How to define Business Workflows? Part II

Data: 2016.04.21

 Author Kestutis Skrodenis 

Continued from Part I.

Workflow Template, Instance and Owner

Now we need to distinguish two concepts:

  • WORKFLOW TEMPLATE (or just Template) – the definition of the workflow steps, i.e. actions and decision points, and possible sequences of steps. In real life, a leasing and asset-finance company would have 10 to 40 different Templates.
  • WORKFLOW INSTANCE (or just Workflow) – sequence of steps, as defined in the Template, running on a particular entity (e.g. customer, lease contract, financing program).

In the Template you define who is responsible for a particular action. For example, you may say: a) retail credit to be approved by the Credit Team, b) Instalment variations can be actioned by the Collections Team.

At every point in time, a workflow must have an Owner, and the workflow instance sits in the Owner’s workbasket.

The initial Owner is the Initiator (the one who starts the workflow). As the workflow flows to the next step (possible next steps defined in the Template), the system knows who the next Owner is, so the workflow changes its Owner. The Owner can be particular person or a team, but I will analyse this aspect later, in my next blog.

Workflow Management Software

Once you have defined your business workflows, the next major task is to configure them accordingly in your software system. I want to emphasize one point here – in the world of software, understanding of the word “workflow” may vary a lot. Many systems claiming to “fully support workflows” are actually pure software-centric “if-event-then-response” style functionalities, meant for data manipulation only, and have very limited capabilities for configuring people’s tasks. This is clearly evident in the newest Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 version – it includes a standard workflow function, but you can hardly configure sequences of people’s actions. And don’t confuse “notification” with workflow. If you tried to build workflows based on system notifications, your attempt would most likely fail, because notification is not enough.

Another major point about leasing and asset-finance software is its capability to integrate the workflow engine into your ERP, CRM and other core systems. Workflows must run through all the systems and respect the constraints, business rules, and status gates configured in those systems.

In my next asset-finance blog, I’m going to cover what you can achieve with workflow automation and show how it relates to overall process improvement.