The History of Workflows

The workflow we use today was inspired by the flowchart process, a visual aid to implementing process, or step-by-step instructions. It was a timely process creating a flowchart on paper, making adjustments, editing, then introduce the process to the staff.

Quite a few steps were made before implementing the chart to employees, after initial introduction came the task of managing and overseeing the staff to ensure it's being used and operations are being performed within the company's schedule. This would cause supervisors more stress that would often trickle down especially if the chart was incomplete or inefficient. The probability of missing deadlines would increase. It was typical for the flowchart to have multiple revisions, especially if its creator didn't have experience in the process itself, not consulting those you are writing the flowchart for is a novice mistake.

task analysis Despite possible problems, if utilized and authored appropriately, flowcharts can be used to cut human error, improve proficiency and boost production. Flowcharts are still used today in training manuals, FAQ, trouble shooting, and in workflow management. Today's workflow process has evolved quite a bit from its advent.

Before the option of organizational tools, there were time consuming inner-department meetings either to get its staff up to speed or on task followed up by inter-department meetings to collaborate schedules, budgets, tasks and project development. Face to face meetings are still necessary today and in some circumstances quicker, however, we've come a long way in cutting back the frequency of meetings now that collaboration on smaller tasks can be allocated via software programs.

This essential tool has increased production and department efficiency. Today there are all kinds of workflow software and online tools, though it takes a good program to keep today's businesses efficient. Every department should have its own workflow program, or better yet, one that connects with and uses collaboration with other departments. Initializing the program will take some investment of time, but only at the start. After which, one will wonder how they ever got along without it. An excellent and useful tool within the program is communication, or chat features. It may seem, at first thought, that using another program for correspondence would be redundant and a time waster, but every devision manager has to sift through high volumes of mail on their company's mail server. Using communication via an online workflow program will ensure their correspondence is related to essential company business.

The Human Resource department will benefit greatly using a solid workflow program. With the globalization of commerce and business and an ever growing diverse workforce, having the tools to keep documentation easy, efficient and centralized assures HR departments will stay punctual and current. Human Resource laws and policies are changing and shifting to meet the demands of a diverse global market and its workforce.

The ability to revise vital documentation and form requests, via an online program, will make implementing new policies almost effortless. Quick and timely communication between the HR department and its company's departments is utmost when confirming legal documentation is up to date and complete. These online tools will better help the HR to manage its risks. A highly functional and organized HR department will save its company from possible legal fines, due to missed deadlines. Complete and through documentation will also save on fines and legal litigation, something no HR manager wants to be responsible for creating.

The topic of workflows come up often in business practices, especially in the area of manufacturing, but they are certainly not held strictly to this. A workflow, simply put, is a systematic way of organizing resources in a way that will lead to an efficient method of processing information, providing services, and trasnforming materials into a product. It can be clearly envisioned as a series of operations, whether depicting a person, team, or mechanisms. Clearly put, it is a way of visualizing real work by describing it either in text or pictoral representation.

Workflows have a history that can be followed back to a group of men in England. A study was performed concerning the value of an intentional, logically organized work process, specifically as concerns the area of manufacturing. Those processes that concerned the gentlemen performing this study were those that involved the flow of energy and mass, a study that was enhanced with the inclusion of motion and time studies.

It was from this research that the modern assembly line got its start, an outgrowth of a way of thinking about work that exhibited a level of sophistication beyond that of typical understanding. The very idea of 'flow' covered more than the idea of a sequence of operations, but included such concepts as ways of handling queues, and small compartmentalized pieces of work such as those handled by job shops. These initial processes could also be used to handle the processing of information, but it was far from efficient at this point.

With the implementation of the copier and typewriter as regular parts of information processing, the system was in need of being upgraded to handle the growing amount of work needing to be done. The most important impetuses that drove the development of this information workflow were the Apollo Program, and World War II, both of which required an incredible amount of work unlike anything the world had seen to date.

The processes developed during this time sufficed, for the most part, until the growing digitalization of information that came with the advent of computers and the internet. In 1995 these processes saw an overhaul that took into account digital processes to reduce the amount of time involved in managing information workflow. These same processes were dedicated to reducing the costs and time involved in getting printed books, journals, and other written media to warehouses and consumers. It was this era that birthed the term "electronic workflow", and was the very foundation of what we know today.

A significant period of development of workflows took place in 1980, when it was seen that there was a need for increasing not just the efficiency of processing, but the quality of the environments in which the work was performed. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs played heavily into this re-imaginging of workflow processes, insuring that the employees performing the work were able to realize their full potential in the work environment.

In addition to these considerations the quality of the products were seen to suffer as workflows started to calcify over long periods of use. It was seen that it would be necessary for workflows to continue to grow and evolve in the face of an everchanging workplace. One element that was realized during this process was that the flow of material goods differed significantly from that of the flow of information, and any related workflows would have to be modified accordingly.

Workflows are an incredibly complex subject, and there is much more that goes into the development and implementation of them. The continued study of this important concept will only serve to benefit those who are involved with managing the intricate details of process development in the workplace.

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