Workflow Types, Examples, and Best Practices for Streamlined Success

Welcome to Workflows 101, your go-to-guide for understanding and implementing workflows across industries and roles.

In this post, we will:

  • Discuss the importance of workflows,
  • Delve into the workflow types,
  • And provide practical tips for building and optimizing them.

Boost your organization's productivity by mastering the art of efficient workflows, regardless of your industry or job function.

Let’s dive right in:

Apr. 14, 2023
Chapter 1

What is a workflow?

In this chapter, we'll examine the fundamentals of workflows, exploring their key components—triggers, conditions, and actions—and demonstrating how they play a crucial role in optimizing productivity across diverse professions.

Let's begin.

A workflow is a series of steps to complete a task or achieve a specific outcome. Whether you are a developer, a sales rep, a recruiter, or a marketer, you deal with complex tasks and projects on a regular basis, and this is where workflows come in.

A workflow has three key components: triggers, conditions, and actions.

  • A trigger is what starts your workflow.
    A user sign-up is a trigger for your lead qualification workflow.
  • Conditions are the requirements that need to be met for your workflow to move forward.
    Let’s say you want to make plans for the weekend; you have two options; picnic or Netflix and chill. Your choice depends on one condition: the weather. If it's going to be warm, you'll picnic; if it's going to be rainy, then it's Netflix and chill.
  • Actions are the steps you take to complete the task in your workflow.
    Putting cake batter in a pan is an action that is included a lemon-glazed cake-baking workflow. While creating an issue and changing its status are actions of a project management workflow.  

Why are workflows important?

For knowledge workers, workflows are important because they help you stay on track.

Regardless of your industry or profession, workflows help you focus and avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking your task into smaller, more manageable steps.

Workflows are powerful instruments for knowledge workers that can help you achieve your goals by orchestrating your daily work and tools. Whether sending an e-mail from HubSpot or managing a project on Jira, workflows can help you stay organized and focused and get the job done right.

Benefitting from workflows is especially important when juggling multiple projects or deadlines. In addition, you can even work more efficiently by automating your workflows and eliminating unnecessary steps.

By automating workflows, you save time and energy and devote more attention to the parts of the task that really matter.

Chapter 2

Examples of workflows across industries and roles

Workflows are essential to any successful business operation, as they help streamline tasks, increase productivity, and maintain consistency.

Examining workflows in various industries and roles allows you to gain insights into how different organizations and professionals optimize their processes to achieve their goals.

Let’s explore examples of workflows in different industries and roles, with highlighted benefits they offer.

Workflows in different industries


In the tech industry, workflows are crucial for guiding your innovation, managing your projects, and ensuring the quality of your products.

In the tech industry, workflows include software development, product management, quality assurance, IT infrastructure management, and customer support to be integral in efficiently developing, testing, and delivering cutting-edge products and services while maintaining high customer satisfaction.

Take the Agile software development process as an example of a workflow in the tech industry. This process involves iterative planning, development, and testing, allowing you to deliver high-quality software quickly.

Agile development typically includes steps; defining user stories, prioritizing features, planning sprints, writing and reviewing code, testing and debugging, and deploying the finished product.

By embracing such workflows and leveraging technology and software tools, you can foster collaboration, adapt to changing market needs and achieve your business objectives more effectively.


In the healthcare industry, workflows are essential for providing quality patient care, ensuring efficient operations, and maintaining regulatory compliance.

As a healthcare professional, you manage healthcare workflows such as patient admission and discharge, care coordination, medical billing and coding, and electronic health record (EHR) management. Workflows help you deliver timely, accurate, coordinated care while optimizing resource allocation and reducing operational costs.

One important aspect of healthcare workflows is ensuring compliance with regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA mandates the secure handling of protected health information (PHI) and sets standards for patient privacy.

Incorporating HIPAA compliance into your workflows can safeguard patient data, avoid costly penalties, and build trust with your patients.

To achieve this, you implement appropriate safeguards, provide employee training, and regularly audit your processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

Embracing technology and software solutions can also help streamline your healthcare workflows and maintain compliance more effectively.


In manufacturing, workflows are key to organizing production processes and maintaining operational efficiency.

