A workflow, or a process, is a set of actions, accompanied by rules and conditions, needed to achieve a goal. How is a workflow different from an algorithm or a protocol? Those are both particular cases of a workflow. The latter is a wider concept, as it would typically contain contextual variations, and it tends to change over time.
So what’s the point of defining a standardized process? There is a bunch of benefits.
Efficiency. Stakeholders understand what they need to do at each step.
Transparency. Leadership can see what exactly is going on.
Predictability. With a process in place, it’s possible to plan.
Analyzability. It’s possible to identify bottlenecks and optimize.
Scalability. It enables the smart distribution of resources.
Automation. Delegate repeated parts to the machinery.
And now that you see it, the main question is why. Why all the businesses haven’t been equipped with process automation yet? Well because it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are standard and contextual challenges, and there is no universal recipe for how to identify a workflow. Some stealth processes lose 90% of efficiency after an automation attempt.
The most common standard challenges are
The absence of a single source of truth for data
“As is” work order persistence
Lack of vision communication
Stealth process under-estimation
Contextual struggles include (just as an example, there are many, many more)
Business logic sophistication
Legal and compliance requirements
It could be that expenses on workflow identification seem unjustified. It’s better to think of it as an investment rather than making money overnight. Sometimes deep analysis may result in a conclusion that the as-is process is fine, but it doesn’t mean that it is not worth considering. Think of it as a health check-up.
There is no comprehensive recipe and how-to - it’s a strategy and a set of approaches and techniques that help identify workflow. Incorrect or inaccurate identification is a huge risk for the whole process and results, that’s why identification should be done in iterations with reflection and adjustment as you go.