What is Workflow Software – Complete Guide [3+ Real-Life Examples]

Workflows are a sequence of tasks your business carries out on a regular basis. This can be, for example, onboarding a new client or approving a document.

Workflow software, on the other hand, is a system that helps automate the process completely or partially.

For anyone new to process automation, all this can be a bit confusing. In this guide, we’re going to deep-dive into the nits and grits of workflow software, explaining how it works and how your business benefits from adopting it.

What’s Workflow Software?

Workflow software is a tool that automates the flow of work in a process. Before we explain what exactly that means, here’s an introduction to workflows and processes…

Process Expert Tip
A workflow is a series of tasks needed to be carried out in a certain order by different employees in order to complete a business process. Some of the most widely-used workflows include onboarding, document approvals, and emergency response.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk automation (which, as we’ve mentioned, is one of the main uses for the software). To give you a better idea of what that means, we’ll cover a simple example.

Let’s say you have a process: new employee onboarding. The process would look as follows…

Step 1
HR prepares all the necessary paperwork and sends it to the new hire
Step 2
IT creates all the necessary accounts for the employee and gives access
Step 3
HR sends a welcome package
Step 4
Department manager appoints the supervisor for the employee
Step 5
Supervisor creates a list of expectations and responsibilities for the new hire
Step 6
Supervisor schedules check-in meetings with the new hire to make sure they’re adjusting well to the company

For the process to be completed efficiently, all the staff involved should communicate tasks, task dependencies (“I can’t do task B until you finish task A”), and responsibilities clearly.

Let’s say, for example, the HR forgets to notify IT that they need to create accounts for the employee. This might lead to the new hire just sitting there at the office for hours with nothing to do. On one hand, you’re losing out on the value that the new hire could be creating instead of just sitting around. On the other hand, you’re making a bad first impression of the company.

Workflow software makes sure such issues don’t happen by automating task communication.

Once employee #1 is done with their task, the system automatically assigns the next task to the employee next in line and sends them a notification (through email and push notification). This keeps on working right until the completion of the whole process.

Sounds simple and useful, right?

Well, that’s not all. Other than automation, workflow software comes with several other benefits…

Process Enforcement

Are your employees doing their work the right way? Do they get the work done before the deadlines 100% of the time, or is it hit or miss? Workflow software notifies your employees whenever they’re behind schedule on their work, making sure that everything is on track.

Additionally, the software also lets the management know whenever a process is going slower than usual. This way, you can always have a contingency plan in case of missed deadlines, bottlenecks, etc.

Process Improvement

Every organization wants to make their processes as efficient as possible. You spend countless hours figuring out how to make the process better, and finally, you find your fix. Implementing the improvement, though, can sometimes be hard.

One of the main challenges you’ll face is actually getting everyone to follow-through with the changes. Your employees are used to the old process – they’re not going to just change their habits straight away.

You can’t afford to be standing over their shoulder to make sure they do everything right, either. That would just be a waste of time.

With workflow software, all you have to do is make the adjustment to the process through the platform. Then, it automatically sends a notification to the employees, letting them know of the changes. And of course, it also starts enforcing the new process, rather than the old, leaving no room for mistakes.

How to Pick the Right Workflow Software

Want to adopt workflow software, but not sure which software to pick?

Finding the right solution for your business can be pretty tough, considering the number of options on the market.

Before you start looking for the right tool, though, you need to decide between Business Process Management Software and Workflow Software. And yes, there IS a difference between the two systems (even though they look just about the same).

Here’s a quick comparison table to give you a better idea on which software type works for you…

Workflow Management VS Business Process Management 

Workflow Management Software 

Business Process Management Software 

Setup TimeInstant registrationUp to 6 Months
FeaturesProcess modeling + other basic process management featuresEnterprise-wide process management
PricingAvg. 10 USD / Month / User6-figure installation fee + yearly subscription
User ExperienceNo-code. Minimal onboarding requiredSpecial training + IT help for configurations
IntegrationAPI integration with 3rd party SaaS softwareLimited depending on the solution. Requires addon installation

Unless you’re a corporation looking for a tailored solution, chances are, you want to go for workflow software. Most BPM software can be extremely expensive, take up to a year to implement, and requires hand-coded integrations.

True, BPM suites offer more functionality than workflow software. Most organizations, however, only need the most basic features (automation, enforcement, etc.).

If you’re thinking of picking workflow software over BPMS, read on! We’re going to explain some of the game-changing features that the very best workflow systems have…

  If you’re looking to adopt BPM software, though, check out our comparison guide to BPM tools.

Simple Setup

The majority of older software requires you to install it on-site. For most organizations, this is neither affordable nor practical.

The implementation can take up to 6 months, and the whole package can end up costing you around 6-figures – and all this effort for software you may or may not end up sticking with.

Some software providers, however, offer a cloud-based solution. Meaning, you can start using the software without any installation. All you have to do is register.

Such companies, in most cases, also charge significantly less since they don’t have to pay highly-skilled engineers to install the software.

No-Code Process Builder

To get the most out of workflow management software, all of your employees should be able to use it with ease.

Most importantly, department supervisors should be able to create processes without the help of the technical staff. While most workflow software is easy to use for the average employee (they just follow-through with their tasks, they’re not the ones having to create the processes), it’s borderline impossible for supervisors.

