What’s a Workflow Engine – All You Need to Know [3+ Uses]

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A workflow engine is a form of software that helps to manage complex business processes. Typically, it makes use of a database server to organize and track the implementation of workflows. Workflow engines are also known as orchestration engines.

What’s a Workflow Engine

A workflow is a series of repeatable tasks that lead to accomplishing some sort of business goal. The key word here is repeatable. It has to be something that your business does on a regular basis, not just a series of one-off tasks.

One of the most common examples is new employee onboarding. Whenever you make a new hire, you need to get them up to speed with the company, projects, work, and so on.

The tasks you accomplish for this are almost the same for every new hire. Document their personal information, introduce the employee to all the relevant team members, give them initial tasks, and so on.

If an employee somehow misses a critical step for the workflow, it might lead to inefficiency. If the supervisor isn’t ready for the new hire, for example, they won’t be able to give out the initial tasks for the employee. So, you’ll have the newbie just sitting at the office, not doing anything. This leads to less productivity for the company, and general disappointment for the hire (“wow, this company is inefficient!”)

To ensure that all the workflow tasks are completed right, you need software that keeps track of the whole process and makes sure everything is going according to plan.

That’s where a workflow engine comes in – it’s a piece of software that helps enforce workflows. Wondering what, exactly, does that mean? Read on!

Process Expert Tip
A workflow engine is essentially a synonym for “workflow software,” “workflow application,” or “workflow system.” If you’ve stumbled upon these different buzzwords, keep in mind that they’re the same thing.

How Does a Workflow Engine Work?

The core features of a workflow engine is task routing (also known as workflow automation). Whenever the first task in a workflow is completed, the software automatically notifies whoever’s in charge of the next task that it’s their turn.

workflow engine task notification

As a given, you can also pre-set deadlines for each type of task, which ensures that the workflow always finishes in a timely manner.

Other than that, a workflow engine has several different features…

Real-Time Process Tracking – Your supervisors get a top-down view of all workflows being worked on in any given time period. The software shows if the process is going slower than usual and if there’s a chance of missing deadlines.

tallyfy screenshot workflow tasks

Analytics – Is the process going slower than usual? Are there any regular bottlenecks that keep popping up? Analytics help you find potential improvements in any given workflow.

  Want to learn more about different workflow systems and their features? Check out our complete guide!

Why Use a Workflow Engine?

The main benefit of workflow software is that it makes your business overall more efficient. Workflows will be completed faster and better, you’ll see significantly less missed deadlines, and so on. This, as a given, has a positive impact on your bottom line.

In addition, a workflow engine can be beneficial for…

Improving Work Environment – In just about any office, you’re going to be hearing things like…

  • Who’s in charge of this task?
  • Where’s the document I asked for?
  • Wait, I was supposed to do that?
  • Oh sorry, the email got lost in the cracks!

And so on. A workflow engine makes sure everyone is accountable for their work and deadlines.

Not sure who’s in charge of what? Just check the software.

Want to know how a given workflow is going? Just check the software.

Organizational Change – It’s not news for anyone that making a change in any organization can be extremely complicated. One aspect that makes it hard is enforcing process change. You improve or transform any given process, but your employees don’t stick with it (or keep doing it wrong). Using a workflow engine, you can simply make changes to the process with the software. Your employees will be notified of the changes, and the software will make sure that they stick with the new version of the process, rather than the old.

How to Use a Workflow Engine [3 Common Workflows]

For anyone that’s new to workflow software, getting started can be very confusing. In theory, the software sounds useful, but for what, exactly, do you start using it for?

Well, here’s a handful of processes that are present in most organizations…

Employee Onboarding

Every organization does employee onboarding. Some have a very structured & optimized process for this. Others just wing it.

Onboarding, though, is very important for employee retention. A structured onboarding process can lead to up to 25% increased employee retention. Considering the fact that replacing any given employee can cost more than 20% of their annual salary, this can be a significant improvement for the company.

Here’s the employee onboarding process we use at Tallyfy…

Step 1
HR prepares employee documents
Step 2
HR prepares relevant supplies
Step 3
IT gives access to company tools & accounts
Step 4
HR creates a welcome package
Step 5
HR notifies supervisor and co-workers
Step 6
HR assigns a buddy to the employee
Step 7
Buddy introduces new hire to co-workers
Step 8
Supervisor sets goals and expectations for the new hire
Step 9
Supervisor schedules check-in meetings
  Want to learn more about employee onboarding – how to do it right, and why it’s useful for your company? Check out our article!

Document Approval

For any large organization, approvals can be a major pain. Usually, they’re done through email. Whenever an employee needs a certain document approved, they have to route it through 3-4 different managers.

So for example, if they want to request a holiday leave. First, they’d have to send an email to the supervisor & HR, both of which have to approve it. Then, it is forwarded to senior management. Once approved, the workflow is complete.

For a small organization, this isn’t all that complicated. For companies with 100+ employees, though, it ends up being extremely hectic. You’ll see emails getting lost, approvals being stuck somewhere in the backlog, etc.

To avoid all the chaos, you can use a workflow engine to streamline the process. As an added benefit, you can also check in which stage any given approval is.

Content Publishing

For companies that pump out a lot of content, the publishing process can be a big mess. It involves back-and-forth communication between writers, editors, designers, and marketers.

The process itself, though, is always the same regardless of what article you’re publishing…

Step 1
Writer creates a draft of the article
Step 2
Editor gives feedback on the content & fixes any issues
Step 3
Writer finalizes the draft
Step 4
Designer creates necessary graphics for the article
Step 5
Marketer uploads the article and optimizes it for Google
Step 6
Marketer shares the piece on any relevant social media channels

If anyone that is part of the process is late with their task (or completely forgets about it), it sends the entire workflow off track.

At Tallyfy, we use our own workflow engine to manage the content marketing process. The software ensures that all the articles are published when they’re supposed to be (and not lost software in the backlog). Want to learn how? Check out our guide to automating the content marketing workflow.

Getting Started With Workflow Software

Want to get started with workflow software? Well, the first step is, of course, to pick the provider.

We might be a bit biased, but Tallyfy is a good option. Unlike most workflow solutions, Tallyfy is free to use for up to 5 users.

  Check out our guide to workflow applications to learn how to set up an account on Tallyfy and start using it to manage your processes.

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