What is a Workflow: Guide with Examples, Types and Use Cases

This guide explains the meaning of workflow with the help of examples. You’ll also learn about the types of workflows and use cases.

What Is a Workflow?

What does workflow mean? A workflow is a series of steps designed to analyze, manage, and complete tasks or processes. It is an organized sequence of activities that are necessary to achieve a desired result. A workflow can be as simple as a set of instructions for making a sandwich or as complex as the steps involved in manufacturing a car.

Workflows are everywhere, and most of us follow them on a daily basis without even realizing it. While some workflows are informal and only exist in our heads, others are more formalized and written down. Workflows are found in books (like recipe books), manuals (like an IKEA furniture assembly manual), and software (like Salesforce).

Why Is a Workflow Important?

Having a workflow is important for several reasons. First, it can help improve efficiency and productivity by automating repetitive tasks, which can free up time for employees to focus on more important tasks.

In addition, a workflow can improve communication and collaboration by establishing clear guidelines for how tasks should be completed. Finally, a workflow can help reduce errors and increase accuracy by ensuring that tasks are completed correctly and with the correct information.

Types of Workflow

Workflow systems are classified according to the types of work that they manage:

Process Workflow: A process workflow is a series of steps to be followed to complete a task. Each step in the process is assigned to a specific individual or group, and the task cannot be considered complete until all steps have been completed. Processes can be simple, like getting a document approved, or complex, like manufacturing a product.

Case Workflow: A case workflow is similar to a process workflow, but instead of a series of steps, it is made up of a series of tasks that need to be completed for the case to be considered closed. Cases can be anything from customer service requests to insurance claims.

Project Workflow: A project workflow comprises a series of tasks that need to be completed for the project to be considered complete. Projects can be anything from launching a new product to renovating an office space.

Stages of a Workflow

There are four stages in a typical workflow: initiation, definition, implementation, and closure.

Workflow initiation is the first stage and involves understanding the business problem or opportunity that the workflow will address. This may require input from multiple stakeholders to ensure that the workflow will meet all relevant needs. 

In the definition stage, the workflow team creates a high-level map of the steps that need to be completed in order to achieve the desired outcome. This map becomes the basis for more detailed planning in the next stage, implementation. 

After definition comes implementation, which is when the actual work of completing the steps in the workflow takes place. During this stage, it is important to track progress and identify any roadblocks so that they can be addressed quickly.

The final stage is closure, which occurs when the workflow has been successfully completed and verified. At this point, any lessons learned during the process are documented to improve future workflows.

How Can I Spot Workflows Around Me?

In our daily lives, we encounter many different types of workflows. Some we are familiar with, such as the steps we take to make a purchase online or book a vacation. Others may be less obvious, such as your workplace's process to onboard new employees.

Knowing how to spot workflows can help us understand the world around us and identify opportunities to improve efficiency. Here are some tips for spotting workflows in your everyday life:

  • Pay attention to how your complete tasks. Notice the steps you take and the order in which you do them.
  • Ask questions about how things are done. When you don't understand why something is done a certain way, there's a good chance there's a more efficient workflow that could be put into place.
  • Watch others around you and see how they complete tasks. You may notice differences in how they approach things or find areas where multiple people are simultaneously working on the same task.
  • Keep an eye out for repetitive actions or tasks that could be automated. This is often a sign of room for improvement in the current workflow.

Examples of Workflows

Depending on the specific business process, there are many ways to design a workflow. However, some common workflow examples are found in most businesses.

For instance, the purchase order process is a common business workflow. This particular workflow involves several steps, such as the following:

  • Receiving a purchase order from a customer 
  • Approving the purchase order
  • Processing the order
  • Shipping the product to the customer

Paying an Electric Bill

  • Receiving the bill
  • Examining the bill
  • Approving payment
  • Making the payment

Another common workflow example is the payroll process. This workflow involves the following steps:

  • Calculating employee hours
  • Processing payroll taxes
  • Issuing employees paychecks

Are Workflows and Processes the Same Thing?

No, workflows and processes are not the same things. A workflow is a set of repeatable activities performed in a specific order to complete a task or goal, while a process is a more general term that can refer to any set of activities or steps that are followed to accomplish larger organizational goals. 

Each process ty[ically has a single workflow related to it. The same workflow can be used for multiple processes. A process may or may not be followed step-by-step, but a workflow is a step-by-step execution of activities. The nature of a process is strategic, while a workflow is tactical.

Automated Vs. Manual Workflows

When it comes to business processes, there are two main types of workflows: automated and manual. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to choose the right one for your needs.

Automated workflows are powered by software that takes care of all the steps in a process, from start to finish. This can make them much faster and more efficient than manual workflows, which rely on people to carry out each step. However, automated workflows can be inflexible and may not be able to cope with unexpected events.

Manual workflows give you more control over each step of a process, as you can assign tasks to different people and monitor their progress. This flexibility comes at the cost of speed and efficiency, as manual workflows tend to be slower than automated ones.

Benefits of Workflows

Some of the benefits of workflows include the following:

Improved Efficiency and Productivity 

Automating tasks and processes can save time and money by eliminating the need for manual input and data entry. Additionally, it can help to ensure that tasks are completed accurately and on time.

Improved Communication and Collaboration

By creating a visual representation of tasks and processes, workflows can help team members better understand their role in the overall process. Additionally, workflows can provide a platform for team members to share information and ideas.

Improved Quality Control 

A workflow can help to ensure that tasks are completed correctly and on time. This can lead to improved quality control throughout the organization.

Reduced Costs 

Automating tasks and processes can save time and money by eliminating the need for manual input and data entry. Additionally, it can help to improve communication among team members, which can lead to reduced costs associated with errors or miscommunications.

How Can I Create and Manage Automated Workflows?

Creating and managing automated workflows is simple. All you need to do is define the steps in your workflow, make sure it's connected to the right applications and services, and then test it out! If it's working as intended, then you're ready to go!

For example, let's say that you want to create a report that summarizes the sales data of all products in one location using Salesforce. You can create an automated workflow that connects this information with Salesforce so that when customers place an order through your website, they'll automatically receive their order summary in Salesforce.

This way, when your customers come back for their next order, they'll know what products they've already purchased and how much money they've saved on shipping costs by ordering online instead.

Try Zorp

Creating a workflow app is a great way to organize your team and make sure they're all on the same page when it comes to projects. Zorp helps you create tailor-made workflows without external help. Using a drag-and-drop builder, you can create your workflow app in just a few clicks without worrying about the technological side of things. This way, you can focus on the content of your work and not worry about how you organize it or what tools you use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you mean by workflow?

A workflow is a set of steps, or set of tasks, that are performed regularly and according to a specific sequence. The purpose of a workflow is to ensure that work is completed in a consistent and controlled fashion.

What is a workflow with an example?

A workflow is a series of steps that are performed in order. The steps are repeatable, and each step must happen before the next one can begin.

Example:

  • Getting a new customer
  • Adding their details to the system
  • Updating the customer's details on the system

What is workflow used for?

Workflow is a system that allows for the automated and organized execution of tasks. Workflows are often used in business to ensure a consistent workflow across departments and can be used to track tasks, share information, and improve communication.

What are the three basic components of workflow?

The three basic components of the workflow are

1. The business process

2. The technology involved in the business process

3. The people involved in the business process