Before you can improve your workflow, you need to clearly define the workflow’s goal and context. With your goal in mind, you can outline the steps required to accomplish that goal and identify where you can improve.
Identifying a workflow's goal is simpler than it sounds, and we recommend including three key inputs: what, when, and why. To make it easier, you can fill in the blanks in the following sentence:
We want to _____ when we’re _____ so we can _______. This sentence gives you great insight into your workflow: it provides what you want to do, when you expect to do it and how you measure success.
Below are a few examples:
If you’re a web design agency, your workflow objective might be:
- We want to deliver a client’s web assets when a client is under contract so we can maintain client satisfaction.
If you’re a marketing team, your workflow objective might be:
- We want to track deliverables in a single content calendar when we’re planning campaigns so we can decrease time to lift.
Once you have your goal defined, it becomes much easier to work back into the steps involved in achieving it. Next, you should ask yourself, “what are the recurring steps required to get to the workflow’s objective?”
For example, for the web agency example outlined above, the steps involved could look like this:
→ To better understand your own workflow, write out your team’s workflow objective in the form of “We want to ____ when we’re ____ so we can _____.” From there, broadly identify the recurring steps your workflow goes through to accomplish its objective.
Concepts covered: Table, record, fields.
Your team needs to take action to go from one step of your workflow to the next. You may need to assign a collaborator to action items or projects, get approval from a stakeholder, or trigger a delivery. Every action requires information—project details, reviewer assignment, or budget.
You need to stay on top of all of your workflow’s information and make the right information accessible at the right time. Managing so much information can get messy fast without a clear understanding of what’s required when.
In continuing to analyze your workflow, it’s time to identify what information is necessary at each step. Using your workflow’s steps as a starting point, add a list of the information that’s required to accomplish each step.
For the web design agency example outlined above, the information required might look like this:
Once you have captured the information required, you can start mapping that information into Airtable concepts to create a structured system to capture and access the essential information for your workflow.
In Airtable, information is first organized into Tables which contain information of the same type. If you look to the steps and information you’ve outlined, you should look to find similar buckets of information that can be grouped together.
From the example above, a web agency could identify three buckets: clients, projects, & assets
That means in Airtable, you’d have 3 tables: clients, projects and assets.
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.
With this, you can see your system’s structure emerge:
→ Take a moment to reflect on your workflow by:
- Listing out the information required at each step in your workflow
- Grouping similar information together into buckets
- Naming each one of your buckets
- Listing the detailed information contained under each bucket
You now have the tables, records and fields outlined that you’ll need to structure your workflow in Airtable. Next, it’s important you identify the people involved in your workflow.
Concepts covered: Collaboration, Forms, Share view links
If you work with a team, your workflow doesn’t only involve steps and information, it also requires people! It can be challenging to give each person the right information at the right time so they can fulfill their part of the work.
In Airtable, there are numerous ways to provide stakeholders exactly what they need to get their work done. But before building anything in Airtable, it’s important to identify who your stakeholders are and the role they play throughout your workflow. Stakeholders—and the level of access they require—can fall into the following three categories:
- Overview: This type of stakeholder wants to view information, but will not need to add or edit information. Common examples include cross functional team members or executives.
- Input: This type of stakeholder needs to submit information, but will not need further visibility. Examples include partners submitting requests or customers providing feedback.
- Collaborate: This type of stakeholder needs full access to view, edit, and add information. Examples include your project’s team members, cross functional collaborators or any one else that is an integral part of your workflow.
To get a sense of who is involved and how at each step, you can add the stakeholders to the different steps of your workflow:
Having identified your stakeholders, you can now give them the right level of access and information.
Collaborators need full access to the information in your workflow so they can view, add and update throughout the workflow. You’ll need to share access to your system by inviting them into your base.
And yet, collaborators may not need all of information all the time—a designer doesn’t need to see all completed design requests or those that aren’t assigned to them! With Airtable views, you can give your stakeholders exactly what they need at the right moment in the workflow. Views let you specify what is visible—filter out irrelevant records and hide unnecessary fields so stakeholders can hone in on what’s important for their role in the workflow.
Additionally, you have the option to share any view that you create. Shared views give view access to a specific set of information of your choosing—for example, a current set of projects in progress or client satisfaction scores. View share links are perfect for any Overview stakeholders!
For your Input stakeholders—you can use the form view to generate a form where they input information—a request, feedback, or anything else—without any further visibility into the rest of your workflow.
→ Go ahead and identify the different stakeholders involved at each step making sure to note whether you expect them to Collaborate, Input or Overview.
You’ve taken the three key steps to begin mapping your team’s process to Airtable:
✓ Defined the steps of your workflow
✓ Clarified the information needed at each step
✓ Identified your stakeholders and their respective roles
With this clarity, you’re at a point where you can start building your single source of truth in Airtable. Check out the next chapter in this Workflow design guide on creating your base from scratch where you’ll put all of this in action!