The automatic routing of documents to the users responsible for working on them. Workflow is concerned with providing the information required to support each step of the business cycle. The documents may be physically moved over the network or maintained in a single database with the appropriate users given access to the data at the required times. Triggers can be implemented in the system to alert managers when operations are overdue.|
Workflow Keeps Documents Moving
The manual flow of documents in an organization is prone to errors. Documents can get lost or be constantly shuffled to the bottom of the in-basket. Automating workflow sets timers that ensure that documents move along at a prescribed pace and that the appropriate person processes them in the correct order.
Integrating workflow into existing software applications may require extensive reprogramming, because although independent workflow software can launch a whole application, a workflow system must be able to invoke individual routines within the application. As a result, vendors of application software have teamed up with workflow vendors to provide the appropriate interfaces and/or they have developed their own workflow capability. Workflow standards developed by the Workflow Management Coalition (www.wfmc.org) provide interoperability between workflow software and applications as well as between different workflow systems (see Wf-XML).
Workflow Vs. Workgroup
Workflow software is not the same as workgroup software, otherwise known as groupware. Workflow deals with the step-by-step processes, whereas workgroup systems are concerned with information sharing and threaded discussions among users.
For an excellent book on the subject of workflow written by the guru in this field, read "The Workflow Imperative" by Thomas M. Koulopoulos, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold, ISBN 0-442-01975-0.
Groupware, or workgroup computing, focuses on the information being processed and enabling users to share information. Workflow, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of the process, which acts as a container for the information. Workflow combines rules, which govern the tasks performed, and coordinates the transfer of the information required to support these tasks. This is "process-centered" rather than "information-centered." (Illustration courtesy of Delphi Consulting Group, Inc.)