What is a Workflow?
Workflow is the definition, execution and automation of business processes where tasks, information or documents are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.
Organizations use workflows to coordinate tasks between people and synchronize data between systems, with the ultimate goal of improving organizational efficiency, responsiveness and profitability.
Video – What is a Workflow?
The following 3 minute video explains the concept a workflow using visual examples:
Workflows automate the flow of employee tasks and activities, reducing the time the process took to complete as well as potential errors caused by human interaction.Workflows makes processes more efficient, compliant, agile, and visible by ensuring that every process step is explicitly defined, monitored over time, and optimized for maximum productivity. Given optimal, up-to-the-minute process data, managers and employees can take quicker action and make smarter decisions.Workflows empower business users and IT to work together to rapidly modify systems and processes to reflect changes in the business.
There are three different types of Workflows:
Sequential Workflow (Typically Flow Chart based, progresses from one stage to next and does not step back)
State Machine Workflow (Progress from ‘State’ to ‘State’, these workflows are more complex and return to a previous point if required)
Rules-driven Workflow (Implemented based on a sequential workflow. The rules dictate the progress of the workflow)
Workflow Software – Best Practices
To be successful, organizations are required to adapt and customize their IT environment to meet various customer demands. These demands often arise from the need to improve collaboration, communication and coordination. Addressing these issues usually always involves process analysis and change. IT departments are thus challenged to provide solutions that enable the business users to retain control of their business logic. Meeting the combination of these challenges cost-effectively ultimately requires BPM functionality.
Workflow software provides organizations with strategic technology capable of creating and executing cross-enterprise business processes. Workflows can be deployed, monitored and continuously optimize cross-enterprise functionality within a mixed environment of people, content and systems.
During the years, workflow technology has evolved from just workflow automation, which has been focused on automating human centric processes, through Enterprise Application Integration, which is focused on the exchange of information between heterogeneous systems, through Business Process Modelling and Analysis, which is focused on gaining a detailed understanding of business processes and the potential impact of changes to those processes, through Business Activity Monitoring, which is focused on analyzing the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes and activities, to BPM that supports the complete process improvement cycle, from definition to implementation, monitoring and analysis, and through ongoing optimization.
The following examples demonstrate workflows in various industries:
- HR: Workflows which govern HR-related procedures such as Starter, Leaver, Annual Review.
- Banking: A workflow for a new client account, an approval cycle for an investment decision, an approval cycle for a mortgage or loan request.
- Manufacturing: Quality Assurance workflows such as non-conformities, complains, preventive maintenance.
- Customer Service: A workflow which assigns tasks to agents who handle customer requests.
- Defence/Emergency: A workflow which manages a situation in a situation room.
- Travel: A workflow which manages a client vacation, hotel reservation, flight reservation, etc. for a travel agency.
The Benefits of Workflow Software
Workflow software provides organizations with the technology functionality, enabling them to innovate and create new working environments that not only define the business process and tasks, but execute and run them through common day-today applications like Outlook and Word.
Improves productivity – Automated workflows reduce the time spent on manual tasks.
Visibility – Workflows enable managers to see what is happening with business critical processes at every point along the process, and at any moment in time.
Faster business reaction to change – Workflow software enables organizations to react quickly and smoothly to market changes through process modifications.
Improves Accountability – Monitoring time to execute business functions creates productivity measurement and continual process improvement
Workflow Software History
The workflow software solutions introduced in the 90’s were based on workflow engines and business rules. Their main objective was to replace the paper-based task-routing activities with automated electronic form processes. By the late 1990s, the workflow software market integrated advanced functionality, including business rules engines, policy management, modelling tools, process monitoring, and optimization.
In 2005, Microsoft deployed the Windows Workflow Foundation which replaced the basic workflow engines with sophisticated workflow functionality.
Today workflow software needs to comply with the full BPM discipline of modelling, execution, simulation, optimisation and monitoring functionality.
BPM and Workflow
BPM (Business Process Management) is an integrated collection of critical software technologies that enables the control and management of business processes. BPM software is a model-driven workflow environment that makes the model executable, while keeping the model as the central focus for future process changes. The graphical model is actually metadata that is translated by software into the executed process dynamically
As a software infrastructure platform, it enables business and IT professionals to work more collaboratively on all process design, development, execution and enhancement activities and to close the execution gap between IT and the business.
BPM supports the complete process improvement cycle, from definition to implementation, monitoring and analysis, and through ongoing optimization.
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Workflow Management Software
PNMsoft Sequence is an Intelligent BPM and Workflow management software. To request a demo of Sequence, complete the form below.