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Visual workflows automate and translate complex business processes into easy-to-understand visuals. They make communication and task management easier, so us project managers can streamline operations and optimize efficiency. 

Visual workflows and process automation are important if you’ve ever struggled with process management, getting your spreadsheets in order, bottlenecks, approval processes, workflow management, or automating repetitive tasks.

What Is A Visual Workflow?

A visual workflow is a simple representation of a process that shows how tasks progress from one stage to the next. This makes it easy to understand, manage, and track tasks, business processes, CRM activities, bottlenecks, and even the software life cycle in real-time. 

For What Types of Projects Are Visual Workflows Used?

Visual workflows, also known as flowcharts or process diagrams, are used for many types of project initiatives, regardless of methodology or industry. 

Traditional project management (TPM) follows a linear, sequential process. It often uses the waterfall model or PRINCE2 on projects with predefined phases and fixed scopes. Here, visual workflows support a shared understanding of project performance and delivery. 

Visual workflows in traditional project management include Gantt charts, process flow diagrams, PERT charts, work breakdown structures (WBS), and network diagrams. 

Agile project management adapts to the ever-changing needs of dynamic environments. It is iterative and flexible, allowing continuous feedback and adjustments. It emphasizes collaboration and adaptive planning and uses methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, and lean

Agile distributes ownership among team members to share responsibilities and adapt as a team, so it’s important to have a shared understanding of the process. Examples of visual workflows in agile project management are Kanban boards, Scrum boards, workflow diagrams or flowcharts, and task boards. 

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Visual Workflow Examples

I have included four unique examples and use cases for workflows that illustrate how they enhance transparency, efficiency, and collaboration in diverse industries. 

Project Management Workflow

In project management, a visual workflow is used to outline the project framework from defining tasks to assigning responsibilities, tracking progress, and ensuring timely completion of project milestones.

agile vs waterfall
Waterfall follows a linear process, and agile is more iterative and incremental.

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

SDLC workflows include seven phases: planning and analysis, requirements gathering, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance (which may be replaced by decommission). Visualizing these steps helps teams manage complex software projects effectively. 

software development life cycle
Here's what a typical software development life cycle looks like.

Marketing Campaigns

Visual workflows for marketing campaigns outline tasks such as planning, content creation, social media scheduling, and performance analysis. They ensure coordinated efforts across marketing teams.

example marketing campaign workflow in asana
Here’s how your marketing campaign workflow might look if you set it up in Asana.

Design Projects

Design workflows cover ideation, wireframing, prototyping, revisions, and final delivery. Visual representations help designers collaborate seamlessly.

design workflow
Here's what a typical design workflow looks like.

Benefits Of Visual Workflows

Visual workflows enhance transparency, process management, efficiency, collaboration, customer satisfaction, agility, and task management for stakeholders and non-technical users alike.

Best Practices For Creating Visual Workflows

When creating new workflows for your project management initiatives, consider these best practices that support simple to complex workflows throughout the entire process that your project follows.

  1. Start small: Start with a portion of a process to test, and gather feedback before expanding.
  2. Simplicity: Keep your workflow simple, relevant, and accessible, and prioritize a user-friendly interface.
  3. Clarity: Each stage in the workflow should be concise.
  4. Flexibility: Keep your workflow modular to best adapt to changes.
  5. Identify a suitable design: Ensure the workflow design is appropriate for the process.
  6. Support relationships: Ensure each item in the workflow is within scope and holds a clear relationship with at least one other task.
  7. Leverage automation software: Set up automations in your software and include checklists, instructions, and any other necessary information needed to complete tasks.
  8. Evaluate: It may take a few iterations before you have the optimal version of your workflow.

Tools For Visualizing Workflows

Visual workflow automation tools can increase productivity, helping you to visually represent a process or a series of tasks. Workflow diagram software tools utilize diagrams, flowcharts, or other visual aids to illustrate the steps in a process, the sequence of functions, and the relationships between them. Important features of workflow software include drag-and-drop task management, collaboration, and software integration.

Here are some of my favorite tools for workflow management

  • Microsoft Visio: A great tool for a multifaceted diagramming experience. Create flowcharts, network diagrams and more, from basic to sophisticated. 
  • LucidChart: Great for teams to collaborate on diagrams. 
  • Miro: A great tool for remote teams to brainstorm and diagram.
  • Qntrl: A go-to automation workflow management tool.
  • KanbanFlow: Focuses on lean techniques and real-time collaboration.
  • FigJam by Figma: Similar to Miro, ideal for software design and development teams.
  • Zapier: A go-to for integrations and task automation.

It is always worth your time to research the best flowchart software and trial a few tools to see which supports your need. Explore free trials (and add the trial expirations to your calendars).

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Stephanie Best
By Stephanie Best

Stephanie is a project manager and value delivery expert. She has 15 years of experience in project management and business strategy. She has led cross-functional, multi-local project teams to successfully launch complex SaaS and IT infrastructure projects, focusing on building high-performing teams and optimizing project value delivery. Stephanie is the principal consultant at Greannmhar Consulting. She is passionate about building strong connections, project management, and unlocking growth opportunities through value delivery optimization.