Taking things step by step: An introduction to workflow.

Workflow is often described in many different ways. This is largely due to the wide range of topics associated with workflow and as a result it can be difficult to define.

In this blog article we ask the questions; What do other people define as workflow? How can we recognise workflow? What are the practical examples of workflow? What is workflow to you? 


A definition: What is workflow?

Workflow has been defined by the BusinessDictionary as Progression of steps (tasks, events, interactions) that comprise a work process, involve two or more persons, and create or add value to the organization's activities. In a sequential workflow, each step is dependent on occurrence of the previous step; in a parallel workflow, two or more steps can occur concurrently.

Or by Investopedia as: A series of tasks to produce a desired outcome, usually involving multiple participants and several stages in an organization. Workflow describes the sequential steps that comprise a work process in the business environment. In its most comprehensive form, workflow includes the procedures, people and tools involved in each step of a business process. Workflow may either be sequential, with each step contingent upon completion of the previous one, or parallel, with multiple steps occurring simultaneously.

So we have a basic understanding of what workflow is, in other people’s opinions. Primarily, it is the sequence in which a task is completed, including the involvement and criteria for set requirements.

Recognising workflow: What does it look like?

Workflow can take many forms and you will be familiar with it in some respects, though you may not recognise it straight away.

People will largely interpret it as flowcharts and diagrams, but this is only one aspect of it.

For instance, when requesting something via email; this will not be a formal workflow process but the initiation of a task (absence request for example), which is then sent to human resources and then management approval – this is a workflow. It is often not recognised as such as individuals will only perform one step within the process.

Away from technology, when you complete a paper form requesting to purchase office supplies, this is part of a workflow. It may then follow to your manager for approval and onto the appropriate person for approval, before a decision is made. After the decision, your request could be granted, rejected or further information may be required.

All businesses small to large, from the bottom to the top - operate using workflow, some are smaller than others and some less formal but they make up the foundations of your business.

Workflow in use: Practical examples

Purchase Orders

Service Requests

Holiday Requests

Job Applications

Incident Management

Risk Management

Request for Quotation

Equipment Maintenance

Technical Support

Customer Enquiries

Job Application Management

Incident Management


Customer Complaints



What does workflow mean to you?

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