As a part of this industry, you work with workflows such as production planning and scheduling, inventory management, quality control, equipment maintenance, and supply chain management. Workflows help you streamline operations, reduce lead times, minimize waste, and deliver high-quality products to customers on time.

For instance, consider a workflow in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector that involves product development, packaging design, and distribution.

This workflow starts with concept development and market research, followed by prototype creation and testing, packaging design, and finally, the production and distribution of the finished goods.

By optimizing these workflows and incorporating technology and software solutions, you can effectively manage resources and improve operational efficiency. As a result, you ensure to meet customer demands while staying competitive in the market.


In the finance industry, you seek to streamline essential processes and ensure efficiency in managing financial tasks, thereby building workflows.

Some common finance workflows include accounts payable and receivable, financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, payroll processing, expense reimbursement, capital expenditure approvals, and financial risk management. These may vary depending on your organization's size, complexity, and regulatory environment and often involve a combination of manual and automated tasks.

You may also encounter a CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) workflow in finance, which involves configuring complex product or service offerings, determining accurate pricing, and generating customer quotes. It helps you deliver accurate proposals quickly, ensuring a smooth sales process and better customer experience.

By leveraging finance stack and automation platforms, as a financial professional, you can optimize workflows and enhance accuracy and compliance while achieving financial goals more effectively.


In the education industry, workflows play a vital role in enhancing teaching and learning experiences, as well as streamlining administrative tasks.

As an educator or administrator, your workflows include online-course generation, student assessment, enrollment and admissions, donation management, and course scheduling. These workflows help you deliver engaging and effective educational experiences while managing the day-to-day operations of your institution.

One example of a workflow in the education industry is developing and implementing a curriculum.

This process starts with researching and identifying learning objectives and goals. The following tasks include designing lesson plans and activities and selecting appropriate teaching materials. Finally, you evaluate student progress and adjust the curriculum as needed.

By optimizing these workflows and the right tool stack, educational institutions can create a more effective and engaging learning environment, better track student performance, and ensure meeting the diverse needs of their students while remaining adaptable to the ever-evolving educational landscape.

Well, these were examples of workflows in diverse industries. Let’s move on to examples of workflows for different professions and the benefits they provide.

Workflows and their benefits in different roles

Sales Reps

Let’s say you’re an SDR in the tech industry. Your workflows include prioritizing leads and managing your tasks to stay organized.

By setting up a workflow that automatically scores leads based on their behavior and level of interest, you ensure that you're focusing your time and attention on the most promising leads. So you can achieve better results and increase the efficiency of your outreach efforts.

Customer Service professionals

Workflows are also important for customer service professionals as they help you manage customer support cases, route support tickets to the appropriate team, manage knowledge bases, gather and analyze customer feedback, and track key performance metrics.

Using well-designed workflows, you can make data-driven decisions that drive improvements and deliver better customer service.

Project managers

Project managers benefit from workflows by improving project planning and execution, increasing team collaboration, and optimizing overall performance.

You need to map out project plans, manage tasks and assignments, facilitate collaboration, manage project scope or timeline changes, and track key performance metrics.

As a project manager, you can make informed decisions that drive improvements and deliver better project outcomes by standardizing all these processes and building flawless workflows.

HR professionals

HR professionals also use workflows to streamline HR processes, improve compliance, and optimize HR performance overall. Your workflows cover recruitment and onboarding, performance management, benefits administration, employee offboarding, and more.

Having streamlined workflows help you to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, such as those related to employee data privacy and record keeping.

Ultimately, you improve your productivity and accuracy while providing a better employee experience.

Chapter 3

What are the types of workflows?

In this chapter, we'll explore workflow types, each with its unique characteristics and applications. You'll also learn how manual and automated workflows differ, as well as how they can be blended together.

Let’s discover diverse landscape of workflows.

Manual workflows:

Manual workflows are carried out by humans without the use of automation.

These include physical tasks such as completing paperwork, preparing physical materials, or assembling products. Or they can also include digital tasks such as composing an e-mail, creating a document, or updating a spreadsheet manually.

The key aspect of a manual workflow is that it requires human intervention to complete the task.

Automated workflows:

Automated workflows, on the other hand, are carried out by software or other types of technology that perform tasks.

