In the days of the factory assembly line, often one worker was responsible for a specific task and the product being manufactured passed along a conveyor belt to the next worker, who was responsible for a different task, and so on until the completed product arrived at quality control for a final inspection. In one way, the assembly line was the start of the concept of workflow: in the business world of today, workflow software is designed to promote the collaboration and cooperation of individuals in any business process.
Since 1996, the concept of workflow as used in a business context has explained the process of automating some or all parts of the business process that involves tasks or information being passed from one person to another in order to achieve the desired outcome. Scientific workflows emerged as a way of managing and sharing complex analyses, applications and experiments, and rapidly advancing technology now enables what is known as ‘in silico’ experimentation across a number of domains, so that research is carried out using computer simulations and paradigms that replicate conditions in the real world.
Using in silico experimentation produces data that is high quality and improves the precision of information, so that data-intensive analyses benefit from multiple data sets. More sophisticated models produce simulations that are highly accurate and faster, resulting in increased work productivity.
A number of common problems are solved if workflow software is used to bring together information and people with a variety of roles and business processes. The setbacks that can be avoided include duplication of efforts by staff, missed deadlines for achieving specific tasks, human error(including lost documents), unnecessary expenditure because of poor budgeting and lack of the correct information to make essential business decisions. The software is designed to maximize the expertise and knowledge of the workforce by building it in to the automated process and ensuring that every member of staff has access to the information and practical skills required to do their job effectively.
As a result, any issues that arise can be resolved rapidly because there is greater visibility, transparency and improved business intelligence. Workflow software ensures that no tasks are left uncompleted and that redundant tasks are automated, saving time and money. It encompasses several stages in a progressive operation in which a number of different users or departments may be involved, and where the aim is to get to the end of the business process as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Once workflow software has been adopted, a visual ‘road map’ of how staff and information interact can be created so everyone in a firm understands their role in relation to everyone else: departmental and personal interdependency becomes clear. For example, processes such as raising a purchase order are automated – no more paperwork and no document to lose or lie around for an extended period on someone else’s desk. Instead, workflow software allows the progress of the purchase order to be tracked from when it is initiated to when another party receives it, and then when it is acted upon. If for any reason there is a delay in acting on or completing a specific task within the allotted period, an automatic notification is sent as a prompt. Everyone who is involved in the chain can check the progress of a document at every stage, so managers and executives can see how efficiently the system is functioning.IDatix.com provides a simple document management solution that facilitates such processes by allowing initial capture, storage, security, accessibility and integration of all documents.
Investment and finance
Increasingly, workflow products are being used in the financial sector in a variety of ways, including for the management of investment portfolios, accounting and performance reporting. This is because the software can integrate different sources of information to make them work together and this means being able to view different datasets at the same time, enabling important financial and investment decisions. Mobile access to the software system is also a vital benefit – should things change rapidly it is possible to respond instantly, rather than have to wait to access a specific computer or to be in the workplace.
Problem solving software
One of the great benefits of workflow software is the fact that executives and managers get to look close up at how a business is functioning, helping them to identify opportunities for improvement and potential blockages. Alerts can be generated if there are existing or upcoming changes that may affect business and resources can be reallocated or processes realigned in a way that is simple and user-friendly.