Whatever business you’re in, workflows are required to get tasks done. Data must move from one person or system to another to be processed.
Some workflows are extremely short and fluid, like collecting details from team leaders to add to the quarterly report. Others are very strict and predictable like approving a purchase order.
Case management workflows are unique because they follow a structure, but they are also extremely malleable. They follow a particular path, but the actual steps along the way can be very dynamic and changing.
How structured a case management workflow is depends on what kind of new data emerges, how well decisions can be handled by a machine, and how much control you want the user to have over what happens next.
Structured processes are predictable and repetitive and don’t involve much decision-making from knowledge workers. This kind of workflow is typical in processes that can be organized or diagrammed neatly on a flow chart like most approval workflows.
Unstructured workflows are harder to model and predict. They don’t follow a routine path and depend on multiple data sources. They also require insights from knowledge workers and collaboration between teams. Bug fixes, support tickets, and incident management can all be highly unpredictable and require greater flexibility.
Most workflows in organizations are more unstructured and never happen the exact same way twice.
A process workflow is often utilized for routine linear processes where steps in the workflow are predictable and executed in a specific order. Even before an event is initiated, you already know the path of the workflow from beginning to end. These workflows can be easily automated to handle routines swiftly and efficiently.
One example of a process workflow is an expense claim which takes just a few steps:
The event starts with the submission of an expense claim form, then it either gets approved or denied by management. Finally, the finance department settles the bill. This specific workflow is followed for all expense claims.
A case management workflow is a method of processing a case or an issue that requires a resolution. It breaks down the tasks needed to resolve a case and maps out their execution from beginning to end.
In this unstructured workflow, the path is unclear. The path is revealed as the data is gathered and processed by knowledge workers. It’s highly dependent on human intelligence and more effective for handling complex business functions. In adaptive case management, this workflow can be modified as the case progresses.
A typical case workflow used in incident management can have the following steps:
This type of case management workflow is extremely dynamic and depends on many different factors. It is reliant on the knowledge worker, the data that emerges, and other unpredictable events. It often requires collaboration at any point, and steps might need to repeat often. While process workflows rarely will move backward, case management workflows are extremely fluid.
Process and case management workflows differ in the structure of their diagrams and in the amount of human intervention involved.
A process workflow follows a sequential path that always moves forward. One step leads to the next and never goes back until the destination is reached. When one step isn’t completed, the workflow stops. Moreover, the steps in a process workflow remain the same for each business function it was designed for. This lessens the need for actions from knowledge workers and reduces processing time.
On the other hand, a case workflow follows an unpredictable path and can go backward or forwards depending on the data received. The path is revealed as data is gathered and processed by knowledge workers. As data is pulled from various systems, the knowledge workers make decisions based on pre-determined metrics or on their training and experiences. The system might suggest the next step but it’s ultimately up to the knowledge worker to decide which step to take. This makes case workflows more flexible and agile.
Process workflows are highly efficient for automating routine functions such as product delivery and document filing. However, they can’t handle issues that veer from the expected path. In these situations, using a case management workflow diagram makes the most sense.
A case workflow is more effective in dealing with business functions that require complex decision-making, crowdsourcing, and collaboration.
There’s no single type of workflow that works best for all business functions. Organizations should utilize each type to optimize all their business processes. As each process is unique, it also requires a uniquely designed workflow.
Regardless of which workflow is being used, it’s more important to focus on having a well-organized and properly managed workflow that can improve productivity and profitability. For better efficiency, automate your workflows using robust software that can handle various types of workflows on the same platform. Doing so can reduce processing time, improve efficiency, and increase productivity.
*Enterprise pricing is based on expected transaction volume and maximum number of users and is only available on an annual subscription