We’ve discussed this briefly, several months ago, but I continue to get requests for more details. Well… Here goes!!!
What is workflow? Dictionary.com defines workflow as, “the flow or amount of work to and from an office, department, or employee”. This definition lends us to believe that, in its simplest form, workflow is a method of getting a piece of work from one place to another.
Some of the more common uses for this type of work routing include processes such as document approvals, reviews, escalations, reminders, or as a single activity within a business process (Approving a loan before it gets provisioned, for example).
I tend to agree with this definition. Additionally, there are specific characteristics which describe workflows, in general. Some of these characteristics include:
- Workflows typically have a clear beginning and a clear end.
- Workflow processes are highly structured and specific to a purpose.
- Routing decisions are predictable and mostly automated.
- Automated reminders and/or escalation paths are typically based on time or status.
In some organizations, the characteristics listed above are those that are often representative of solutions that are needed, designed, and sometimes even built by departmental “Power Users”. Because of their specific, use-case-based nature, and the definitive routing of work within these smaller business units, it’s sometimes acceptable for simple workflows to be built by such “Power Users”.
However, in specific industries, such as Healthcare or Financial Services, it is not encouraged that these types of processes are built by groups other than IT. Additionally, when these processes become more complex and/or begin to leverage other systems, they require more security, better planning, and proper governance. From a governance perspective, it’s usually a Best Practice to keep the creation, management, and improvement of workflows in the capable (and accountable) hands of IT as well.
These, more complex, workflows are where the line between workflow and BPM begin to get “fuzzy”. In the next post (and several to follow, we will expand on some of the “Workflow vs. BPM” discussions we’ve seen in previous posts on this site.