Workflows from Software to the Office

Nov 21, 2023 | Ryan J. Riker

I am a very wordy person, and I very rarely say things short and to the point.  So when I do, it’s for a reason, to limit wiggle room or to cut off excuses or to solidify a plan.  So when I say the next 4 words,  “All offices are workflow,”  it’s meant to be meaningful and direct.  The phrase “All factories are workflow” applies to offices as well.  It doesn’t matter if you are crunching numbers, words, contracts, or software; there is raw input and refined output.  If not, the work engine of your office rapidly degrades to chaos. 

In the software development world, a workflow engine is a specialized system or component within software applications that automates and manages the execution of predefined sequences of tasks, actions, or processes in a systematic and efficient manner. It enables organizations to streamline complex business processes, enforce standardized procedures, and facilitate collaboration among teams by orchestrating and monitoring the flow of data and tasks, ultimately improving efficiency, reducing errors, and enhancing productivity across various industries and applications.

There are certain tips and tricks that work to help keep a software workflow engine in good running shape. Can those same tips and tricks be applied to the business or office workflow engine?

My top 4 tips to keep a workflow engine running:

  1. Scalability Planning
  2. Clear Objectives
  3. User Training and Support
  4. Interchangeable Parts


Scalability Planning

Continuously assess and plan for scalability. As your organization grows, the workflow engine should be able to handle increased loads and accommodate additional workflows and users without compromising performance.

It is important to have a plan in place to scale the office as the business grows. Just like a digital workflow, it’s important to make sure the machinery in place is large enough to meet growing demands. One of the best ways to do this in both cases is to automate steps in the process that don’t need human interaction. Continuous improvement also works for both digital workflows and workforce operations. Encourage employees to provide feedback, identify bottlenecks, and suggest improvements. Then, implementing changes by carefully reviewing these insights can enhance efficiency. And increasing efficiency is vital to growth.


Successful Workflows Require Clear Objectives

In a real-world and digital setting, you need to ensure that the workflow engine aligns with your business goals and objectives. Defining clear objectives helps everyone understand what the workflow is meant to achieve.

Clear objectives provide a well-defined direction for digital and business workflows. They ensure that every action, task, and decision is aligned with the overarching goals of the project or organization. This alignment fosters a sense of purpose and clarity among team members and helps teams prioritize their efforts. When objectives are well-defined, it becomes easier to identify which tasks and activities are most critical to achieving those objectives. This focus reduces time and resources wasted on less important activities. A team without a goal is more or less like a fleet of ships without rudders. Everyone goes every which way and nothing much gets done.


User Training and Support

Provide ongoing training and support to users and administrators. Ensure that they are well-equipped to use and manage the digital or business workflow engine effectively, and offer a clear channel for addressing questions and resolving issues promptly. While the role of User might be easier to see on the software side, it’s vital to get your staff and employees trained on the existing business workflow.  Your own staff are the most common and important users of your business workflow.

Training ensures that team members follow standardized procedures and best practices. This consistency leads to more predictable outcomes and reduces errors or deviations from established workflows.  When team members are proficient in using the workflows and associated tools, they can perform tasks more efficiently. This results in increased productivity and quicker turnaround times for tasks and projects.  Properly trained team members are less likely to make mistakes in executing digital and business workflows. This reduces the need for rework and revisions, which can be time-consuming and costly.


Interchangeable Parts

Allow for components or elements to be easily replaced or swapped, which can benefit both digital and business workflows in various ways on top of the native benefits of flexibility and scalability.  While being the users of the business workflow, your staff members are also its components.  Making sure that you hire and train generalists can greatly enhance the stability of your business workflow.  Just like how you can greatly increase the stability of a digital workflow by having each step in the process inherit from a common class.  

When components within either type of workflow can be quickly replaced, it reduces system downtime. This means less disruption to operations, increased availability, and improved customer satisfaction. In digital workflows, faulty components can be swapped out without the need for extensive troubleshooting or system downtime. Similarly, in business workflows, if a team member is unavailable or faces an issue, someone with similar skills or expertise can step in, ensuring that work continues smoothly.

Interchangeable parts enable rapid adaptation to changing circumstances. In digital workflows, you can adjust configurations or functionalities by replacing components to meet evolving needs. In business workflows, you can quickly redeploy team members to different roles or tasks based on changing priorities.


It Is No Surprise Workflows Extend Seamlessly Into The Office

Incorporating the concept of object-oriented coding into both digital and business workflows illustrates the natural alignment between technology and real-world processes. In the world of coding, the goal has always been to model real-world objects and systems efficiently, and it’s no surprise that this philosophy extends seamlessly into how we manage our business workflows.

Just as modular, interchangeable parts are the building blocks of digital workflows, our teams and processes are the components that make up our business workflows. The parallels are evident: clear objectives guide our actions, efficient resource allocation drives productivity, and adaptability is key to staying competitive. Whether it’s in lines of code or lines of business operations, the principles of efficiency, flexibility, and optimization remain universal.

In the end, the fusion of these principles empowers us to create systems and workflows that not only mimic the real world but also elevate our capabilities and enhance our efficiency. As we continue to innovate and leverage technology to our advantage, it’s clear that the boundaries between the digital and business realms are increasingly blurred, and the lessons from one can seamlessly translate to the other. So, as we forge ahead, let’s remember that the synergy between digital and business workflows is not just a coincidence; it’s a testament to our ability to harness technology to mirror, and even enhance, the complexities of the world around us.