A Workflow is a pre-determined process, a process consisting of activities, which have a number of staff members working at them in a pre-determined order. The beginning, the process and the end of the workflow are clearly defined.
The process can be set to send a specific type of document (e.g. an incoming invoice) to case worker A, who then verifies the document's validity. After case worker A verifies the document it gets sent to the accounting department, where another case worker books it in, renders a payment, etc. A classic incoming invoice workflow. Other typical workflows can be seen in the quality management department (execution of DIN EN ISO 9001), where Document Change Control provides a workflow for verifying documents according to the dual verification principle and a special release workflow might be required.
In electronic Document Management workflows can be created and monitored by authorised personnel - usually the administrator, sometime also the head of department. Every workflow is divided into one or more steps, that can be executed sequentially or parallel. Workflows that branch-out are also pretty common. Thus, depending on the result of one step of a workflow, various other workflow steps can follow.
In the electronic Document Management System documents always stay in their filed location, even when they are being processed. This allows all authorised personnel to find the document and at least be able to read the current version. Asking one's way from case worker to case working, looking for the document, is made obsolete. Thus, the document currently in process is a kind of "hyperlink", that gets sent to the case worker via e-mail or via DMS-internal task / resubmission list. Next to the case worker (or case workers) there is also always one or more controller(s), that monitor the execution of a defined process step and can intervene in Document Control if necessary. Personnel absence policy as well as workflow logging and evaluation are additional instruments, that are included in Enterprise Document Management Systems such as bitfarm-Archiv, to reproduce document workflows with all important functions on an electronic basis.