An interesting thing happened on the way to the cloud… Enterprise systems, big iron that was used to crunch numbers, store and retrieve data and render reports, developed a new trick. And it’s a big one. Sometimes the biggest shifts are the most subtle, and I have to say, I think this one sort of sneaked up on everyone. But now that it is here, Workflow Automation is a big deal and about to change your life.
What is Workflow Automation? More than the buzzword from a caffeine-addled 20-something’s term paper, Workflow Automation (let’s call it WA) is the next step in making Systems actually useful to the people who use them. Let’s review.
As I mentioned earlier, computer systems were first developed to handle routine but laborious computational tasks. Hence the name Computers. Then, in the late 70s storage devices began to be developed that allowed computers to get better at storing lots of data. A little later, relational databases were developed to manage, query and report on that stored data. And since then, almost all enterprise systems have been built off of finding new types of data to store and report on, sometimes combining that with computational power to do things to that data.
I contend that Workflow Automation is a whole new type of use of computing technology that can dramatically transform the lives of people who use systems to run organizations. What workflow automation is, quite simply, is ability to set up rules, events, conditions, roles, and tasks that allow the system to guide users through multi-step processes. A workflow is, of course, a series of steps required to accomplish something, for example, hiring a new employee. Workflow Automation allows you to define those steps ahead of time, indicate the order of the steps and who is responsible, and remind and prompt those people when they need to perform those steps. It