Workflow management

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Workflow management ( WflM , German  workflow management ) is the IT support or (partial) automation of business processes . WflM is a version of the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). Task of workflow management is based on a specification for the execution of work processes using IT systems to provide. Workflow management is one way of providing technological support for business process management .


Chain of conditions and actions

For any service or any vicarious be before any action ( english transitions ) first conditions (Engl. Places ) recognized and met. Therefore workflows are different power plans usually as a bipartite graph ( Petri net to the international standard 15909 ISO of ISO ) models, are concatenated sequentially in both elements.

A condition is what induces an action and initiates or accompanies it. A performance is the smallest execution unit in a workflow. This action is typically assigned an activity , executing resources ( people , machines ), resources to be used ( tools , other operating resources ) and temporal dependencies (sequences, execution times, simultaneities and concurrency, etc.).


A workflow is a work flow (alternatively a business transaction or general process) that is made up of individual activities that relate to parts of a business process or other organizational processes. The workflow describes the operational-technical view of the (business) processes to be supported . Ideally, this description is so precise that the following activity is determined by the outcome of the previous one. The individual activities are therefore interdependent. A workflow has a defined start, an organized process and a defined end. The workflow is that part of the business process that can be carried out with IT support.

Workflows are characterized by a coordinative character in contrast to cooperative systems in which more synchronous collaboration is promoted. A workflow is typically achieved by sequencing and parallelizing the work steps. Synchronous activities are strictly separated.

Workflow management

The workflow management includes all tasks that have to be fulfilled in the modeling , specification , simulation as well as in the execution and control of the workflows .

Workflow management system

A workflow management system (WfMS) is used to actively control processes involving the division of labor. A workflow management application is an implemented solution for controlling workflows on the basis of a workflow management system.

Workflow management systems support structured tasks and processes. This must be distinguished from groupware , which provides support for rather unstructured processes.


With the introduction of workflow management the following goals are generally pursued:

Criticism and problems

Simple implementations overlook the fact that the special accomplishment of human labor includes handling exceptions. If business processes are tied into a rigid framework of an overly simple workflow management, this will lead to the following problems:

  • A rigid default is not suitable for creating an actual flow of work. There is no or insufficient or delayed reaction to rare or unforeseen events.
  • The constantly changing business world creates a permanent slippage between the workflow type model and the reality in individual cases (instance of the model type) .
  • Employees lose their motivation due to a lack of personal responsibility if they are only supposed to adhere to a given workflow, which in reality is not possible under disruptions or restrictions. That usually ends on duty according to regulations .
  • If deviations from the prescribed line of action are to be sanctioned in individual cases instead of questioning the underlying model, the management instance has no practical experience.
  • Existing informal teams are (intentionally) disrupted and break up.
  • The usual monitoring without anonymization allows errors to be assigned to a specific employee. From this follows the tendency among those involved to protect themselves as well as possible and to pass the "buck" on others. Assigning bugs to teams, on the other hand, is legitimate.
  • If management sees employees only as exchangeable resources to meet the volume target , the important relationship between management and employees is severely disrupted.
  • If the management authority sets quantitative limits that cannot be objectively met, the employees will not fully contribute their competence.
  • Creativity and ideas for improving the processes are not encouraged by a given framework without receiving feedback.
  • The competent top performers among the employees feel that they are being guided by simple models. The foremen lack the competence of those who created the models and cannot deal with exceptional situations themselves.

Workflow management in practice

There are independent workflow management systems , but workflow management is often also integrated into other company software. These include, for example, ERP solutions or project management software .

See also


  • Joachim Müller: Workflow based integration . Springer-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-540-20439-8 .
  • Wil van der Aalst, Kees van Hee: Workflow Management - Models, Methods, and Systems . The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2002, ISBN 0-262-01189-1 .
  • Stefan Jablonski, Markus Böhm, Wolfgang Schulze (eds.): Workflow management: Development of applications and systems - facets of a new technology . dpunkt Verlag, Heidelberg 1997, ISBN 3-920993-73-X (Systematic introduction to modeling and technology from 1997).
  • Cornelia Richter-von Hagen, Wolffried Stucky: Business Process and Workflow Management . Teubner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-519-00491-7 .

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