In our last Fourandhalf blog, we talked about the value of a workflow for property managers, and we helped you understand how workflows can provide a better understanding of your property management business.

Today, we want to continue that discussion and show you what a workflow looks like.

Three Workflow or Process Levels

The first thing to understand about workflows or processes is that you can look at them from three levels:

  • Level One
    This is the highest level. The Level One process is more of an overview. So if we’re talking about a maintenance process, at the first level, our process would show that the maintenance request comes in, and the issue is resolved. That’s the process.
  • Level Two
    The second level is what we like better. It provides more detail so we can really understand how our business works.
  • Level Three
    At the third level, you really look at your business closely and do a complete drill down into each step and list out each actor responsible for those steps.

As you undertake a process analysis for your property management company, we suggest you look at Level Two. This will help with efficiencies.

In our first blog, we talked about the three things you need for putting together your process flow. Those are:

  • An understanding of outcomes.
  • A capture of the people involved in the workflow.
  • The discrete tasks that are included in each workflow.

We’ll show you how those are incorporated into a workflow with an example.

Representing Your Workflow: Introducing Swim Lanes

There are different types of workflow representations, and at Fourandhalf, we like to use swim lanes. With our swim lanes, you can clearly see the accountable party, the task, and then if you want to drill in and connect the Level Three to the Level Two process model, it’s easy.

So here’s what a swim lane looks like: (click to enlarge)

On the left side, you can look at the people or the actors involved in any process for which you’re establishing a workflow. The key thing to note is that the actors can be a system or a person; it’s not always an individual. On right side, you will see those lanes extending across and the arrows connecting task boxes with each individual task.

This shows you how information is moving through your workflow.

If you want to go through the detail, and visit the Level Three model, you can go into each box and type out a detailed procedure in that box. You have both a high level view of how information is moving and a detailed step-by-step procedural account of how you’re getting things done at the task level.

As you look carefully at the swim lane model, you can see that filling out each box and associating those boxes with their lane or with each actor, it’s easy to connect the boxes and arrows. It gives you a visual sense of how information is traveling.

Workflows and Decision Making

When decisions need to be made, you can represent those decisions with a diamond shape, and then offer a yes/no box. The arrows can point to what happens if the decision is yes or no.

So if the decision is yes, you can follow the arrow to the set of tasks that occur after a yes answer. If the decision is no, then you’ll follow the arrow to a box that indicates what happens if the answer is no. This allows you to represent the decision aspect of the workflow and the corresponding individual tasks.

Looking at this, we hope you get an idea about how to put together a workflow. If you have questions or you’d like to talk about this in depth, please contact us at Fourandhalf.