Choose the right workflow software by asking these 5 questions

Invio’s chief product officer Cassie Wallender recommends this checklist when selecting technology solutions

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Whether your organization is rapidly expanding, fledgling or huge and undergoing a digital transformation, getting the right digital tools and workflow software for your employees is paramount if you want to stay competitive. Plus, workers themselves expect to have the best tools at their disposal.

Of 1,400+ knowledge workers Slack surveyed last fall:

  • 31% of respondents were “extremely satisfied” with their current communication tools
  • 76% of them said they wanted more tools in the future

Cassie Wallender is the chief product officer and cofounder of Invio, a Seattle-based clinical trial software platform. As a UX designer of digital tools for the medical field, she’s uniquely qualified when it comes to choosing workflow software. Not only does she design tools for Invio users that are intuitive and meet a concrete set of needs, but she and her team also choose external products that help them produce Invio’s internal software.

workflow software invio cassie wallender

“When it comes to choosing workflow software that meets your team’s needs, you want something that’s designed from the ground up to accommodate the user experience and is meeting your employees where they’re already at.”

Cassie Wallender
Chief product officer and cofounder of Invio

Here, Wallender shares important questions that leaders should be asking when integrating new workflow software into their organization’s day-to-day operations.

1. Who will be selecting the software and using it?

The first two things to consider, Wallender says, are the people involved with the decision and the people who will have to live with its implementation going forward. Have ”diversity of industry, professional background, perspective, age group and personality type,” she says, so when choosing, you’ll get more diversity in the proposed solutions. That way, it’ll be more likely that the solution will actually serve people in their work.

“There’s a disconnect, truly, in enterprise software, because the person who’s making the buying decision is often not the poor staff who has to use it on a daily basis,” Wallender says. “But when it comes to choosing workflow software that meets your team’s needs, you want something that’s designed from the ground up to accommodate the user experience and is meeting your employees where they’re already at.”

It’s important to pick workflow software that’s built for the people using it. If you’re a team of 15, don’t go overboard with a hefty program suite full of features no one will actually need. And if you’re a company of 5,000, don’t expect great team performance from a bare-bones setup.

Trello is much more lightweight and faster, which is good when you’re starting out,” Wallender says. “But it doesn’t have the bevy of features that Asana has. Then again, Asana’s going to be too much for people in a different place too.”

2. Is this workflow software both intuitive and functional?

“If I’m buying software, it’s not always immediately obvious which companies are embracing usability as a priority,” Wallender says. “It’s very easy to confuse something that’s pretty with something that’s functional at first glance.”

Plenty of solutions have a great user interface but don’t complement what people in your line of work actually need automated, stored in the cloud, or improved, communication-wise. This bottleneck can actually further hinder productivity rather than improve workflows.

At the same time, that proprietary content management system your company built 10 years ago may have been designed with your company’s needs in mind then, but it’s now hated by other business customers for its lack of intuitive usability.

“Just because it’s enterprise software doesn’t mean that the user experience has to be awful,” Wallender says. “It feels like an unwritten rule. It is hard, but it’s not impossible to make great user experiences for B2B customers.”

The ideal balance, Wallender says, is something that’s intuitive and is built not to sell to a C-suite, but to win the loyalty of the people using it.

“You want people to, once they start using the product, fall in love with it, and think, ‘Gosh, I could never do my job without this,’ ” she says of the ideal workflow solution. “The better user experience we can give the people who have to use the software on a daily basis, the more the person at the top who made that buying decision is going to hear, ‘We love using Invio. It’s made my job so much easier, look how much more productive I am.’”

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3. Can you test-drive the software before committing to it?

“If a trial or a pilot is available to you, it’s like saying, ‘We want you to experience this before signing on the dotted line,’ and that says something about the company,” Wallender says. “If they don’t want you to experience it, there might be a reason.”

Testing the software in real time, she adds—actually going through the workflow, having some real employees test it out—will be crucial to your bottom line too.

“I highly encourage folks to embrace not just a demo but a test instance where they can really dive in and go through their workflows and play around with the functionality of things before they commit,” she says. “Put a couple of subject matter experts into the process of evaluating the software if you can before committing your whole team to using it because there are such huge switching costs, especially as the team scales.”

4. Is there a support system you can implement along with the new software?

Workflow software transitions often come with a deluge of individual technical roadblocks and lots of employee feedback. Be ready to answer any and all questions before you implement.

“In a small company like ours, our system is, ‘Email Cassie,’ ” Wallender jokes. “But having Cassie’s cellphone doesn’t scale. It has to become a support email that creates a Trello card, or maybe it’s just a support email that a team has access to. Then you get Zendesk or some other system integrated in your website, and a ticketing system, and tiered levels of support and escalation rules.”

5. How ready are you to pivot if the solution doesn’t work?

Keeping records of the decision-making process, Wallender says—what your goals are with the workflow software you’re picking, the options you’ve tried, the feedback you’re getting from the teams on the ground—can be both freeing and efficient.

“Be willing to change things, to have a culture of ‘Just because this is how we’re doing it today, doesn’t mean it’s going to be how it’s going to be forever,’ ” she says. “There’s always a cost to switching, though, so you have to weigh that. If [your documentation shows] you’ve been changing systems every two weeks, something’s gone terribly awry.”

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