How Workflow Has Changed in the Past 5 Years

Ever since Henry Ford revolutionized the automotive industry, the application of workflow automation has been a constant discussion around reducing costs and increasing output.

But within the past couple of years, the makers and users of workflow automation have shifted towards a different narrative – one that is less technical and more human-centric.

Workflow systems can look very different from the massive assembly lines they were a century ago. Workflow isn’t about production anymore, it’s about productivity.

Citizen Developer

Historically, workflow solutions have focused on industrial functionalities. These are heavy-duty enterprise problems that took years to process and involved a high level of coding. For that reason, engineers and IT departments were at the front line to deal with workflow solutions, instead of employees whose day-to-day operations relied on workflows.

Workflow systems weren’t accessible since the entire office had to rely on its IT department to create, operate or troubleshoot workflows. Communication between engineers and other departments was often challenging, and it took up a lot of time and resources.

Workflows shouldn’t be that difficult, especially since they play such an important part in an office’s day-to-day operation. Recognizing this problem, developers have strived to make it easier and easier to create workflows. Thanks to code-free designers, modern workflow is extremely accessible to non-technical audiences, and as easy as dragging-and-dropping.

Employees who have no or limited coding knowledge can still be citizen developers with these new intuitive designer tools. Skipping the middleman saves time and resources, and it also ensures that the workflow is exactly what the creator wants it to be.

By encouraging employees to design solutions to their own problems, the modern workflow places ownership in users’ hands, allowing them to have full control and access to what happens inside their work. On an enterprise scale, this allows businesses to have smooth workflow operations on every layer – the major issues as well as the day-to-day tasks.

Cloud-Based Workflow Systems

Traditionally, developers have been offering workflow systems to users as on-premises products, meaning workflow software is delivered and planted on-site and used within the office. Since much of modern-day business happens outside of the office, the on-premises solution has some drawbacks. In recent years, cloud technology redefined how workflow systems should operate by making them more independent, flexible and accessible.

In contrast to on-premises software, cloud-based workflow systems are hosted on an independent infrastructure. What this means is that businesses can use their workflow with whatever platform they operate on – be it SharePoint, Salesforce, Slack, etc. At the same time, cloud-based workflows can also connect multiple platforms together in a single workflow.

Platforms like these are where business happens, and being able to optimize workflows right there and then is an incredible feature. The cloud system handles all the communication between platforms, making workflows easy and smooth. By focusing its attention in making individuals’ work processes easier, the workflow pushes productivity, and productivity supports production.

Productivity means being able to work seamlessly without disruption, and cloud technology allows that. The cloud’s independent infrastructure offers a new way to integrate workflow wherever work takes place – inside and outside the office. People can access their workflow systems anywhere, anytime and however they find most convenient: on their desktop, laptop, mobile phone or tablet. For employees who are frequently working and reporting off-site, this is a major innovation.

Workflow is Constantly Changing

The workforce has witnessed tremendous changes in the past five years thanks to the influx of digital natives. The new generation quickly demanded a new office setting – one that is more innovative, efficient, and tightly integrated with technology. This is the workplace of the future, where human and technology can efficiently work together to increase productivity.

For this reason, the demand for workflow automation has increased, making it an office essential.

However, the modern workflow is not trying to replace humans. Instead, the recent advancement in workflow system technology has strived to put humans in the center of workflow processes as the decision makers, creators and generators of workflow processes. At the end of the day, workflow automation’s main job is to make each of those processes easier, and that will continue being the main purpose of workflow systems in the future.

Workflow automation honors the human element by being a liaison between technology and business. The most important workflow advancement in the past number of years was to make this bond stronger by understanding how businesses can benefit from technology, and how technology can advance from a business standpoint.

As long as technology continues to evolve and businesses continue to thrive, workflow technology will remain an important element in a business’ success.

 

Learn more about how to transform the way you work with the Nintex Workflow Platform. Get a free, 30-day trial today! 

Ryan Duguid

Chief Evangelist Ryan Duguid is responsible for setting product and platform vision, driving continuous innovation, and delivering technology to help everyday people solve their process problems. Ryan joined Nintex from Microsoft, where he was responsible for the content management business in the SharePoint Product Group.
Follow him on Twitter @PvtRD