These include data entry or large data transfers, file management, e-mail marketing, and ticket/ lead routing tasks.

The key aspect of an automated workflow is that it does not require human intervention to complete the task - instead, the software or technology performs the task automatically.

Bonus: Workflows with Human-in-the-Loop Automation

Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) automation is a fantastic way to blend the best of both worlds: machine automation and human decision-making.

It's perfect for situations where a human touch is needed. The process involves automated steps and moments where humans jump in to make decisions.

HITL lets people step in whenever they want, giving them more control and creating super-powerful automations.

Other types of workflows

Linear workflows:

In a linear workflow, tasks are arranged in a straight line, and each task depends on completing the previous one.

Picture an assembly line in a factory. Each station is responsible for a specific task, and the product moves from one station to the next in a straight line. Each station relies on the previous one finishing its task before it can start its own.

The whole process is a straight-line progression with no loops or branches.

Conditional workflows:

A conditional, or branching, workflow is a process where the flow of tasks or actions depends on certain conditions being met or decisions being made.

This type of workflow allows for multiple paths within a process, with the specific path taken determined by the conditions or decisions encountered during execution.

Think about a customer support ticketing system. When a request comes in, it might be sent to different departments or people based on the issue (like technical, billing, or sales). Depending on the department, the ticket might take different paths, such as getting escalated or resolved immediately. The path a ticket takes depends on the specific situation.

Sequential workflows:

In a sequential workflow, tasks are performed one after another in a specific order.

For example, imagine you're cooking a meal. You'd start by picking a recipe, then gather ingredients, continue prepping them, cooking the meal, setting the table, and finally serving it.

You need to finish each step before moving on to the next one, as the order really matters to get the desired outcome.

Parallel workflows:

A parallel workflow involves multiple tasks being executed simultaneously and independently. You use them to speed up completing a task or project, in which you progress each task independently of the others.

For example, in a professional kitchen, a parallel workflow involves multiple chefs working simultaneously on different aspects of a multi-course meal. Tasks such as preparing appetizers, main courses, sauces, and desserts are assigned to different team members, who work independently to ensure efficiency. This parallel workflow allows the kitchen to operate smoothly, serving multiple diners concurrently while ensuring timely and efficient meal preparation.

Likewise, when running a product marketing campaign, parallel workflows involve creating social media posts, writing blog articles, demo videos, or other supporting content for the website, all of which you can complete simultaneously. And you don’t have to complete one before working on another.

Looping workflows:

In a looping workflow, you execute a set of tasks repeatedly until a specific condition is met, such as reaching a certain threshold or satisfying a criterion.

For example, you could be running a data analysis process requiring multiple calculations. The process would loop through the data, perform the calculations, and repeat until the desired level of accuracy or a stopping criterion is reached.

Iterative workflows:

An iterative workflow involves repeating a set of tasks until a specific condition is met or a desired outcome is achieved.

Let's say you're designing a new website. You might start with an initial design, then gather feedback, make improvements, and repeat the process until you reach a final design that meets all requirements. Each iteration builds upon the previous one, refining the outcome based on feedback or results.

Ad-hoc workflows:

An ad-hoc workflow is a flexible and informal process without a strict structure or predefined sequence of tasks.

This type of workflow is helpful when dealing with unpredictable processes or rapidly changing requirements.

Suppose you're brainstorming ideas for a new marketing campaign. You and your team bounce ideas back and forth, discuss different concepts, and make decisions on the fly without a fixed order or structure.

Chapter 4

Building and implementing workflows

When it comes to making the most out of your workflows, there are 3 key aspects:

  • Building your workflow step-by-step,
  • Picking the right tools,
  • And finally, optimizing your workflow by following best practices.

Let's take a closer look at each of them.

Building a workflow step-by-step

Building a workflow involves several key steps; mapping out the process, identifying triggers and actions, and testing and refining the workflow. After you have a clear picture of your workflow, you will be able to move on to the other aspects of it.

Step 1: Mapping out the process:

The first step you need to do while building a workflow is to map out the process. In this step, you’ll break down the task or project into individual steps and identify any decision points or branching paths.

