The driver behind workflow has been around for a long time. It is only recently that the technologies on which most workflow systems are based have enabled vendors to create quality workflow management systems. So what was the original driver for workflow. One word Kaizen.
Kaizen is the Japanese term for improvement; continuing improvement involving everyone: managers and workers. In manufacturing, kaizen relates to finding and eliminating waste in machinery, labour, or production methods. Also see: Continuous Process Improvement (definition taken from schools.cbe.ab.ca/logistics/k.html)
Workflow Management Systems are not about taking an As-Is process and creating something better. They are about taking a process and providing it with a framework so that is the process is easier to improve over time.
Kaizen originated at Toyota and I have read and heard several comments with how the concept of continuous improvement is what has lead them to become the worlds largest automaker. Well I am no expert in Kaizen but I do believe that that organizations that seek to continuously improve stand a much better chance survival.
For more information on Toyota and Kaizen you can check out the flash heavy website at http://www.planetkaizen.com