With our community of partners, you can get expert advice and training so you can be up and running in no time!

View setup partners

With our community of partners, you can get expert advice and training so you can be up and running in no time!

View setup partners

Get the Guide on Moving from spreadsheets to software.

Get the guide

Want to join us? Become a partner. 

Become a partner

Project Management Workflow

3. What is Project Management Workflow?

Within the framework of your Project Management plan, workflow refers to the series of steps that need to be taken to complete tasks, and how you move between them.

A project is generally a one off, time bound enterprise that serves a very specific purpose and results in a very specific outcome.

For example, a biannual large scale outdoor event is a time bound project, serving a specified purpose and outcome. When both the purpose and outcome have been reached, the event is over for the year. The project management of the event is the handling of all the activities related to it.

Project management workflow is the process of ordering tasks and activities between key milestones  into an efficient and meaningful sequence.

Workflow is part of our everyday lives. It is happening right now, as you sit at your desk, writing that email to a supplier or following up on a task a colleague is responsible for. Like projects, all businesses and organisations have ongoing processes of workflow. Without these, little would be achieved!

The successful completion of individual tasks usually require that projects pass through a series of stages. Regardless of size and complexity, all individual projects have their own patterns of workflow.

Effective project management workflow systems should help you to organise and record the stages of workflow. A good workflow process will create a series of steps directing you and your team towards a final destination. The most efficient, and best lit path will ensure the smoothest ride.

Here is a basic project workflow management diagram illustrating how a workflow can look when it's mapped out.

project management workflow diagram

Workflow Diagram for Project Management

Advantages of Project Management Workflow

  • Improves overall efficiency - Workflow systems reduce paper trails and keep everything in one centralised, easily accessible place.
  • Allows for collaboration - The best project management workflow systems have in-built social collaboration tools that make communication easier and more cohesive.
  • Makes reporting easier and more transparent - Workflow project management software has tools that make reporting simpler, faster and more accurate.
  • Keeps people connected - Mobility is now the norm for many work teams today. When your project management workflow systems are mobile-friendly, workers who are travelling, or off site, or telecommuting can easily check up on project status and update their own.


Similarities and differences between Workflow and Project Management

Workflow is intrinsically connected to project management, yet there are still important differences between them.

Conceptually, workflow can be considered a fluid process of tasks, or a movement from one stage to another within larger operational constraints or boundaries.

As mentioned earlier, projects are temporary, generally one-off enterprises. Workflow is a continuous, repetitive, functional process within an organization or a project. Workflow happens throughout all aspects of a business and can transcend projects and whole departments. Workflow can also be a stand-alone job like creating a runsheet or scheduling an appointment.

Interestingly, both project management and workflow serve the same end. They both function to bring about the completion of a tasks. Workflow and project management exist harmoniously side by side because projects depend on workflow to run smoothly. Without proper workflow, tasks cannot transfer between members of the team or move from stage to stage efficiently.

To summarise, where project management deals with planning, overseeing, and directing tasks, workflow deals with linking and connecting those tasks. And where project management looks from above giving a birds eye view, workflow ensures this view keeps on moving smoothly from step to the next.

project management workflow session

How to use project management workflow systems effectively

Workflow management systems provide the infrastructure to organise, record, control, and coordinate workflow. The most important way to effectively use project management workflow is to start by choosing the right methodology for your project.

If you haven’t worked with an effective workflow process in the past, you may not know where to begin. In conjunction with choosing the right workflow system, start by thinking through the following four steps:

1. Plan

Every project begins with a plan, regardless of the workflow methodology you choose to go with. Whether you’re using Agile, Waterfall, or PRiSM, the key to successful project completion is an airtight plan. Begin in wide strokes, then break the project down into smaller bite size parts that individual team members can easily understand and handle. Be exacting and precise, while maintaining flexibility. Remember that the plan might have to change halfway through the project.

