Your Comprehensive Workflow Guide
What is a Workflow?
A workflow process is a predictable and repeatable set of tasks that take place between two or more people. Workflows are used across every kind of business and industry. Any time data is handed back and forth between humans and/or systems, a workflow is created. At its most basic form, a workflow is a sequence of approvals and inputs where each task is dependent on the previous one being completed.
A workflow is one of two main parts of a process; the other is the form used to capture and reference the data that’s meant to be processed. The form is the What of a process and the workflow is the How.
A workflow process is utilized by those in the business community who want to reduce roadblocks for their operational processes. Workflow management is a part of the larger discipline called business process management (BPM).
What are Some Workflow Examples?
Here are a few workflows common to most organizations:Purchase Order
Requester ---> Manager Approval ---> Finance ProcessingEmployee Appraisal Review
Employee Input ---> Manager Input ---> HR Input ---> Payroll ChangesBlog Post
Topic Selection ---> Writer ---> Editor ---> Publish ---> Promote
What is an Automated Workflow?
Automated Workflow Transfers
There are two parts of a workflow that can be automated. The first is how the information moves from task to task. Historically, movement of data always happened manually. A manual data transfer might mean printing out a paper and handing it to the next person in the workflow. It also includes mailing documents, or even sending them via email. Anytime someone has to remember whom to send the data to next and push it to them, it is a manual transfer.
If data is transferred automatically, once someone is finished with a task they just mark it as done, and the system takes care of informing the next person in line that the item is ready.
Automated Workflow Tasks
In addition to the transfer of data, certain tasks can be automated. For example, if at the end of a New Hire Request an offer is made, the manager or HR officer must write the email or letter and send it to the candidate. If you automate this step, as soon as the previous task is finished, a system would put together the email and send it to the candidate.
What are the Advantages of an Automated Workflow?
A workflow that passes data manually moves slowly, is prone to errors, is very difficult to measure, and doesn’t have a neat audit trail.
Workflows consisting of mostly manual tasks generally get bottlenecked, and are also slow to complete.
An automated workflow process means:
- Faster processing
- Fewer errors
- Better tracking
- Detailed reports
- Reduced costs
Automated workflows also delegate many trivial jobs to machines so humans can be more involved in strategy and innovative projects.
Processes automated in cloud workflow tools are getting even better. Cloud workflows are blazing fast, globally accessible, and more secure than ever before.
What Types of Automated Workflow Tools Are There?
If you are looking at workflow tools, you may be amazed at how many different types there are or how a workflow process can look different in different systems.
There are three main types of workflow tools.
Human-Centric Workflow Tools
In this kind of workflow process, the focus is on humans who complete tasks. Workflows that use a human-centric tool often have a lot of approvals or tasks that need some kind of human involvement. This workflow process might also have some automated tasks, but it is primarily used when humans are involved.
System-Centric Workflow Tools
The focus of this workflow process is how different systems communicate and perform tasks. For example, a marketing workflow might involve taking large amounts of data, running them through one program for analysis, cross-checking them against another system for accuracy, and then initiating deals in a Sales system. Since system-centric workflow process involve high interoperability between multiple systems, they are also known as integration-centric BPM, or IC-BPM.
Document-centric Workflow Tools
A third kind of workflow process is all about the end result being a completed document. This is popular amongst law firms, financial institutions, contract management companies, healthcare agencies, procurement business, engineering firms, etc.
Some documents need a specialized workflow software to optimize the processes. The tool is so designed that steps in a document-centric workflow can’t advance to the next step unless the data/activity from the previous step is formalized in a standardized document.
Rather than a human compiling all the data at the end of a workflow, formatting the document, printing it out, and getting signatures, a document-centric workflow tool will automatically do all these tasks and collect electronic signatures.
Top Features Every Workflow Tool Should Have
When it comes to offering features, not all workflow tools are made equal. Here’s an overview of the 10 most important features that your workflow system should have.
