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What Is A Workflow

What Is A Workflow

4 minutes

Workflow is how work moves through projects and processes in an organization. It's the fuel to your productivity machine.

Like the steps of a never ending journey, workflow is how projects and processes move from start to finish. While you’re bound to hit roadblocks, issues, twists and turns along the way, the better you plan how work gets done, the easier it will be to arrive consistently at delivery milestones.

Workflows exist to guide fast moving projects to a desired outcome again and again. Creating repeatable workflows is critical to every business, and represent a standardized series of steps to reach a goal.

At SmartSuite, every element of work is managed through a defined workflow. Often, we start a project or create a process not knowing exactly how it will be executed - who does what, when, and how to best track progress - so we pause to design a workflow. It’s critical our teams are empowered to plan, execute and track processes, projects and the delivery of their daily work. Take for example how we build our website at

We created workflow that follows the following steps:

  1. We use a Website Management solution (available in the SmartSuite Solution Library) to create a record for every page on our website.
  2. Each record contains research notes, written business requirements, goals and page content is drafted directly in a SmartDoc field.
  3. Website Management records link to a custom Image Requests application, where we document requirements for high-fidelity images to include on the page. Once initiated, our design team works from start to finish on each image, asking questions directly in the conversation feature when clarification is needed.
  4. When the content and images are complete, we change the record status to “Ready for Development”, which tells our development team to build the page using the content and images.
  5. When the development team is complete, they change the record status to “Ready for Review”, triggering a final review by the page owner. Any updates needed are documented and implemented until the record is marked as “Complete”.

Workflows are often documented as a process flowchart - or workflow diagram - and is a graphical representation of a process. Diagrams help team members understand their role and how work gets done in an organization. Some workflows are unique and custom to a company, while others share common characteristics within a given industry. Workflow diagrams are great for helping busy stakeholders and executives quickly understand the way work moves through the organization’s operating system.

Common Elements of a Workflow

Every process - or workflow - has the following three elements:

Inputs - the materials, resources, funding, etc. required to complete the work at hand.

Transformation - the steps to use the inputs in a meaningful way that combines them to create an output.

Output - the final product or deliverable that is created as the result of the transformation.

An overly simplistic example is creating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The inputs are the bread, peanut butter, jelly, knife and arm-power to spread the peanut butter and jelly during the transformation. The outcome is a classically delicious sandwich. The outcome is a direct result of the quality of inputs and the resources applied during transformation. The higher quality peanut butter and jelly - and taking care to spread each evenly to the edges of the bread slices - create a tastier sandwich.

The same applies to business workflows and the best organizations are constantly seeking to maximize allocation of inputs and resources to optimize outputs. Why do you care? Because you want consistency, and thoughtfully designed resources result in:

  1. Increased productivity
  2. More effective resource allocation
  3. Predictable results
  4. Improved collaboration
  5. Easier identification of risks and proactive management
  6. Business culture with exceptional delivery at its core
  7. Systematic way to measure and improve workflows

How SmartSuite Supports Your Workflows

SmartSuite is a Work Management Platform that powers workflows for projects and processes. Every step of a process can be detailed, assigned and automated to any degree needed in your organization. Timelines can be visualized as Gantt charts, and Calendar View makes it easy to see essential due dates. Reports are created to visualize project or process tasks by status, by owner, priority or any workflow variable. The quickest and easiest way to experience the power of SmartSuite is by installing one of our business process or project templates with built-in workflow that can be easily adapted to any organization’s unique way of working.

Get started with SmartSuite to begin building smarter workflows today.

Recommended Templates (live interactive demo):