Companies are turning to workflow software more than ever to help them streamline their business activities and tasks to improve employee productivity and optimize resources.
And with the global pandemic forcing more organizations to operate remotely, there’s an increased demand for collaboration software that helps work flow smoothly across departments and locations.
Furthermore, analysts predict the workflow management system market size is estimated to grow from USD $3.51 billion in 2016 to USD $9.87 billion by 2021, at an estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.0%.
So, there are more products to choose from. But what’s the best workflow management solution for your business?
In this guide, we’ll highlight the key features and benefits to look for in workflow software and then share the best workflow management solutions by category.
Let’s get started.
What we'll cover
Table of contents
What is Workflow Software?
Workflow software provides flexible tools to improve the way you work. Most business activities involve three things:
- Work – the tasks we perform.
- People – colleagues, clients, partners.
- Processes – how work flows through the organization.
Many business processes involve cross-functional teams or departments, which can sometimes lead to a breakdown in workflows as one team waits for another to complete a task. Another common blockage occurs when a particular task relies on a single person – the guru – who might be off sick or on leave.
This is where workflow software can help.
It allows you to create and optimize workflows, identify redundant tasks, automate work processes, see where improvements can be made, and improve efficiency.
Benefits of Workflow Software
Although feature sets for workflow applications vary widely, depending on their target market, you’ll find each one offers a set of core benefits that can help you:
- Automate and speed up internal processes by reducing manual entry and request processing.
- Reduce errors and re-work.
- Reduce the risk of approving requests, contracts, and hires incorrectly.
- Improve regulatory compliance with audit trails.
- Track request status (completed, pending, or in-progress) in real-time.
- Identify individual and group performance trends over time.
- Identify redundancies and remove process barriers or bottlenecks.
- Align tasks with the correct skill sets and assign tasks to the most suitable staff members.
- Ensure staff members don't circumvent organizational rules.
- Notify staff members with reminders and alerts whenever tasks are due.
- Approve and monitor requests and tasks 24/7.
- Allow management and staff to focus on more valuable projects and tasks.
- Automate decision making and handling with business rules.
- Provide a unified, personalized request experience for everyone.
- Reduce paperwork and associated costs and waste significantly.
- Increase output, efficiency, and productivity.
- Reduce license overhead for enterprise systems (ERP, CRM, etc.)
- Monitor team progress against Service Level Agreements.
Key Features to Look for in Workflow Management Software
These are the must-have features to look for when selecting workflow management software for your organization.
First and foremost, you want a workflow management tool that’s easy to set up and configure. Anything that takes an excessive amount of time or becomes laborious will be a turn-off from the start. For example, look for software that comes with ready-made templates that you can use or customize to your business.
Visual workflow builder
A visual drag-and-drop workflow builder lets you quickly create workflow diagrams so that it’s easier for everyone to visualize the process.
For example, you could illustrate a content approval workflow in a workflow diagram with decision trees and repeat processes if the editor rejects the content:
Alternatively, this content creation workflow shows each role in a “swimlane diagram,” where you can see the progression of tasks across roles (vertically) and over time (horizontally):
Automation is arguably one of the best features of workflow management software. You can automate various tasks and actions such as alerts, reminders, escalations, and routing.
For example, using Ziflow’s automated workflows, you could:
- Enforce consistent review processes by ensuring the right people are reviewing the right content as part of a pre-approved process.
- Demonstrate control and compliance for regulated industries by forcing the inclusion of required decision-makers in the approval process.
- Apply workflow and templates to individual users and predefined groups.
Setting up automated workflows correctly will save you hours on tedious tasks. However, in some cases, the software will need to be compatible with third-party tools to automate specific tasks.
Pinging emails back and forth or jumping between different apps for team communication is inefficient.
For example, Ziflow’s collaborative commenting and markup tools allow you to:
- Stop wading through email threads from multiple recipients as you can see all comments, threads, and attachments within the asset being reviewed.
- Eliminate ambiguous feedback that causes confusion, errors, and rework with smart commenting and markup tools.
- Accelerate project decision-making and progress confidently as all team members can view markups.
In addition, you should make sure team members get notified when new tasks are added to their queue.
Look for a workflow management tool that makes it easy to organize and find different workflows. If your teams struggle to find the correct workflow, then there’s no advantage to using the software.
Make sure you can remain organized and stay ahead of schedule at all times. For example, you can keep your workflows organized with Ziflow’s filters, views, and folders by:
- Creating or moving projects to any folder, nesting folders within folders, and creating private folders when required.
- Finding proofs, grouped by your projects, quickly.
- Creating custom properties to match your internal naming conventions or tagging system and using them with filters and views.
Tracking and reporting
By default, workflow software should allow you to track and report on any workflow process at any time. For instance, you should be able to track any request status (completed, pending, or in-progress) in real-time.