- User-friendly Process Designer
- Simplified Form Builder
- Deployment On Cloud
- Built-in Reporting
- SLA Status Indicators
- Real-time Notifications
- Flexibility in Creating Processes
- Role-based Access Control
- Integration Capabilities
- Easy Pricing
Instead of only programmers, everyone in your organization should be able to create their own workflows.
A good workflow tool includes plenty of fields to choose from, a drag-and-drop designer, and a clean layout.
A cloud workflow tool costs less, has no maintenance, is more agile, and is more secure than on-premise options.
The best workflow tools come with reports you can customize to track any item, user, or task with a click.
SLAs keep your processes on track and a workflow tool should let you configure deadlines and urgency.
Customizable automated notifications will keep participants on the same page and alert them of new tasks.
Some workflows can be complicated and require formulas, conditional steps, and parallel branches.
For confidentiality and security, you should be able to make data fields editable, read-only, or invisible.
A workflow tool should have easy connections to common platforms and open APIs for custom integrations.
Choose an option that you can pay on a monthly amount to get lower prices and a consistent spend.
Change The Way You Manage Your Workflows
Take a free 7-day trial with KiSSFLOW
KiSSFLOW Makes Business Workflows One-Click Away with Google Quick Action Buttons for Email
One of Only B2B Products to Feature Google’s New Quick Action Functionality Launched in partnership...
Creating a travel reimbursement approval workflow for Google Apps
In an earlier post, we discussed the challenges of not having a proper approval workflow...
Workflows for Google Apps on the go; OrangeScape launches KiSSFLOW mobile app
The KiSSFLOW mobile web app enables mobile workforce to work on their workflow tasks anytime,...
Create A Purchase Requisition Workflow For Google Apps
Purchase requests are where it all begins. It is the first step in an organization...
Dynamic user assignment based on mapping in master data
KiSSFLOW supports direct user or group assignment, organizational hierarchy and dynamic assignment using email fields in the...
Se7en minor updates that will make a big difference
Over the past few months, we’ve been making lots of improvements to KiSSFLOW. We’ve rolled...
Create a Vacation Request Approval Workflow for Google Apps
Managing vacation requests looks simple from afar, but supervisors and HR teams responsible for managing...
‘Workflows come true’ this Christmas, Santa Factory gets automated workflows
Buddy elf, Santa’s top assistant, was busy checking the letters & emails for Santa, on...
Consumerization of IT: Workflow is just the beginning!
This blog is loosely based on my talk – How to build products on cloud...
KiSSFLOW crosses 1000 signups Emerges as Top New App on Google Apps Marketplace for creating Workflows
1000 companies across 86 countries sign-up for KiSSFLOW to automate creating workflows, becomes most installed...
Interview with Poornachander Gourishetty, Winner – War of Workflows, talks about healthcare workflows
Last month we announced the winners of the War of Workflow contest. It was a...
KiSSFLOW Enhanced – Workflow with Google Docs integration
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – September 25, 2012 – KiSSFLOW is the first workflow creation app...
Workflow with Google Drive integration and Organizational hierarchy support
Over the last one month, we have been working on bringing new features such as...
KiSSFLOW’s War of Workflows winners 2012
War of Workflows contest drew competition from Google Apps users across the world. Poornachander Gourishetty...
Why did we build a workflow product that works only with Google Apps?
Last month, I gave a talk on why we made certain product decisions in KiSSFLOW...
Task management hype – missing the woods for the trees
When the co-founders of Facebook (Asana) & stackoverflow (Trello) are building task management software, you...
KiSSFLOW goes global with 300 Google Apps customers from 64 countries signingup in 1 week and creating workflows!
We had a terrific launch at Google IO and it was not without result! Within...
From concept to launch of the ideal workflow app and beyond
After months and months of hard work put into planning, design, development, and testing, we...
Workflow majority: We are the 99%
We are the 99% is perhaps the most powerful slogan of this decade, popularized by...