A workflow database is a place for creating, revising, and promoting pieces of work in a system. It is generally used to manage a project with multiple users within a shared virtual workspace or centralized tool. When a piece of data or documentation is created and moves through a development and approval system before delivery to a customer, a workflow database can be particularly helpful in managing the assignment of tasks and monitoring the deadlines at each phase.
In general terms, a database can be a storage place for information. Whether the data is many small pieces of information coming together into a larger system or is one large development requiring multiple inputs, a workflow database provides a means for interacting with the data. Sometimes a database is a tool for information retrieval only, but when used for workflow, it can become the main space for a company or project.
Performing tasks within a workflow database often begins with assessing the needs of the projects, identifying those needing access to specific functions, and creating the actual database. Typically, whatever traditional workflow systems are in place at a company can be transferred to a computer platform. If a hardware design drawing or piece of software, for example, was created on an individual personal computer and then placed in a shared location on a company network, within a workflow database that same drawing could be created and placed in a work area similar to a share drive. Those with permission to log in to the area may view or manipulate the drawing.
When a piece of data moves through a system for additions and improvements, and often for integration into a larger product, a workflow database can be used to move the piece along. A central bin or folder can contain names of users who each have a task to complete toward the completion of a product. After the data is initiated, it may be checked back into the main workflow area and assigned to the next person who is to work on it. This individual or department will make the necessary updates and check in the data for assignment to the next worker who may then approve the data and place it in another area of the database.
As an overall system, a workflow database can be used to create the first version or iteration of an item and can carry the item all the way through to the signature approval process as required for completion. Looking at the main organizational structure for the workflow can show a breakdown similar to that of a paper summary and overview of a project. Stages of development, deadlines for delivery in-house and to customers, and responsible persons along the steps to completion often make up the front page interface of the workflow database. Individual users then receive notifications or check for assignments on their PCs to retrieve work and complete tasks toward a common work goal.