What Is a Workflow?


Workflows are defined as “the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion” by the Oxford Dictionary. This is a very complex definition for a very simple concept; a workflow is essentially the process that you follow from the start to the finish of a task. 

In this article, we will explain what a workflow is, the basic elements of a workflow, as well as some use cases.

The Origin of the Workflow

Frederick Taylor (1856-1915), a mechanical engineer, is responsible for the origin of the workflow, as a component of his Taylorism Theory. He decided to try to improve processes by reducing wasted time and finding the most efficient and effective ways to complete tasks. Thus, he came up with the concept of workflows. 

Frederick Taylor, inventor of the workflow

His ideas, along with those of Henry Gantt, are still used today in engineering, as well as in many industries to improve project management. Workflows help teams plan and keep track of their projects, making it easier to reach deadlines and stay on top of the work. 

The idea of workflows is also used in operations research, which uses different methods like statistics and artificial intelligence to solve big problems in the real world.

The Basic Components of a Workflow

The number of tasks in a workflow depends on what is necessary for that particular task, however, any basic workflow comprises three components.

  1. The Trigger: This is the action that starts the workflow. It can be a decision, a predetermined time, a request, or any other event that prompts the start of the workflow. 
  2. The Tasks: After the trigger goes off, then the work can begin. This component covers each necessary task or action that needs to be completed in order to accomplish the objective.
  3. The Results: The results are what is produced upon the completion of the workflow. This marks the end of the process as well as the project.

The tasks will take up the vast majority of the workflow’s composition, but it is equally important to know exactly when your workflow begins, and where it ends.

Components of a workflow

Workflow Use Cases

Workflows can be used in a variety of ways; to complete tasks, to manage projects, or to follow processes. Here are a few more specific use cases of workflows in a professional setting:

Workflows for Project Management

Workflows are commonly used in project management to help teams plan, to track progress, and to communicate with one other. For example, a team might use workflows to define the tasks required to complete a project, assign responsibilities, and track progress.

Workflows for Content Creation

Workflows can be used to manage the creation of content such as articles, videos, and social media posts. For example, content creation workflows may include steps for brainstorming and research, writing, editing, and publishing.

Workflows for Customer Service

Workflows can be used in customer service to manage support tickets, for example, to ensure that customers receive timely and effective assistance. For example, customer service workflows can include steps for ticket intake, routing, resolution, and for follow-up.

Workflows for Finance

Workflows can be used in finance to manage the approval and processing of invoices, expense reports, and any other financial documents. For example, a finance workflow might include steps for document submission, review, approval, and payment.

The Advantages of Workflow Automation

Workflow automation is the use of tools and software to automate repetitive processes, in order to save time and resources to use on more valuable tasks.

Workflow automation has a great number of benefits for professionals. These include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased efficiency
  • More time to focus on more important tasks
  • Reduced stress
  • Less room for human error
  • Reduced labor costs 

There are a number of useful workflow automation tools available for any niche. For example, invoicing can be automated with tools such as Xero, time tracking can be automated with apps such as Harvest, and content distribution can be automated with Buffer

Xero for accounting automation


A workflow is a process that outlines the steps needed to complete a task from beginning to end. It was originally created by Frederick Taylor to improve processes and is still used today in many industries to manage many projects, tasks, and processes. 

The basic components of a workflow include the trigger, tasks, and results. Workflows are used in many types of processes, including but not limited to project management, content creation, customer service, and finance. 

Additionally, workflow automation tools can help professionals save time and resources, increase productivity and efficiency, reduce human error, and reduce labor costs.

Feedback / Suggestions

What Is a Workflow?

Let us know below if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for this lesson. We will do our best to improve the material.