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Workflow is the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task. Each step in a workflow has a specific step before it and a specific step after it, with the exception of the first step. In a linear workflow, the first step is usually initiated by an outside event. If the workflow has a loop structure, however, the first step is initiated by the completion of the last step.
Flowcharts and process maps are useful tools for visualizing the number and order of steps in a workflow. Flowcharts use simple geometric symbols and arrows to define if/then relationships. Process maps look somewhat similar, but they may also include support information, documenting the resources that each step in a business process requires.
The general understanding of workflow management or business process management is the automation of business processes. This includes orchestration of all parts of the business process, the management of all user interactions and administrative tasks.
An important characteristic of many business processes is their interactive aspect involving human resources making decisions, entering data etc. Workflow management systems take care of this by providing contracts for user interactions and supporting the management of resource work lists.
The goal of Workflow Management is the automation of processes executed manually in a business is surely the most prominent and the most basic goal of using Workflow Management. While the automation of business processes is seldom realizable out of the box. It often requires a formalization of processes never performed before in a problem domain.
Workflow can be automated with software tools that use business rules to decide when one step has been completed successfully and the next step can begin. Some Workflow Management Software (WMS) programs can also coordinate dependent relationships between individual steps, a concept known as workflow orchestration. Workflow documentation and business process modeling are important aspects of Business Process Management (BPM).