For example, Ziflow makes it easy for you to track progress and prioritize your work. You can:
- Track progress and deliver project tasks on time.
- Focus on the important work and let the software chase reviewers automatically.
- Choose what proofs you want to display at any point, such as “Proofs to review” so that you don’t miss a thing.
Workflow management software needs to integrate with the tools that you're already using. Without these integrations, implementing the software would add complexity to your workflows instead of reducing it.
For example, Ziflow integrates with popular productivity apps, including Asana, Slack, and Dropbox.
Remember: Having thousands of integrations isn’t important. Having the software that integrates with the tools you’re already using matters.
9 Best Workflow Management Software (By Category)
Not all workflow management software is the same.
The trick is in knowing how to choose the best software for your team based on your business goals and budget. To help your selection process, we’ve categorized the best workflow management software tools by use case.
Let’s dive in:
Best Workflow Software for Creative Teams: Ziflow
Ziflow is the leading workflow management software for creative teams. It simplifies the creative review and approval process so that your team can accomplish more together.
- Review all your team's videos, images, web pages, documents, and other content in one place. (Supports over 1200 file types).
- Visualize each piece of content, collect feedback with precise markup and text annotations, and get it approved.
- Connect cross-functional teams with rich discussion threads, comments, and annotations that keep them aligned at every stage.
- Add reviewers easily, collaborate on content, and track progress through final approval.
- Compare any two assets side by side (regardless of their original file format), highlight the differences, and maintain version control.
- Get work approved faster with less revisions and fewer tedious tasks. (Over 80% of projects reviewed in Ziflow’s software are completed in less than two versions.)
- Automate your team's workflows and connect all your apps so that you stay focused on the work that matters most.
- Identify and remove process bottlenecks to improve efficiency.
- Track progress and automatically send project updates and reminders.
Trial: 14-day free trial.
Pricing: Ziflow has a range of subscription plans starting from $9/user/month.
Best Software for General Workflow Automations: Zapier
Zapier is the best workflow software when it comes to automations. It connects your web apps and moves information between them automatically so that you can focus on your most important work.
- Connect your web apps with a few clicks so that they can share data. (Integrates with 3,000+ popular apps in millions of ways).
- Automate a cross-platform workflow based on specific triggers.
- Select from pre-built workflows to get started with Zapier quickly.
- Create workflows (called Zaps) to automate repetitive tasks and get more done without developer help.
- Start workflows from any app and finish routine tasks automatically.
- Go from idea to workflow in minutes with the simple, fill-in-the-blank setup.
- Build advanced workflows with custom branching logic and conditions.
Trial: 14-day free trial.
Pricing: Zapier offers a basic free forever plan and a range of premium subscription plans starting from $20/month.
Best Software for Recurring Team Workflows: Process Street
Process Street offers a simple, free, and powerful way to manage your team's recurring tasks. While it doesn’t offer as many features as other workflow management software tools, like analytics and reporting, the software is a good fit for teams with document-driven workflows, checklists, and procedures.
- Get started with over 1,000 pre-made workflow templates.
- Create templates, assign tasks, set deadlines, and automate processes to improve productivity.
- Avoid re-work by updating workflows in one click.
- Change direction, update live processes, alter tasks, and continuously improve workflows quickly and easily.
- Track performance, identify bottlenecks, and monitor progress on an individual, team, or department level via the dashboard.
- Design templates that your team can easily follow to increase consistency, reduce errors, and cut costs.
- Make process management more straightforward and keep your team progressing by adding approval tasks to your workflows.
Trial: 14-day free trial.
Pricing: Process Street has a range of subscription plans, but you’ll need the Standard plan at $25/user/month for workflow automation.
Best Software for Business Workflow Management: Pipefy
Pipefy lets you centralize and streamline your business workflows by automating manual tasks, connecting processes, and creating standards. You can integrate, automate, and boost your operational efficiency across multiple departments, including HR, Finance, Marketings, and Sales.
- Reduce rework by collecting all of the information necessary to start your workflow via standardized forms and portals.
- Create standard workflows and automation rules to ensure fast and efficient deliveries without writing a single line of code.
- Analyze workflow efficiency, track results, and drive better decisions with visual dashboards.
- Engage and communicate with customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.
- Update external stakeholders on the status of their requests automatically.
- Integrate with your existing apps and tools, from spreadsheets to complex ERPs and legacy systems, to ensure error-proof information flows.
Pricing: Pipefy has a free starter plan and a range of premium subscription options starting from $18/user/month.
Best Software for Managing Entire Project Workflows: Monday.com
Monday.com is a Work OS (work operating system) that enables teams to plan, run, and track processes, projects, and workflows in one digital workspace.
Note: If your team uses Monday.com to manage creative projects, you can connect Ziflow for real-time updates on all of your creative review and approval activities. Monday.com and Ziflow will help you remain organized, stay on track, and meet deadlines.