Step 2: Identifying triggers and actions:

Once you have mapped out the process, the next step is identifying the triggers that will initiate the workflow.

Triggers can be anything from a new customer inquiry to a completed task. Once you have identified the triggers, determine the actions that need to take in response to the trigger and map out the workflow accordingly.

Step 3: Determining the order of tasks:

As the next step, you‘ll determine the order of tasks in the workflow.

So you need to determine which type of workflow is best suited for the task at hand and organize the steps accordingly.

Step 4: Identifying roles and responsibilities:

Once you have mapped out the workflow process, next you’ll identify the roles and responsibilities of each team member involved in the workflow. You ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and their part in the process.

Step 5: Testing and refining the workflow:

Well, you’ve mapped out the workflow and identified triggers & actions. You’ve determined the order of tasks in your workflow and decided on the stakeholders.

As the final step, you need to test and refine the workflow to ensure it works as intended.

This step will help you identify any areas for improvement or inefficiencies and refine the workflow accordingly.

Here is a short route to follow:

To speed up your building workflow process, the best option is to use pre-built workflows tailored to your profession and industry. For example, Actioner integrates seamlessly with the rest of your tool stack and provides a library of ready-to-use workflows. You can also customize them all according to your needs.

Your tool stack for building and implementing workflows

Many tools are available to help you build and implement workflows, but the crucial ones are project management, workflow automation, and communication tools. Here's why.

Project management tools:

You can build and implement workflows using project management software like Trello or Jira. These tools allow you to create tasks, assign them to team members, and track progress, making managing complex workflows easy and keeping everyone on the same page.

Workflow automation platforms:

You can use workflow automation software to automate repetitive tasks, such as sending e-mails or updating spreadsheets. These tools allow you to create "triggers" that initiate an action, such as sending a Slack message when a new lead is added to a CRM system.

Some advanced platforms like Actioner also let you map out an entire business workflow, connect your other tools, automate tasks, and track progress, making it easy to manage even the most complex workflows.

Communication tools:

Having a communication tool such as Slack is essential since it lets you interact with team members and stakeholders throughout the workflow process. It also allows you to collaborate in real time, share files and documents, and stay up-to-date on progress.

Best practices for implementing workflows

To implement workflows successfully, your team needs effective communication, training, support, and well-documented workflows that are easy to follow.

Communicating with stakeholders:

As we’ve mentioned before, effective communication with stakeholders is crucial when implementing workflows. Workflow stakeholders include everyone involved in the workflow process, from team members to managers to clients or customers. You can clearly communicate the workflow's purpose and benefits through Slack and provide regular progress updates to your teammates through channels, threads and direct conversations.

Providing training and support:

It's important to provide training and support to ensure everyone understands using the workflow. You can have training sessions, tutorials, or other resources to help team members understand the workflow process and how to use tools and software.

With human-in-the-loop automation, you can automate tasks that do not require human intervention. That way, you just need to train your team when there is a need for human reasoning and decision-making in your workflow.

Documenting the workflow:

Documentation is crucial for ensuring the workflow is easy to follow and understand. Each workflow step, including decision points or conditional paths, makes the documentation accessible to all team members.

You can create workflows and share them with your team through an advanced workflow automation platform. Actioner also lets your team use your workflows as you build or duplicate and customize workflows easily.

Testing the workflow:

Before fully implementing the workflow, test it to ensure it works as intended and makes your work more efficient. Identify any areas for improvement or inefficiencies and refine the workflow accordingly.

Testing the workflow is vital to prevent errors; when using a workflow automation platform, you should check if it allows you to test if the workflow is running flawlessly. That way, you won't have to troubleshoot when the workflow is actually in progress.

Continuously improving the workflow:

Workflows are not set in stone and should be continuously improved as needed. Make sure you solicit feedback from team members and stakeholders and make adjustments as necessary to improve the workflow process on a regular basis.

Wrapping up

Now you know what a workflow is and what types there are. You have discovered workflow examples in different industries and roles and got tips on building and implementing workflows with best practices.

Feeling like you can't get the most out of your workflow?

Are you sure you're using the right tools?

We'd love to hear about your workflows and how you implement them, so let's get together in the Actioner community.

We'll have more content on workflows coming soon, so let’s keep in touch!