Workflow is a sequence of tasks, activities, and procedures that is required for the input and output of a Business process. A workflow model is often used as a visual representation of a systematic organizational method to define roles for a sequence of connected steps needed to be accomplish from the initial input of the process to the finished output. There are techniques to illustrate the workflow of a process; which consists of three primary components.
  1. Input - Information, resources, and materials need to accomplish this task.
  2. Transformation - Automation of the business process which documents the information so that finished tasks are passed from one participant to another for further processing.
  3. Out - Information, resources, and materials produced as a result of real work during the process.
Although there are three primary components to the workflow model, there can be many steps and tasks required for a more complex project or organizational structure. Organizations often use a computer system that defines and manages a series of tasks to produce a final outcome, whether it be a good or service, called a workflow management system. An example of a workflow management system can be found in the manufacturing industry. "A designer will send a design document to a technical director who will sent the document to a production engineer to manufacture the goods. Each step of the process requires the person or group that was designated for the task to finish their part before the workflow software can notify the next individual assigned to the following task."(Example taken from Wikipedia) However, there are special projects where the steps overlap are connected but not necessarily in a straight forward sequence where Task B cannot start unless Task A is completed. There can be simultaneous tasks that start at the same time but the time required is different therefore one task is finished and can move on the the next step but another is yet to be completed before it can move on to the next step. In these circumstances a Gnatt Chart is a great visual tool to illustrate the complexity of multiple workflows in the same project.

Workflow Improvment

There are a few workflow improvement management strategies that focuses on reducing the errors, whether it be human or mechanical, and preserving quality that are implemented in the modern day workplace.
  1. Six Sigma
  2. Total Quality Management
  3. Business Process Re-engineering
Six Sigma improves the quality of the outputs by targeting the process flow in order to identify and eliminate the causes of the defects and minimize the variability in manufacturing and the overall business process. Projects that use the Six Sigma approach follow a designated sequence of procedures that have quantifiable targets. For example, a quantifiable target can be related to financial needs or goals such as cost reduction or an increase in profit. There are other targets that are customer-oriented such as safety of the product or the cycle time of the production process, or the delivery of the product. Total Quality Management (TQM) aims to reduce error in the business process and increase customer satisfaction by making sure that the equipment used is up-to-date as and the workers are highly trained. TQM is often related to further development of organizational systems as well as its implementation and maintenance for various processes. A key difference between Six Sigma and TQM is the approach of the concept. Six Sigma improves quality by reducing the number of defects whereas TQM ensures conformance of internal requirements. Business Process Re-engineering is a process of review and analyze the design of the workflow within an organization in order to ensure that the process is effective and efficient. There are four steps in Business Process Re-engineering: Identify the process, Analyze the process, Re-design the process to ensure efficiency, and test/implement the new process design.