Efficient workflows are crucial for everyday operations as well as investigations. Setting up efficient workflows can have many benefits for a business and its employees. A report by Deloitte revealed that intelligent automation can save costs by 20% to 40% on average. For employees, this means less time spent on mundane tasks and more time for more interesting responsibilities. However, creating efficient workflows is one of those situations where in theory it sounds simple, but it’s not. The process of making the business run more efficient can be time-consuming and expensive, and if it’s not done correctly, the business might not see a return on its investment. 

Setting up efficient workflows

To get straight to the point, efficient workflows are only possible if employees have a clear plan in mind. Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Set realistic goals

2. Review tasks

3. Communicate changes

4. Monitor the performance of workflows

5. Seek feedback

Set realistic goals

Efficiency is a very broad term. People may often say they wish they could do their tasks more efficiently or they wish their colleagues were more efficient. But what does that look like?

Workflow efficiency involves a high-quality output in less time, with less waste, fewer errors and at a greater amount. This can look different for every company depending on what their value proposition is, what products and services they sell, the industry they are in, size etc.

Before starting to look at efficient workflows, it is important to take a step back and consider what does an efficient workflow mean for your business? What is driving this efficiency drive? Maybe tasks are not being completed on time or a lot of resources are allocated unreasonably. Setting up a meeting with employees can be beneficial for hearing their opinions and then deciding:

  • How long a task should (realistically) take
  • What outcome is expected from that task
  • How will efficiency benefit the company and employees

Efficient workflows aim to make tasks simpler, cutting down the steps people need to take to complete them. 

Review tasks

Once realistic goals have been set, it is time to determine how those goals can be achieved. Again, employees should be consulted as they may have already identified ways for certain tasks to be completed faster and with fewer mistakes. It could be something as simple as setting up an automatic registration rather than employees having to record each name manually – from an investigation standpoint, if a case is automatically referred from a detection system into a case management system, rather than needing to be re-entered, this can save a few minutes or more per case. Multiply that over hundreds of cases a year and the savings are significant. This will save a lot of time for the company and the employee in the long run and it eliminates the risk of human error. 

Reviewing tasks also means prioritising them in order of importance. Automatic case progress updates may be more important at a specific moment in time than other processes. It will also help with resource allocation as not every modification may be feasible. Preparing a budget for each task/process/area can give the business a better idea of what they are capable of and how much they can improve at once. 

Communicate changes

As changes are being made to workflows, the next step is to communicate the modifications to employees. If employees are not informed properly of the workflow modifications, then the desired outcomes may not be achieved. Talk to employees about preferred training times, what they want to know more about and ensure that everyone is clear on how to use new software, systems and programs. 

Training employees may take time, as at the beginning they might be overwhelmed with a number of new procedures. Patience is needed during the implementation stage to make the changes smoother and allow efficient workflows to have a greater impact on the organisation. 

A rushed implementation that is not communicated clearly could backfire, having the organisation incur costs without saving on expenses in the long run. 

Monitor the performance of workflows

After changes have been implemented with the goal of making workflows more efficient, the work doesn’t stop there. The business should monitor how the implementations are affecting business operations and decide whether the modifications are paying off. Something that works for one business, may not work for another. This is not a once-and-done process. The company should always look to improve new workflows, aiming to create a more productive workplace. 

Seek feedback

Don’t underestimate how important employees are when it comes to understanding the efficiency of the new workflows. Efficient workflows are only as efficient as the employees who master them. This process will require training, meetings, feedback between the employee and the employer, more training, more meetings and more feedback. The cycle will repeat itself until employees get used to the new workflows.

Not all employees will welcome the efficient workflows. Some may react positively while others may react negatively. One way businesses may choose to become more efficient is by allocating tasks to certain employees. The objective is usually to avoid confusion (who is involved with what and who is responsible for each area) and allow employees to specialise on a specific task. However, this can bore employees who want to expand their skill sets and learn new things. Once an employee has mastered an area of interest, they usually want to try something new, so efficient workflows will need a lot of flexibility. 

efficient workflows

What is causing inefficiency?

To solve a problem, it is advisable that first you try to understand the root of it. Inefficiency is a problem that develops over time, sometimes due to a lack of familiarity with the task or the job as a whole. It could also be that an employee hired is not the best fit for the company or position. Other reasons include:

Outdated technology

Software companies always look for ways to improve their offerings. This makes their products and services more efficient. If your organisation sticks to older software and technology, it might seem cheaper in the short term but in the long run, this will cause issues and bottlenecks. Sometimes an expensive investment is worth making as it will pay off in the future and will change processes and workflows for the better. That being said, to achieve efficient workflows, you need to understand your company’s needs and purchase the right equipment. 

Tedious tasks

Employees can be divided into two categories: Those who hate repetitive manual tasks and those who find them relaxing. Employers need to assess employee job satisfaction as well as whether spending time on a manual task is worth it. Does it achieve a better outcome? Does it need more attention? Tasks like data entries, case reminders and recording of new leads can be automated to save time. At Polonious we help our clients cut their admin time by up to 38% during an investigation as our one-click reporting and automation makes things simpler and easier. 

Bad layouts

How hard is it to access information that should be readily available for everyone? If employees have to spend a considerable amount of time looking through folders (online or offline), then productivity is set to decrease. Efficient workflows are more effective when supported with a clear structure. That includes a clear workspace layout, tidy and clearly named folders and files and a clear communication line. This will resolve many problems for employees, including asking the wrong people for information and delaying tasks from being completed. 

Misallocation of resources 

Inefficiencies can be caused for a number of reasons including long, unnecessary meetings and not delegating the right employees to the right tasks. Ask your employees to consider whether a meeting is needed before booking it. A day full of meetings means that little to no work will get completed. Also, delegating tasks to the wrong people will increase the time for them to be completed. This may also happen due to a lack of prioritisation. Efficient workflows should be focused on the right tasks to actually ‘work’. 


Whenever having a discussion about automation and efficient processes, even where technology is not involved, at some point a decision needs to be made about control and oversight versus automation and efficiency. Whether automating or delegating, to fully hand off the work requires a certain level of trust that it will be completed to a high standard without requiring input. To maintain a high degree of control and input on a task, as a manager, means you cannot fully delegate. If you find you’re drowning in paperwork, editing reports, and so on, it’s worthwhile to ask – does this come from a lack of trust in my employees and/or systems, and is this lack of trust justified? Sometimes this comes from something internal, and the biggest step you can take towards efficient processes is to learn to trust your staff and systems, get out of the way, and let them do their job.

Creating efficient workflows is a commitment 

It is now pretty evident that efficient workflows are not created overnight. It takes time and it’s an ongoing commitment from the business and its employees. Working as a team and minimising miscommunication can speed up the process and make the whole implementation smoother. Polonious has nearly 2 decades of experience in building efficient, effective workflows for your investigations. If you would like to know more, please get in touch!