Before you can optimize your team’s workflow, it’s important to get clear on what exactly that workflow is.
A workflow is a predictable and ordered collection of data, rules, roles, resources, and, ultimately, outcomes. Put simply, it’s the sequence of steps your team will take in order to meet your goals.
Unlike a simple task list, a workflow is a repeatable process that needs to be accomplished in a specific order. The larger your organization, the more moving pieces, and the more data you have, the more complex your workflow.
In this article, you’ll learn how to identify your first workflow, bring it into Airtable, and organize a base to match. This will help you decide which data and workflows make sense to bring into Airtable, and how to establish success metrics.
Get ready to map your workflow! We suggest you grab a pen and paper and follow along the steps below, applying each one to your own work.
To start mapping your workflow, think about the ultimate goal you want to achieve. This will tell you what you want to do, when you want to do it, and what success looks like.
A web agency might say: “We want to deliver a client’s web assets when a client is under contract so we can maintain client satisfaction.”
A marketing team might say “We want to automate approvals when we’re planning campaigns so we can speed up time-to-market.”
Or a product team might say “We want to align on objectives when we’re doing strategic planning so we can improve team efficiency.”
Try it now: Write down the goal for your team’s workflow. To do this, fill out this sentence:
We want to _______, when we’re _______, so we can _______.
Now that you have a clearly defined goal, it will be easier to establish the steps to achieving it. Whether you’re adapting an existing workflow to Airtable, or building a new one, now’s the time to sketch out your ideal state to move your work from kickoff to completion.
For example, here’s a map for our web agency:
Try it now: Write out the key steps in your workflow, from start to reaching your goal, including every major step along the way.
In this example, we’re working with a simple workflow for a small team. But Airtable works well for workflows involving hundreds or even thousands of people. Your team, no matter its size, will still have goals and steps to achieve that goal. You just may need to break it down a bit more as you go.
For each step of your workflow, identify the information your team needs to progress to the next step, and which stakeholders are involved.
Key data and people for each step in our web agency’s workflow might look like this:
Take action: Add your information and stakeholders. Using the steps you mapped out above, identify the important information and key stakeholders involved in your workflow.
In Airtable, you’ll start by setting up your data in tables within your base, and each table should contain information of the same type.
To make sure you’re working with the right table structure, group related information in your workflow map together by highlighting or color-coding similar pieces of information.
Here’s what these groupings may look like for our web agency:
For a web agency, we’ve identified three groups, each with a different color.
Green highlights details related to each asset, such as the format, approver and designer
Orange highlights details related to each client, like client presentations, client notes, and account manager
Blue highlights details related to each project, including budget, project dates, and project status.
These groupings should match the tables in your new base! In the case of our web agency, the information can be grouped into Projects, Assets, and Clients. Now you can see your optimal base structure emerge:
Each table will be populated with records representing an item in those lists—a project, an asset or a client. The other information you’ve outlined for each bucket will become the fields in your table where you can keep track of the details of your workflow.
Consider the distinct groups of information in your workflow, and start to sketch out what falls under each group. This will serve as the foundation for your new database!
Congratulations on completing this stage of building a workflow! You can use your new workflow map to build (or adjust) your team’s base. From here, we’ll take you through designing the rest of your Airtable solution in the most effective way.