Go With The Flow: An Introduction to Workflows and their Capabilities

By Emma Willis

In a world where time is money, workflows allow you to reduce your costs by automating the process of managing content. However, although they have the potential to be incredibly powerful systems, they are often underused.  Here we take a look at what workflows are and the ways they can benefit your organisation if implemented properly.

What are Workflows?

Workflows provide a framework for creating, editing, approving and updating content. In their most basic form, all workflows have three stages. The workflow begins with a Trigger (the action that initiates the workflow such as a user publishing, archiving or deleting a piece of content), and continues with an Action or Actions (that can either be a manual action like an editor reviewing and approving the content, or automatic, such as publishing a social media update). Once all specified actions have occurred the workflow is then completed, the final of the three stages.

Example Workflow

The Benefits of Workflows

Organisations area able to streamline and automate the processes their digital assets have to go through by implementing workflows. This makes them ideal for even large organisations who have to manage a great deal of content. However, workflows also offer:

Increased ControlIncreased Control

Make sure your content receives all necessary editing and approval checks - defined according to your own specific needs or requirements - before being made live. Workflows allow stakeholders to maintain strict control over what appears on the website, when and how.

Facilitate CommunicationBetter Communication

By ensuring  vital processes are defined and automated early on in a project workflows help improve communication between users and departments. This decreases the risk of misunderstandings occurring, and helps issues get resolved faster.

Security & ComplianceImproved Content Security

Once your workflow processes have been conceived, refined and implemented you can be confident that no updates will be made to content unless it has gone through each stage of creation, editing and approval.

Business EfficienciesBusiness Efficiencies

Notify users automatically when action from them is required based on their user roles, or through even more granular permissions to reduce bottlenecks in the approval process, and publish content on deadline more easily.

Where Now?

Workflows have the potential to transform your content management processes, but detailed planning is needed to implement them successfully. It’s important to answer some key questions before you begin, to define what you want to achieve from your workflows and how you will set them up. We’ve put together a list of considerations which, from our experience, are some of the most important things to think about:

Processes

  • Look at your current business processes. Do these need to be standardised and streamlined before you can implement structured workflows?

  • Why are you setting up workflows? Consider the end goals you want to achieve: how can these be realised effectively?

  • Speak to the people who will be interacting with the content: this could be authors, editors, administrators, your social media team... What would they like to see, and what is absolutely essential?

  • You will need to ensure you can balance these practical needs within your company with the wider objectives of your business.

Users

  • Your workflows should easily integrate with the structure of your organisation. Do you need to set up new roles for users?

  • Who needs to create or review or take other action for each piece of content? If subject experts are required make sure this is accounted for in the processes and roles you have set up.

  • Consider potential bottlenecks: are there enough people with the correct permissions to cope with the amount of content that will be passing through the workflow?

  • Assess roles and tasks: do you have an over-reliance on a particular role or roles?

  • Do some pieces of content need to go through more than one approval stream? Is this catered for by the workflows you have created?

Conclusion

It’s definitely worthwhile taking some time to find out if your existing Content Management System, or any you are considering purchasing, offer workflows, as there are many benefits to be gained through their implementation. Although by no means an exhaustive guide, this post provides a brief introduction to getting the most out of workflows and prompts some thoughts about how this could be achieved. If you think workflows or content management could benefit your business and want to find out more, please get in touch and talk to us about the requirements and aims of your business.

Posted on 22nd August 2011

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