What is it?

In simple terms workflow is the way in which some work proceeds from the start to the end of a process. It's the way in which the work flows. The workflow management coalition define it as "the automation of a business process during which documents, information or tasks are passed automatically from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules". It can provide the basis for automated rules based processing, where work is routed in particular directions for specified activities to be performed according to a set of pre defined rules.

How can it be used?

Workflow is arguably one of the most powerful software tools that can be applied as part of any process automation solution. It can be viewed as the glue that holds the process together. Workflow can be seen as providing the answer to the questions of what activity is performed, when it is performed and who performs it. The starting point for the application of workflow should be the definition, identification and documentation of a business process e.g. the processing of a loan application or an insurance claim. It would then be wise to consider any redesign options for the business process before the application of workflow software. (Applying workflow to an already ineffective process will be an expensive and time consuming way of exacerbating any problems that already exist). Part of this process redesign can pave the way for the application of workflow. For example, considerations will need to include task or activity inputs and outputs.

Questions that will need to be asked and answered will include:

Once the process design has been finalised then it will be possible to consider the suitability of workflow software that will satisfy the business requirements. Unfortunately, as yet, there are no common workflow standards, so this task may take longer than anticipated.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Workflow can provide an organisation with undoubted benefits that include :

However a poorly planned and ill advised application of workflow can cause numerous problems for an organisation. These include :

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