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Business process management 101: What’s a workflow?


One employee in your organization just finished a task. Another employee just met a goal. Do you know how they did it?

Every time you or your employees accomplish anything at work, you’re using a workflow.

These workflows can get pretty complicated. There’s information coming in from multiple sources; many complex steps; areas that require training or memorization; and, often, asynchronous data input and flow.

Some workflows can’t be completed right away, and progress over days, months, or years.

Pretty complex, huh? If we tried to diagram everything that we do every day like this, we’d probably all go mad. The good news is that your employees can help you understand the steps in their own workflows.

A closer look at a common workflow

Understanding how these workflows function is essential to business process management and improving employee productivity.

Here’s a simple workflow that we’re all familiar with: going to a doctor’s appointment.


This particular workflow really illustrates just how many people or roles can touch even a straightforward process. Not only is the patient involved, but so are medical specialists, lab technicians, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors –- all just to meet the simple goal of getting a patient from the beginning to end of an appointment.

The essential elements of a workflow

Workflows are business processes with:

  • Tasks
  • Sequences
  • Decision chains
  • Escalation paths
  • Rules, routes, and roles
  • Milestones

All of these add up to a process that some work item follows or some person follows to get from the beginning to the end of a task.

And of course, each person involved has his or her own workflows that touch or overlap this one.

Workflows flow like water

Think of the tasks in any given workflow like water. The more smoothly and evenly the steps in a workflow progress, the faster drops of water get to their destination.

But what happens if there are lots of meandering bends in a river? Suddenly that water isn’t moving so fast.

That means avoiding bottlenecks is crucial to process optimization and improving employee productivity.

It’s easy to see how even small inefficiencies can add up, but how to fix them? Download the free Soprano whitepaper How to optimise workflows with mobile messaging: A guide for healthcare organisations and we’ll show you how to analyse your workflows and add secure mobile messaging to improve efficiency.


About Matt Thompson

Matt joined Soprano in 2013 to create and lead Soprano’s global product management and marketing efforts across all regions, including Asia, Australia, Europe, LATAM and the US. He helps shape and execute Soprano’s product strategy both globally and with individual regions and MNO partners. He oversees Soprano’s carrier revenue acceleration model, which includes direct involvement in new product launch activities, carrier-branded industry websites, B2B digital marketing campaigns, and ongoing product marketing. He lives and works in Seattle, Washington.