Workflow Engines

Workflow Management Systems (WFMS): What exactly is it? How does it work?

Jochen Möller
Jochen Möller

More and more, progressively complex work processes, steadily growing amounts of data, constantly recurring work steps etc. - almost every company has to struggle with this. Systems or software solutions that automate parts of the work processes and independently control the correct, error-free execution of these provide a remedy: so-called workflow engines, which act almost independently within a workflow management system (WFMS). What is it exactly? How does it work? You can read that in the following report - have fun!


Definition: what is a workflow engine?

In order to be able to explain what a workflow engine is, the term workflow management system (WFMS) must first be briefly clarified, because the workflow engine is an essential part of it.

Within the workflow management, business processes are supported by IT and in some cases completely automated. A workflow is a work process or a business transaction that is part of a chain of several workflows. These are interrelated in such a way that a condition must be triggered within the one workflow that is currently being processed in order to trigger an action in the next workflow.

The workflow management system thus includes all tasks that have to be processed in the organization, execution and control of the workflows.

This is where the workflow engine is used. It describes a software application that manages and monitors all business processes occurring in workflow management. The most important factors here are the statuses of the individual workflows, which the workflow engine uses to determine whether and which actions are triggered in the next step. Such actions can be, for example:

  • Processing and / or approving a loan application
  • Sending a reminder email
  • Saving forms
  • Passing on overdue actions to management
  • Etc.

It all happens completely automatically. But how exactly does it work?

How does a workflow engine work?

Workflow engines have three primary functions:

  1. They continuously check whether the current process status is correct and valid.
  2. You control whether the user who is currently executing is authorized to execute the task.
  3. You carry out the task, provided points 1 and 2 are fulfilled. If the workflow engine carries out the task as intended, it transmits the new status of the task. If the task is not fulfilled according to the information, it returns an error message.

The bottom line is that the software application can perform any kind of task within a business process. You look at the business processes in detail and define small work steps within them, which in turn can be technically automated and implemented in the workflow engine. This then assigns the respective work steps to users in the order that you specify. It functions as a controlling and executing entity within a workflow management system.

All of this leads to enormous relief and time savings for companies. What other reasons speak for a WFMS? And do companies really also need workflow engines?

Why do companies need workflow engines?

Companies that opt for a workflow management system on the one hand and workflow engines on the other enjoy a number of advantages, for example:

  • Cost efficiency: The software-based control of work steps enables teams and departments to work together much more effectively, as they can concentrate on the essentials. In addition, thanks to the partial automation, errors are detected and corrected more quickly. All in all, this saves a lot of time and money.
  • Continuous improvement of processes: The fact that a work process is broken down into individual steps by a workflow engine means that changes or improvements can be implemented much more easily. The individual task can be modeled and restarted without the entire process coming to a standstill. This ensures short processing times and at the same time no task can be forgotten because the workflow engine takes care of compliance.
  • Employee satisfaction: Employees can concentrate on their tasks, are more productive and more effective. You can also find all information in a software application - without a long search. This makes them more satisfied themselves, as their work achieves visible results within a short period of time.

In order to actually benefit from all the advantages of a workflow engine, it is important that the software remains editable and optimizable throughout, in order to be able to take along the development of the market or innovations. Too rigid guidelines are unsuitable, as it is not possible to react spontaneously.

The automation of business processes must not lead to employees feeling restricted or even replaced in their creativity. Contrary to the positive effect of more effective work processes, this would have a negative impact on employee satisfaction and their performance.

When making a decision, companies should pay close attention to the options provided by the respective workflow engine providers and how high the degree of flexibility is despite automation. So where to look? How do companies find the right workflow engine for them?

How do companies find the right workflow engine?

Companies that decide for a workflow engine face a large number of different providers and systems. It is not easy to keep track of things here. It is important to know exactly what is actually needed or searched for.
The following questions can help:

  • How much budget can we spend on implementation and continuous improvement?
  • Does the shortlisted system fit into my corporate strategy?
  • Which possibilities or risks have to be considered in my company?
  • Which software solution providers can help me with questions beyond implementation?
  • Is it possible to couple my own systems with the new solution?

If answers have been found to all of these questions, nothing stands in the way of purchase and implementation.

We at EcholoN also offer such a WFMS including the workflow engines. Thanks to the graphic design, it is particularly user-friendly and can also be used immediately. One of the most important factors when using a new software solution, however, is to have a contact person for all questions and suggestions. This is exactly what our EcholoN employees do, because their opinion is that service begins with the purchase, not ends there. You can find more information about our extensive workflow management solution here.

We look forward to your contact without obligations!