- Plan, organize, track, and deliver all of your team’s tasks in one workspace to break communication barriers, move projects forward, and align everyone involved.
- Get started quickly with hundreds of visual and customizable templates or create your own.
- Start with one of 200+ templates or drag-and-drop 30+ column types to customize your workflow.
- Save time and avoid human error by automating repetitive tasks.
- Visualize work with Calendar, Timeline, Gantt, Map, and Kanban views.
- Share files, images, updates, and feedback in real-time (includes mobile app).
- Integrates with 40+ tools and apps across departments.
Trial: 14-day free trial.
Pricing: Monday.com has a range of subscription plans starting from $8/seat/month ($24/month for minimum 3 users).
Best Software for Advanced Custom Workflows: Nintex
Nintex is a process management and workflow automation tool designed to simplify complex workflows. It’s used by business analysts, IT teams, process professionals, and other power users.
- Get your automated process up-and-running with the user-friendly, drag-and-drop design tools.
- Visualize, conceptualize, and iterate on your workflows to achieve the best results for your business.
- Manage, automate, and optimize your business processes from beginning to end.
- Generate, sign, and store documents automatically.
- Deploy agile, automated workflows that help you deliver projects on time with fewer errors, miscommunication, or wasted time.
- Send automated messages from anywhere, collaborate on content, and utilize built-in business logic for a more advanced and effective automation process.
Trial: 30-day free trial.
Pricing: Nintex starts at $875/month with unlimited users and 10 workflows. The enterprise plan starts at $1,350/month. (There’s also a basic plan for simple automations, starting at $85/user/month with a five-seat minimum.)
Best Workflow Management Software For Developers: Backlog
Backlog is an all-in-one project management software with Issue Tracking, Git Hosting, Version Control, and Wiki. But it also comes with built-in tools for workflow management as well.
- Streamline your workflow and make sure no bottlenecks are hindering progress.
- View, prioritize, and discuss all your tasks in one place.
- Manage, communicate, and collaborate to complete more work with less confusion.
- Send targeted notifications to the right people whenever a task status changes.
- Add comments and files directly to tasks. Invite clients, vendors, and freelancers to projects with guest roles.
- Collaborate on code and get a clear view of who's working on which branch, review others' work, and track changes.
Trial: 30-day free trial.
Pricing: Backlog has a basic free forever plan and a range of subscription options starting from $35/month.
Best Software for WordPress Form-Based Workflows: Gravity Flow
Gravity Flow is a WordPress workflow plugin that works on top of the Gravity Forms plugin and helps you automate all the processes that you apply to your form submissions to track them to closure. It automates a lot of your admin work.
- Eliminate endless email follow-ups, calls, and paperwork in routine admin business processes.
- Automate all your routine business processes that include a form, such as Vacation Requests, Purchase Orders, Admissions Forms, RFPs, Project Initiation Plans, and Case Management.
- Configure complex, conditional, and multi-step workflows with one of the 40+ ready-to-use steps and a simple drag-and-drop process builder.
- Keep track of performance with detailed reports that show how long each task is taking and highlight bottlenecks before they become a problem.
- Track who did what (and when) in a detailed timeline and activity log. Comments, timestamps, steps, and status information gets logged in the audit trail.
- Start and stop workflows or their steps, or schedule them as per your process requirements.
- Add unlimited users and workflows as your business grows.
Pricing: Gravity Flow has a range of subscription plans starting at $99/year.
Best Workflow Software for IT Service Management: Freshservice
Freshservice is a cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) solution for your service desk with a powerful automation tool to manage incidents, changes, assets, and more. It’s designed (using ITIL best practice) to help IT organizations excel at service delivery and customer satisfaction.
- Automate repetitive tasks and manual processes with the simple drag-and-drop workflow automator.
- Create contextual and intelligent experiences through artificial intelligence to enhance service performance and minimize costs.
- Improve service agent productivity by triaging incoming tickets and providing ML-powered suggestions and responses.
- Integrate service management on a single platform to bridge silos, improve time-to-resolution, reduce costs, and improve visibility.
- Deploy quickly and scale rapidly.
- Streamline service requests with the universal service catalog.
- Manage and deploy changes efficiently throughout their lifecycle.
Trial: 21-day free trial.
Pricing: Freshservice has a range of subscription plans starting at $19/agent/month, billed annually.
Which Workflow Management Software is Right for Your Business?
Each of these workflow management tools brings its unique flavor of automation, collaboration, integration, organization, tracking, and reporting to streamline your business processes.
But which one is right for your business?
Base your decision on the appropriate use case ensuring the software has all the features you’re looking for and fits your budget. Also, take advantage of the free trial to evaluate the workflow software before making your purchase.
If you’re running a creative team, get a free demo of Ziflow to see how the platform can help you simplify your content review and approval processes.
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