With some software providers, the supervisors can’t create new processes on their own – they need help from specialized back-end engineers. The engineers have to code each new process from scratch, which makes the software significantly more burdensome for management and technical staff.

Some of the best workflow management solutions, however, come with a no-code process builder. With workflow tools like Tallyfy, just about every employee can create processes without any prior training.

Drag & Drop Form Builder

Forms are a must-have for any workflow management software. Most processes involve input or transfer of data in one way or another – and the best way to do that is through forms.

Let’s say, for example, you’re using a workflow system to manage your employee onboarding.

The process is as follows…

  1.       The hired employee fills in a form with personal information after being hired
  2.       The data received from the form kickstarts the workflow
  3.       The data from the form is automatically transferred to the company’s HRM software
  4.       The data is also inserted into every onboarding process step that requires any specific information

Without forms, you’d have to transfer all the data manually. So, the workflow system should come with the capability to create forms on the fly, as well as form templates that can be reused (and save you a bunch of time).

This should also be no-code – you don’t want your employees to have to contact (expensive) engineers every time they need help with a new form, and then wait for days to actually use it.

Integration Capabilities

To really get the most out of workflow software, you need to have it integrate with all of your other systems.

This allows for a lot more automation capability since some of your process steps will involve working with other types of software.

So for example, let’s say you have a workflow for client acquisition and onboarding. The process could be as follows…

  1.       Potential client inputs information in a lead capture on your website, kicking off the workflow
  2.       The data is imported to your CRM and MailChimp (if they also opted in for updates)
  3.       You use the CRM tool to reach out to your customer and the workflow tool to keep track of the sales process

Without integration, you might have to do step #2 manually. Doing this once or twice isn’t too time-consuming, but having to do this on an ongoing basis can eat up a lot of your time.

All workflow software comes with REST API, which allows your developers to create the integrations manually to extend system functionality. This option is usually time-consuming and expensive (as is anything that involves software development).

The best tools, however, work out-of-the-box with integration services such as Zapier.

Zapier allows you to connect the workflow software with over 1,000 different applications, making integration a piece of cake.

  Want to learn more about Zapier? Check out their guide to getting started.

How to Use Workflow Software – 3 Real-Life Examples

Already sold on workflow software, but not sure where to start?

These are some of the processes that just about every organization has to go through. Just log into your favorite workflow tool and copy / paste the process.

Employee Onboarding

Most organizations tend to neglect employee onboarding, regarding it as more of an after-thought.

As it turns out, however, onboarding might be the deciding factor on whether the new hire sticks around or not. A well-structured process can increase employee retention by up to 50%.

Considering that the cost of replacing an employee can range from 3,000 to 6-figures, this can help your organization cut a lot of expenses and save a lot of time.

To make the onboarding process as efficient as it can be, you can use workflow management software to enforce it.

Not sure what a well-structured employee onboarding process looks like? Well, here’s an example…

Step 1
Prepare paperwork (W-4, I-9, etc.)
Step 2
Prepare relevant supplies (furniture, computer, etc.)
Step 3
Give access to company tools and accounts
Step 4
Create a welcome package (freebies and swag)
Step 5
Notify supervisor and co-workers about the new hire
Step 6
Assign an integration buddy
Step 7
Assign a supervisor
Step 8
Lunch with teammates
Step 9
Set goals and expectations for the month
Step 11
Schedule check-in meetings
  Want to have an outstanding employee onboarding strategy? You can learn how to create one with our guide.

Client Onboarding

Whenever you’re starting work with a new client, you want to leave a lasting impression.

The more professional and structured your onboarding process, the more impressed they’ll be.

To make sure everything goes as smooth as possible, you can use workflow software to automate the process…

Step 1
Collect client information through a registration form
Step 2
Approval: is the project relevant for the agency? If approved, move to step #3
Step 3
Send service options document
Step 4
Create an agenda for the first meeting, come up with questions
Step 5
Conduct kickoff meeting
Step 6
Create and send the project charter
  Want to learn more about the importance of client onboarding? Check out our article!

Content Marketing

Content marketing has been getting more and more popular with businesses worldwide. In fact, over 53% of all businesses are using content marketing to improve their online presence.

The whole thing, though, can be a bit hectic. Trust us, we know – We’ve been creating a lot of content at Tallyfy for the past year.

The process involves the cooperation between 4-5 different parties, including the writer, editor, designer, marketer, and sometimes developer.

To really get the most out of content marketing, you can create a workflow to coordinate the publishing and outreach process.

Not sure how to do that? Steal our own process!

Step 1
Writer submits article idea / outline
Step 2
If the editor approves, the writer starts working on the piece
Step 3
Marketer creates a list of influencers to reach out to (and get some traction for the article
Step 4
Editor proofreads the article and makes changes
Step 5
Designer creates any graphic material that’s needed for the article
Step 6
Editor optimizes the article for Google and publishes it on WordPress
Step 7
Marketing team carries out the outreach using the list we’ve mentioned in step #3
  To learn more about content marketing workflows, check out our guide!

Getting started with Workflow Software

Want to get started with workflow management software? Give Tallyfy a try. It only takes a 5-minute registration to get started, and the software is free for up to 5 users.

  Looking for information on other solutions on the market? Check out our comparison article on 5 of the best workflow management systems out there.

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