Workflow 101: The Art Of Automation

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Workflow refers to the operational portion of a work procedure. It has several aspects: how tasks are structured, who performs them, what their relative order is, how they are synchronized, how information flows to support the tasks and how tasks are being tracked.

In business, particularly, workflow is concerned with scheduling task executions, ensuring dependencies.

In traditional terms this means moving the paper, processing the order, issuing the invoice. It could also mean filling the order from the warehouse, assembling documents, parts, tools, and people to repair a complex system, or manufacturing the complex device.

In the last 15 years, tools that manage workflow have been developed. More than just procedural documents, workflow process is defined formally in a workflow computer system. The process is managed by a computer program that assigns the work, passes it on, and tracks its progress.

That’s why today, workflow also refers to the automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one worker to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.

Through the years, workflow software products, like other software technologies, have evolved greatly. Some workflow software have evolved to image management systems, document management systems, relational or object database systems, and electronic mail systems.

Software developers who have developed pure workflow offerings have invented terms and interfaces, while vendors who have evolved products from other technologies have often adapted terminology and interfaces.

Each approach offers a variety of strengths from which a user can choose. Adding a standard based approach allows a user to combine these strengths in one infrastructure.

Below are the benefits of workflow:

Workflow brings improved efficiency. Automation of many business processes results in the elimination of many unnecessary steps.

Workflow brings better process control. It improves management of business processes.

Workflow brings improved customer service which leads to greater predictability in levels of response to customers

Workflow brings flexibility.

Workflow brings business process improvement which leads to their streamlining and simplification

With a workflow management system, work doesn’t get misplaced or stalled, expediters are rarely required to recover from errors or mismanagement of the work.

With workflow, the managers can focus on staff and business issues, such as individual performance, optimal procedures, and special cases, rather than the routine assignment of tasks. The army of clerks is no longer required to deliver and track the work.

With workflow, the procedures are formally documented and followed exactly. It ensures that the work is performed in the way planned by management, meeting all business and regulatory requirements.

With workflow, the best person (or machine) is assigned to do each case, and the most important cases are assigned first.

With workflow there are usually two or more tasks performed concurrently which is far more practical than in a traditional, manual workflow.

Workflow ensures that the best person for the work is doing the job. This does not only mean that the business is conducted more effectively, but also costs are lowered and the service to the customers is generally better.

With workflow, work is equitably distributed and the workers are confident that they are always working on the right thing, users are happier. Therefore workflow is good for the company, good for the customers, and good for the users.

James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about workflow.


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