Workflow is a term used to describe the steps of a process. This term is used in any organization in which a product, document, or idea, moves among locations or departments. In a sense, workflow can be understood as an overview of actual work that is performed to bring a process to completion. A workflow document is any report or analysis that describes the stages of a process, as well as finances, resources, and information included in such a process. A document that is passed through stages of a process, such as a bill, insurance claim, or invoice, may also be considered a workflow document.
Managers seeking to optimize operations may generate workflow documents. These documents might list departments and workers through whom a project passes on its way to completion. Documents may also contain lists of resources, materials, and equipment that are used in each of the workflow stages. A workflow document can also help a manager to understand which stages of a process are most costly.
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Documents that illustrate the components and stages of workflow can be used for budgeting. Managers can determine how much a product might cost to make and also decide on departments or areas that can be downsized. Internal auditing processes also may include use of workflow documents. Managerial accountants can present financial data attained from a workflow document.
In manufacturing contexts, workflow documents can be used to optimize production processes. For example, a workflow document can be composed using special workflow management software. When a designer creates a model and a bill of materials, the document can be automatically forwarded to a professional who is responsible for the following stage.
These documents are also used in scientific communities. Medical specialists, for example, might generate workflow documents that illustrate brain activity. A workflow document may also be generated to describe the relationship between a user and a machine.
When a workflow document describes an item that passes through stages of a process, it normally refers to a payment or service that must be approved by professionals in a number of different departments. For example, if a department manager finds that he or she needs new computers, that manager might prepare a document listing costs. He or she might then pass that document up the chain of command to receive approval.
Insurance companies also use workflow documents. In these cases, claims are filed by clients. A claim might be passed to an underwriter. An underwriter might then pass it to a manager or executive who uses research and analysis generated by an underwriter to approve rates.