2. Involve

Talk to your team, clients and other important stakeholders. Nut out what’s most critical and important to your project's success. While you don’t have to get input and feedback from everyone, it is wise to make sure that everyone knows what is going on. The benefits of gathering robust information and involving others are clear: better teamwork, flexible resources, and more brain power to troubleshoot.

3. Anticipate

Even the most successful projects experience hiccups along the way. Expect that things will go wrong during your project. Be prepared by identifying the areas in your plan that may need to change or that may open you up to vulnerability. An effective project manager will anticipate problematic scenarios and be prepared with contingencies.

4. Track

This step is more than just about writing things down. Every significant event, conversation, or milestone in a project has to be logged, time-stamped and updated. Make sure you have good systems in place in order to do this.

3 Project Management Workflow Methodologies

If you want to make your projects flow faster with greater efficiency, there are a variety of project management methodologies or systems that you can choose from. Here is brief overview of three of the most common workflow methodologies:

Agile Project Management Workflow

At the core of the Agile workflow methodology are the central values and behaviours of: collaboration, self-organization, cross functionality, and adaptability. Agile is a project management approach that emerged during the 70’ and 80’s from innovative Japanese companies such as Toyota, Fuji, and Honda.project management workflow agile diagramAgile Workflow Diagram

Agile is good choice if your project requires high levels of adaptability. This methodology is suited to changing situations and projects that require constant, regular feedback, both internally and externally. The Agile project management approach is usually ideal for smaller projects and/or those with accelerated development schedules.

Waterfall Project Management Workflow

Waterfall is a more traditional, top down approach to workflow and project management. The Waterfall methodology handles the various stages of workflow sequentially. From the initial concept and planning phase right down to development and quality assurance and finally project completion and maintenance. Project requirements are usually set at the beginning, with little to no alterations to the plan unless absolutely necessary.


project management workflow waterfall diagramWaterfall Workflow Diagram

The Waterfall methodology is most suited to large-scale projects where thorough planning and a predictable process are paramount.

PRiSM Project Management Workflow

Projects integrating Sustainable Methods (PRiSM) was developed by GPM Global as a way of creating a methodology that took environmental factors into account while still ensuring a repeatable, efficient system that could easily be applied to a broad range of large-scale projects.


project management workflow prisim diagramPRiSM Workflow Diagram

PRiSM is unique in that it is one of the few project management methodologies that requires and rewards project managers with accreditation. PRiSM is used primarily for large-scale construction and public works infrastructure projects that require planning and consideration of adverse effects on the environment.

project management workflow computer plan

How to choose the right Project Management Workflow Software?

Selecting the right project management software will ensure that you have the most suitable tools at hand to monitor and manage workflows and  better manage jobs and tasks. WorkflowMax is a complete cloud-based solution used by over 10,000 businesses globally, integrates seamlessly with 30 other software solutions and offers a sophisticated yet user friendly platform for workflow organisation, distribution and tracking.

If you are involved in, or own a business that has multiple (or even singular) projects on the go, investing in workflow management software could make your life, and day-to-day operations, a lot easier and more efficient.

Workflow management software provides the infrastructure for companies and organisations to coordinate, control and manage workflows. Usually cloud-based, these software systems allow for greater collaboration and integration between teams, and between projects.

Workflow management software is also commonly used to streamline and automate routine or repetitive tasks— the sort of tasks that are mundane and sap productivity.

Beyond this, the benefits of using workflow management software are in line with the benefits of project management as a whole:

  • Reduced risk
  • Improved productivity
  • Greater access to information
  • Enhanced visibility

WorkflowMax can do it all. Avoid launching multiple applications to manage your projects and jobs. Turn to WorkflowMax as a solid, all-in-one package. WorkflowMax has seamless integration with Xero’s other business software and systems, such as Xero Accounting.

WorkflowMax can benefit any business with its extensive list of functional applications and features designed to maximize the potential of any enterprise, large or small.


Read the free PDF

Project Management Workflow
(1.7MB PDF)

View the PDF