10 Benefits of Workflow

Toy car

There are multiple reasons to consider using workflow in an organisation, as it can automate and improve processes in all areas of a business.  The most notable example of workflow being the assembly line (as previously presented), helped to shape the standard of workflow, not only for car manufacturing but for all industries.

The Toyota car company adopted Ford’s assembly line in the 1950s to develop their own lean production system. Over the following years, the benefits of their system resulted in:

  • Productivity increases between 300% to 400%.
  • Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.
  • Defect rates reduced from over 2000 to less than 50 parts per million, and in many to less than 10 parts per million.
  • Cost of quality cut by over 60%.
  • Work-in-process inventory cut by more than 80%.

So here are 10 good reasons for how workflow can benefit any business:

  1. Workflow can help by identifying and removing the unnecessary steps/processes.
  2. Modifying the order of the steps can make the process more efficient. For example, some steps could run simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
  3. Tasks can be assigned to the people with appropriate skills to perform the task, rather than allocating to anyone who needs work to do. This is a compromise in quality!
  4. Management can concentrate on strategic business oriented activities, rather than the day to day operational tasks, such as task allocation and monitoring progress. This means the organisation can grow as a business.
  5. Workflow has provisions to answer all possible questions that arise when deciding on or actioning a task. This helps an individual’s work confidence level, which in turn reflects in the quality of the outcome.
    It answers question like: What actually needs to be done?, Who am I doing this task for?, How long should I take to perform this task?, Who else is involved in the process?, What will happen after I action this?
  6. Workflow follows a sequential order. It ensures that all steps have been completed correctly (especially areas typically prone to human error) and checkpoints met before moving forward.
  7. Paperwork and paper chasing is eliminated thus reduces wastage and saves time. Automatic routing with no paper handling and fast travel time will significantly cut time. The constant movement of the workflow means once a person has finished their part, they can immediately pass it on, so it doesn’t sit around where it can get forgotten or lost.
  8. It improves visibility. Tracking can allow a staff member to instantly check the status of the item. It allows the key people to see the critical processes at every point, identifying problems, and bottlenecks, and monitor end to end performance throughout.
  9. Decisions that were determined by people can be made by the workflow, based on businesses rules that can be made to represent human decisions.
  10. Since the workflow is linked to a database, it keeps a record of what occurs in the system. An audit trail shows who, what, when and what actions were performed.

In summary, workflow provides major benefits for any organisation. The ten identified are just some of the many benefits of workflow. It makes an organisation become more efficient by helping to save time, remove wastage, cut out unnessecary work, better use of human resources, which overall saves money and will help an organisation to grow and improve.


Nice to meet you…


It’s been a while between posts here at workflow.wordpress.com, and Craig, who started this blog, has invited some people from Web and Flo to post here.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing some new posts to bring you up-to-date news about the kind of things we’re working on and researching here at Web and Flo.

Feel free to let us know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like to discuss with us!

The Size of the BPM Market

So what is the size of the BPM market and how fast will it be increasing?  Well the answers vary a little bit so I will try and average it out a little bit.

In 2007 Gartner said the size was $1.0B and would grow to $2.6B in 2011

In 2007 Forrester said the size was $1.6B in 2006 and would grow to $6.3B by 2011

In 2007 IDC predicted a market size of $5.5B in 2011 at a 5 year growth rate of 44% therefore they had the 2007 market size pegged at $1.28B

In 2007 Datamonitor said the market size was $1.4B a predicted a 14.5% growth rate.

In the below table I have extrapolated the yearly market size based on the end points and a constant growth rate.

Analyst 2008 2009 2010 2011 Growth %
IDC 1.84 2.65 3.82 5.50 44.0
Forrester 2.70 3.61 4.77 6.30 32.0
Gartner 1.26 1.61 2.05 2.60 27.0
Datamonitor 1.60 1.83 2.10 2.40 14.5
AVERAGE 1.86 2.42 3.20 4.20 29.5


So as you can see the current size of the market is not that different but the expectations on growth are fairly significant.  Also please keep in mind that these estimates were done pre financial crisis.  It will be interesting to see in which way the crisis effect the BPM industry.  I know the company I work for has actually experienced a sharp spike in customer enquiries since the down turn.

A workflow by any other name

In an interesting article http://kswenson.wordpress.com/2006/05/06/workflow-is-back/ K Swenson write about the changing of the word workflow into BPM over time and how the term workflow has gone out of favour.  In fact if you look at Google trends the searches for the words workflow has gone down a few percent over the last few years.  (Although the news items containing workflow seem to have doubled).  Is this the end for workflow as a technology?  As a name?  Well neither.

Workflow as a Technology

 I read via Gartner that workflow is still expected to increase in the 5-10% range over the next few years.  Although referred to workflow systems as Business Process Management Suites by Gartner.  Also an increasing number of companies have recognized that they need to invest in workflow systems. 

Workflow as a Name 

People are starting to use many other terms in place of workflow: such as Business Process Management, Enterprise Application Integration, Service Orchestration Architecture.  That is the way of people that work with computers.  We love a good acronym.  The marketing people also love a good acronym.  It can make their products sound better.  Instead of a workflow systems why not have a Business Process Management Application Integration Service Oriented Uber-Mega Platform.  Well there is one group that is less swayed by all the fancy talk.  The people who buy workflow systems.  Most after initial investigation realize that all these other systems are workflow but just using another name and from my experience they just want it to be called workflow. 

How to Model a Process Part Two

First off sorry that it has taken me a little bit longer then expected to come up with part two.  Let's begin shall we.


At each step in the process or workflow you need to determine what information is collected, displayed, allowed to be modified, validation rules, business rules the list is a bit long.

Let's start at the smallest unit at least in our system, the question.

You need to determine a lot about a question and its corresponding answer.  At a minimum you need to determine:

  1. What it should look like
  2. Where it should appear on the page
  3. Is this question repeated
  4. How should it be stored in a database
  5. Where should it be stored in a database
  6. How does it behave / business rules
  7. Does it react to answers supplied to other questions
  8. Does is have default or automatically calculated values
  9. Does it have a list of static or dynamic options available as answers
  10. Who gets to see, edit the answer

Once you have determined all the questions being asked you need to group them together so they can be stored in the database in a logical way. 

Here you need to determine if the groups of questions you are asking are answered only once, an indeterminate amount, a determinate amount.  This contributes to how you should layout the group of questions on the form. 

You may also need to determine if logically one group of questions can be considered as having a parent-child relationship with another group of questions.


In other steps of the process you may need some sort of data manipulation to happen.  I.e. data is translated from one system to another and back again.  The main things you need to be asking yourself are:

  1. For each column (or field) what is it, how is it stored, does it need to be parsed in some way and where is it going.
  2. For each row (or record) does it need to be broken into multiple records in the new system or do multiple rows or records need to be combined in some way into the new system.


In these types of gates where information is displayed or sent to users the questions you need answered are simply:

  1. What do you want to see
  2. How do you want it presented (layout, color etc)
  3. Who do you want to see it
  4. When do you want them to see it
  5. By which method (email, webpage) do you want it presented