The term used to define the steps taken to accomplish a certain task or project. In a business context, a workflow is a process an organization puts in place to handle tasks or projects on an ongoing basis.

A workflow for updating an account address in a system of record could be:

  1. Retrieve a digital copy of an address change request form
  2. Verify that the request meets requirements for update
  3. Enter account information (number, address or other field) and display the account record
  4. Verify that it is the correct account and that updates are allowable to it
  5. Update the database by keying in the address change
  6. Verify that the address has been updated correctly and is available to other systems
  7. Create a notification email to go to the old address to confirm the address change
  8. Create a notification email to go to the new address to confirm the address change
  9. Archive a digital copy of the address change form timestamped for auditing purposes

In companies that strive to optimize productivity and lower costs, implementing and improving workflows are valuable processes. A company looking to reduce printing costs could analyze their workflow for distributing documents, and discover that using a shared digital document is more effective than printing early versions of a document that will inevitably change throughout the project.

A company like Amazon that ships a high volume of products might determine that it is more efficient to send products by waiting until all items are grouped together and shipping them all at once. Note that Amazon also has a customer option to “ship items as they become available,” creating another workflow option for warehouse employees to follow.

Business intelligence software can improve workflow processes by displaying relevant reports and visualizations where and when they are needed. Using the address change example, step 2 of the workflow could display a graph of address change requests that fail to meet requirements for update. This could alert front line personnel to problems (perhaps a new address change form that is incomplete or confusing) so that steps can be taken to resolve it. When step 9 of the process is complete, the workflow could display metrics that gives the end user the number of address changes they have successfully processed for the day.