Workflow tools are information management systems used by knowledge workers, collaborative teams, and organizations to build, support, and optimize their workflow.
These software tools allow users to design their workflow easily using an interface that includes shortcut commands, low-code, and drag-and-drop editors. Workflow tools are designed to be intuitive, so users spend less time learning about the system and can quickly implement their workflow to build products, provide services, and process information.
Workflow tools enable teams or companies to document processes so they can perform recurring tasks faster. A workflow can be simple, such as a few linear sequences of steps, or it can be complex, where multiple branches of work proceed simultaneously depending on the current state of work items. These tools support users by showing where a particular work item is, such as a task or document, within the workflow. The work process becomes more transparent as the status or stage of a work item becomes more visible.
Workflows are part of business process management (BPM) tools, which take a higher-level look at business goals and how workflows fit together. Project management software with collaboration features can also be used as workflow tools because they show the status, progress, and other details of tasks and work items.
When a workflow is managed using workflow tools, users can get measurements on certain points of the workflow or at the end of it. Measured data can be compared and contrasted with estimates or historical data to determine if a workflow is optimized for things like time and quality. Most tools come with reporting features that provide instant, granular, and frequently, visual information through graphs and charts. Many vendors are incorporating analytical tools to provide more accurate reporting and forecasting.
Another innovation trend is the ability to automate parts of the workflow. More systems now allow users to automate repetitive steps or tasks, set up scheduled notifications or reminders, and send regular reports. Communication is also an integral component of a smooth workflow, and workflow tools now come with built-in messaging systems. Features like analytics, process automation, and messaging tools help users introduce improvements to their workflow, reduce redundancies, and enhance collaboration.
Most workflow tools are able to integrate with other applications and services. This is an important functionality because workflows often involve other applications like sales or marketing tools and they can be dependent on an input, trigger, or signal that comes outside the boundary of a team, department, or organization. The capability of workflow tools to connect with other systems can result in fewer resources used, streamlined processes, and higher-quality results.