In times of complex business processes, an intensive team collaboration across different departments and locations and the need to constantly adapt workflows to changing market requirements and customer wishes, the topic Workflow Management is becoming increasingly important. Keeping processes as simple as possible, standardizing them, recognizing potential for optimization and automation of work steps often determines about success or failure of a company.
Definition of Workflows
The term "workflow" describes a work process that consists of several individual and often repeatable activities, which in their entirety constitute a business process. The various activities are interrelated both temporally and logically and pursue the achievement of a predefined goal. The individual steps do not necessarily have to be performed one after the other but can also be processed in parallel. Workflows always contain one or more start and end events that initiate or complete the workflow. They are often based on a division of labor, so that the individual activities are performed by different people or (project management) teams.
Definition of Workflow Management
Workflow Management deals with the targeted coordination and automation of workflows. Due to the high division of labor and complexity of workflows, it has become an important management task for companies in recent years. According to generally accepted definitions, Workflow Management comprises the modeling, simulation, control, logging and analysis of workflows. For this purpose, the decision-makers of a company define certain rules on how individual processes should be carried out, determine responsibilities and assign tasks based on the division of labor. In addition, Workflow Management defines which event starts a process and when a process is considered completed.
Goals of Workflow Management
The processing of invoices or the approval of vacation requests are common workflow processes. The goal of Workflow Management is to coordinate the usually large number of processors and teams that work - spatially distributed - on the different tasks and to control the course of the process. This should be planned as efficiently as possible to ensure a smooth workflow and to avoid errors during execution. While a workflow has a specific result as its goal (e.g., the processing of an invoice), Workflow Management should lead to better results concerning specific goals (e.g., the achievement of a specific throughput speed through automation).
Closely related to Workflow Management is Business Process Management (BPM). BPM deals with the continuous analysis and optimization of enterprise-wide processes and is therefore located at the technical and conceptual management level. To a certain extent, the results of process management form the basis for the tasks of Workflow Management, which represents the operational level and consequently has a somewhat smaller focus: Here, the individual steps of the company's end-to-end processes are analyzed and optimized in detail, rather than being integrated into a larger context. Workflow Management can therefore be regarded as a part of BPM. Both BPM and Workflow Management are an important strategic component for the digital transformation of companies.
An important component of a Workflow Management System is the modeling of the business processes. Here, the planned process is defined by the sequence of work steps, linked with rules and assigned to a responsible and authorized person, role or team. In addition, the documents and IT systems relevant for the execution of the work steps are defined. When modeled correctly, the process flow can be automated in step two.
Another component is the execution of the modeled processes by a so-called workflow engine. According to pre-established rules and sequences, individual tasks, documents and information are passed on from one process participant to the next. The workflow engine monitors compliance with the individual process steps and triggers new work steps after their completion.
Finally, a Workflow Software also integrates a KPI-based monitoring component, often presented in a dashboard. It can be used to create comprehensive analyses and comparisons of the individual processes of the respective workflows and to identify potential for improvement and automation. These then serve as the basis for optimizing the original process model, which (after adaptation) directly provides the new, improved workflow to the team members.
A Workflow Management System aims to improve process quality, which can be seen, among other things, in a higher productivity, which leads to shorter throughput times, reduced costs and increased transparency. Although a Workflow System does not necessarily require the use of a software, an IT-supported Workflow Automation helps to centrally control the coordination of (complex) work tasks, thus standardizing individual processes and automating recurring work steps. Particularly where many team members work together, a Workflow Management Tool ensures the correct adherence to corporate processes and increases the productivity of those process flows.
All in all, a Workflow Management Platform contributes to a user-friendly understanding of how daily tasks are organized in the company, where individual workflows need improvement and where steps can be automated. This is exactly what makes Workflow Management a comprehensive management discipline: Because process optimization is not just about configuring a Workflow Management Software and modeling process flows. Rather, the focus is on how you can make daily work easier for your employees and promote collaboration within the team. For this reason, Workflow Management and Workflow Automation should not be set up as an onetime project but should be understood as a constant, company-wide management task.
Workflow Management Systems are considered as universal software solutions that can theoretically support any simple or complex workflow. In general, such a Workflow Software has the following functions:
- Graphical process modeling for the definition of end-to-end workflows. The mapping of business processes can be done in different modeling languages, such as the widely used standard BPMN 2.0.
- Automation of business processes directly from business modeling.
- Reduction of manual activities by integrating software robots.
- Effective task management and project management through system-controlled processes.
- Direct change notifications when adjusting the workflow as well as assigning new tasks.
- Extensive collaboration capabilities with other process participants and project managers.
- Fully integrated document management system including data import and export.
- Individually configurable access permissions with role-based process views.
- Holistic process control through real-time process monitoring for continuous improvement.
- Seamless integration of the Workflow Management Software into the system landscape as well as the possibility to integrate third-party systems (e.g. ERP systems).
This comprehensive catalogue of services emphasizes that a Workflow Management System is not a trivial Workflow Solution, but a technologically sophisticated tool. The concrete design of the individual functions, the interface, and the automation possibilities vary depending on the Workflow Management Solution and the provider. When comparing the different Workflow Tools, you should therefore make sure that the functionalities optimally cover your use case, including your requirements.
BIC Process Execution provides you with the technology you need for your workflow and project management. From domain-oriented process models, directly executable business processes are generated in a unique way - without any programming! Thanks to the powerful zero code technology and digital checklists, process participants can view and execute their activities directly in the Workflow Solution. By using RPA, you can also automate time-consuming, manual activities. In this way, you can avoid unnecessary extra work, reduce throughput times and costs, and optimize your overall productivity. Even while on the road, thanks to the mobile-ready, cloud-based application, you have access to the tool's full range of functions and enjoy maximum flexibility and security. The result: A business-critical management software that adapts to your needs, not the other way around. You do not want to waste time and get to know BIC Process Execution directly? Then make an appointment now for a personal presentation of our Workflow Tool.