, it’s 100 processes for unlimited users.
Best for: If you want a custom workflow management package.
ProcessMaker is low code and can enhance productivity in your IT, finance, operations, HR, sales and marketing, DevOps teams.
- Low code
- Connect processes across legacy software
- Digitise paper forms and requests for use in your daily business processes
- Regulatory filings and incident response
- Embed workflow into your existing solution
- Bots for document scanning and storage
Pricing: The Platform package for unlimited users with unlimited usage is $1495 (£1267) a month.
Best for: Larger companies who don’t want a platform with a lot of code.
From the guys over at Zoho, Orchestly vows to ‘end communication chaos’. Rather than Kanbans or timelines, Orchestly has a focus on the flowchart model of project management.
- Create forms online
- Control who can access forms
- Digitise your offline business workflows by recreating them as flowcharts
- Automate processes to save time
- Track your requests
- Create new reports and edit default ones
- Add users/teams and give them permissions
Pricing: Orchestly has a flat fee of £8 per user per month (up to 500 users) with a 15-day free trial.
Best for: IT, finance, human resources, marketing and operations teams.
Summary: This comparison covers some of the best workflow management systems that a small-to-medium sized business should consider using. We have listed out the key individual features of the software to help you you identify the correct one to choose, and then clearly you will have to consider pricing. For more efficiency boosts beyond workflow management systems, check out our productivity archive.