Workflow consists of a series of associated steps, a representation of a sequence of procedures, formally acknowledged as the work undertaken by an individual, or a group of people, incorporating one or more, from simple to complex tasks. Workflow is sometimes perceived as a concept of real work. For control purposes, workflow may be seen as real work under a chosen characteristic, as a result serves as a virtual depiction of actual work. The description of the workflow may possibly refer to a document or product that is being conveyed through the system from one step to the next logical step in the process.

A workflow is merely a model that represent real work allows for further assessment, for example, describing a consistently repeatable series of processes or operations. More conceptually, a workflow can be view as a predictive pattern of activity or activities facilitating a systematic organisation of resources, defined roles, information flows, and volume and energy expenditure, into working practices that can be formally documented and learned. Workflows are primarily intended to accomplish a processing intent of some kind, for instance, information processing, service provision and / or physical transformation.

Closely Related Concepts

The concept of workflow is closely associated to a number of other fields of operations research and related fields that study the nature of work, either quantitatively or qualitatively, for example in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), (particularly, the sub-discipline of AI planning) and ethnography. The expression workflow is more frequently used in certain industries, for instance, printing, and other professional fields, where it may well have a particular specialised meaning.

1. Processes: A process is a more specific concept than workflow, and can be applied to a physical or a biological process, for example. In the context of perceptions regarding work, a process may well be differentiated from a workflow by the simple fact that it has distinct inputs, outputs and purposes, whereas the concept of workflow could apply more commonly to any systematic pattern of activity (e.g. all processes going on in a machine shop).

2. Planning and scheduling: A plan is a description of the logically required, partially-ordered record of activities necessary to achieve a specific goal given particular starting conditions. A plan, when augmented with a schedule and resource allocation calculations, completely defines a particular instance of systematic processing in pursuit of a goal. A workflow may be viewed as an (often optimal or near-optimal) realization of the mechanisms necessary to implement the same plan repetitively.

3. Flow control: is a concept applied to workflow that diverts from static control concepts which are applied to stock, that basically manages the buffers of material or orders, to a more dynamic notion of control, that manage both the flow speed and flow volumes in motion and in process. Such orientation to dynamic aspects is the basic foundation to prepare for more advanced job shop controls, as just-in-time or just-in-sequence.

4. In transit visibility is a monitoring concept that applies to transported material as well as to work in process or work in progress, i.e., workflows.

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FREE - Business Process Management and Workflow Guide

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