In the ancient days of the Inca empire, fleet-footed youths known as Chasquis served in the imperial administration as translators and message-runners in a relay system that could cover up to 150 miles per day, all to address a problem as old as civilization itself – how do central decision-makers know and manage the activities under their administration?
Today, COOs and operations managers tackle the same issue, which became increasingly important in the aftermath of the pandemic as remote work became widely accepted. Business journals and innovators constantly search for ways to assign tasks, enhance transparency and improve tracking.
One such innovator is Vancouver-based Hubly, which produces workflow management software for financial advisory firms. Founded in 2019, in three years the firm grew to serve over 500 financial advisory firms in the United States, with a combined 27,000 clients.
To understand how technology-based workflow management systems can aid in operations management, we spoke with Meghan Rutherford, Hubly’s Customer Training & Onboarding Manager. In her current role, Rutherford leverages over two decades of experience in business development, operations and client service.
We asked Rutherford how workflow management software bolsters operations management, how it can help with management of remote employees and how it yields greater morale and understanding across an organization.
WSR: How do workflow management systems aid an operations manager or COO in their work? Are these systems useful for even distribution of workflow across employees, finding bottlenecks or identifying employees that need to increase their work volume?
Rutherford: Workflow management systems are extremely beneficial to operations managers and COOs because they provide great visibility, organization and documentation of all tasks occurring across the organization.
Without a workflow management system you are forced to use your CRM, notebooks and multiple spreadsheets to try to keep track of everything – making it impossible to avoid items slipping through the cracks.
Instead, using software that tracks employee deliverables shows you what’s in the pipeline, tells you which tasks are assigned to whom, and identifies top priorities. All this takes a lot of work and stress off the operations lead.
Many firms run weekly team meetings to review priorities and discuss outstanding items. With a workflow tool, you simply need to review your firm’s dashboard to get a pulse on the highest priorities. In fact, these meetings run much more efficiently because you no longer need to discuss bottlenecks or things getting missed.
Instead, you can use your workflow management system during these meetings to evenly distribute work, identify process improvements, project future growth and determine what positions to hire based on gaps and areas that take up a lot of time.
WSR: How do workflow management systems help with remote employees? What are some of the features that can help an operations manager or supervisor maintain good workflows during the work-from-home era?
Rutherford: Workflow management systems significantly cut down on the communications (meetings, calls, emails, instant messages) needed between staff members. Check-ins that may previously have involved a conversation with multiple people, or sending an email, can now be done through a single system.
Everyone on the team now has a lens into the latest status of a client, who made the last contact, what the next step is, and who is responsible – without needing to schedule a meeting or a phone call. This helps cut down on duplication of effort and the regular back-and-forth that is extremely inefficient.
The transparency of the tool also provides managers with insight about what work is being accomplished. Managers now have a better understanding of what tasks are being completed than they would without a workflow management system.
WSR: How can workflow management systems create greater understanding between the front and back office, contribute to team building and improve morale?
Rutherford: Being able to view the multitude and variety of tasks for a firm in a single view helps the back-office team both document and share with management the volume of work generated. Without a system in place, many of these daily tasks go unrecognized and uncaptured in a client record because of their ad-hoc nature.
With workflow systems, there is no ambiguity about where anything stands because every task and step in a process is documented, assigned and tracked. This minimizes management stress that arises from having so many balls in the air and their anxiety that something may fall through the cracks.
Additionally, the back office is empowered with the ability to see the status of a client with the click of a button and the ability to see how their work contributes to the bigger picture. This boosts morale because everyone on the team feels like they are working together and delivering great client service.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Executive Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org