It’s not news that every industry has a set of unique acronyms for describing processes, requirements, features, etc. As long as people participating in a conversation sprinkled with these acronyms are from that industry, it’s a good bet everyone understands. Except for the newbie of course.
However, there are plenty of acronyms, words or descriptions that can be a bit too general, which leads to mis-understanding and likely, wasted time. For instance, when doing a Google search for “workflow systems”, the results come back with 452,000 hits to search through. Just so we are on the same page, let’s try to narrow the definition of workflow a little to save us all a lot of time and money.
Let’s start by looking at what business problem is being solved with the workflow. When the problem is a data entry problem, then forms are a great solution. The ability to create an online form that has fields for user-based data entry is a very efficient method. It’s also very effective because logic and data validation can be used to ensure that the data is clean, ie. the SSN is the correct number of characters. So – Forms Workflow to collect data only and route that data to the right people for decisions and processing.
Another business problem is that some processes involve multiple forms of input, such as some data and some documents. Not all business processes can be initiated by keying in data only. Some data will be a contract or a spreadsheet or a schematic. The workflow could be started by a user uploading the supporting documentation for a journal entry for instance. We term this type of process as Package Workflow (11,400 results). It is a package of documents and data that need to be routed for approval.
Then there is Document Workflow (455,000 results) specifically for creating the document in the first place. Document Workflow is all about gathering the right terms and conditions, building a draft and routing that information to internal and external parties for comment and eventually approval and execution (possibly via digital signature – another workflow type – 15,800 results).
Tightening up the definition of workflow will save time in many ways. Better definitions will cut down research time. Better alignment of solutions to need should improve implementation time. Of course, the ultimate goal should be improved efficiency for users, which will be the product of everyone being on the same page.