What is a workflow management system?
Before the concept of a workflow management system (WfMS for short) can be discussed, the basic concepts behind it must first be explained.
The basis: The process
A process is essentially nothing more than a set of measurable tasks or activities. A process usually contains several process steps. Using an example, a process could look as follows:
1.) E-mail newsletter is designed
2.) Auto responder is set up
3.) E-mail is sent automatically
This process contains exactly three process steps. Each subsequent process step is usually based on the previous ones.
The previous example shows that, with the exception of the third process step, everything has to be carried out by the company itself, i.e. with human labor resources. And this brings us to the second important point:
With a workflow, one tries to create predefined processes in a partially or fully automated way. The advantage is obvious. By optimally automating a process completely, fewer work resources of an employee are required. This inevitably leads to process cost optimization, mostly in the form of process cost reduction. All this by automating a process via a workflow.
But what does a WfMS do?
The system itself is the basis for creating a workflow. There are different software manufacturers that allow you to implement workflows that are individually adapted to your needs.
The following example should explain the functionality and the interaction between process, workflow and WfMS in more detail.
Imagine that the lead generation process currently used in the company for customer acquisition is in need of improvement. Specifically, one would like to optimize as many process steps as possible and, in the best case, automate them as well.
But what does a typical lead generation process look like?
1.) Traffic generation
2.) Lead opt-in via website, webshop, etc.
3.) Lead qualification
Essentially, it is these three process steps that are necessary for generating leads, including appropriate quality control. The entirety of these processes, excluding the traffic generation step, is also known as lead nurturing – although not in its entirety, since a holistic lead nurturing process also includes the determination of lead requirements and the subsequent submission of corresponding products or services.
The next step is to qualify the contact and convert the lead into a customer (=conversion). This conversion is generally known as a simple customer acquisition.
The processes are therefore clearly defined, and the goal of the process is evident. Now the task is to automate this process. This is exactly where a WfMS comes in.
Using the WfMS, it is possible, for example, for a member of the online marketing team to visualize each individual process step for lead generation. It is clearly defined that, for example, the first step of the future workflow is the generation of a lead through the opt-in form located on the website. However, instead of an online marketing employee manually qualifying the leads, another process implemented in the WfMS provides a remedy. Here, for example, predefined rules can be used to find out whether the future product is at all suitable for the new lead. For example, if you want to sell a product for a female target group and receive a new, male lead, the WfMS can classify this lead as less suitable on the basis of this information.
The advantage of a WfMS is to automate as many process steps as possible!
The initial effort to set up an adequate WfMS may seem a bit daunting for some at first. At the end of the day, however, one has to ask oneself whether automating a process via a workflow by means of a WfMS does not save much more time and resources, even if only after a certain point in time, than if one were to perform these activities manually on a daily or weekly basis. The answer to this question is clear in most cases: Yes, the resulting process cost optimization almost always pays off.