Workflow Terminology: A Comprehensive Glossary

Workflow Terminology

This blog post is a precise glossary of terms related to workflow. Having an organized workflow terminology in place for your workflow can be incredibly beneficial to know its features and functionalities. Various workflow management products share some common characteristics, which could make them interoperable through the use of common standards.

A workflow glossary is a valuable tool to help everyone involved in the workflow understand the terms and their definitions so that they all stay on the same page. This workflow glossary is up-to-date and easily accessible and can help you reduce confusion and miscommunication between your teams and stakeholders.



Automation is the use of technology to complete tasks and get the specified outcome with no human intervention. Automation is usually used to manage tasks that are monotonous and have foreseen outputs. 


Activity refers to each logical step or the smallest unit of work in a workflow process definition. An activity is an organizational element that involves a single logical piece of work/ individual action in a workflow. A series of activities make up a task in the workflow engine and activities can be of manual or automated type.

Activity Instance

For every activity executed in a process, an activity instance is created in the enacted workflow. This is basically a record of runtime data – created and managed by the workflow engine.

As-Is Workflow

As-is workflow is a process management strategy for the current-state analysis of business processes. The as-is workflow tracks and documents how processes are currently implemented and outline the issues or gaps in the current business model.


Business Process

A set of activities, tasks, or interlinked procedures that contribute to the strategic goal of the business. Business processes impact business objectives with defined functional roles and business relationships.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is the process of gathering, analyzing, and presenting data to help businesses make better decisions. By leveraging the insights from this data, businesses can gain a competitive edge and increase their efficiency. 

Business Process Modeling

Business process modeling is a technique used to represent and analyze business processes. It involves the use of graphical symbols to represent the steps and activities of a process, as well as the flow of information and other resources through the process.

Business Process Management System (BPMS)

A Business Process Management System (BPMS) is an integrated set of software tools used to manage and optimize a company’s business processes. It is an automated system that helps to streamline, monitor, and control the flow of activities within an enterprise.


Citizen Developer

A citizen developer is a person who creates applications, automates processes, or develops other solutions for an organization, typically without formal training in software development. They can make use of low code/ no code tools or their hands-on experience in the tool to handle workflow processes.


Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how it operates and how it delivers value to customers. The use of digital technologies to create new or improved products, services, processes, and customer experiences will help you meet changing business and market requirements



An event is a definable occurrence of business activity. Some events are common while some are more specialized high-level occurrences. For example, a customer placing an order is an event and the acknowledgment from the finance department is also an event.

Event Wait Activity

Event wait activity is making a process instance halt until an event has been evoked by another module in an application.

Email Alert

An email alert is one of the ways a workflow process communicates to the specific person (with a valid mail id) with intended information.



Well-organized sequential actions, tasks, and information that aim for a specified output is flow, usually represented by a flowchart or diagram. A good flow is characterized by clear goals, immediate feedback, and a good balance between the perceived skills of the individual and the perceived difficulty of the task. To achieve flow, one must be informed about handoff points and task completion phases.


A flowchart is a diagram that visualizes a process or workflow. Flowcharts are made up of a sequence of connected shapes and lines (with specific meanings) that represent the steps in the process/workflow.

Field Update

Field update refers to the action of filling a field with a new value automatically.


Gap Analysis

Gap analysis is a process used to identify the differences between two different states or conditions. It is commonly used to evaluate a current state of an organization, system, or process, and determine the steps necessary to bridge the gap between the current and desired states. 



Handoff is a point where ownership transition occurs. i.eThe flow of work or process has many states of transition (transition points) where the responsibility or scope of a particular person, tool, or system has limitations. A handoff occurs when the accounting team acknowledges the client’s PO and transfers the PO details to the procurement team.



Inbox is a task management tool used by application users to know the task they currently work on, tasks to be completed, and the subscribed work queues.



Low code, as its name says, refers to an approach where the application-building platform doesn’t require a higher niche in technical coding.  Low-code development approach simplifies the application-building process. Low-code tools require only minimal code for implementation which makes it easy for anyone to deploy and manage.


Manual Activity

Manual activity is a term used to describe any type of physical activity that is conducted by a human, as opposed to being done by a machine. This can refer to any sort of physical task, from simple repetitive motions to more complex activities involving more effort.



No-code is an application development approach that doesn’t require programming skills to deploy or implement software tools. Citizen developers can make use of this technological advancement to develop, design and manage their own set of tools or software with no-code platforms.


Operational Excellence

Operational excellence is a business management philosophy that focuses on the continual improvement of business operations and processes in order to provide maximum value to customers.  Automation and optimization aid operational excellence in every business process.

Outbound Message

An Outbound Message is a type of communication sent from one source to another (usually an external service). This type of message typically originates from a sender (configured from setup) and is sent to a recipient (configured using SOAP API). 



A process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Some processes are more complex than others, but all follow a similar pattern in order to be successful. It usually involves a set of predetermined instructions that are used to achieve a desired outcome. 

Process Instance

A process instance is the execution of a process definition. It is a particular instance of a process that is created after a process definition is deployed. A process instance contains the data associated with a particular execution of a process definition, such as the variables and process flow. 

Process Excellence

Streamlined workflows result in process excellence where processes are continuously monitored for improvement to meet the quality standards of business goals.



A resource can be used generically to represent a person, machine, or process model involved in performing specific tasks.


The result is the output or outcome of a well-structured task or process. Every business strategy and procedure aims to improve the result.

Route Activity

Route activity assists in flow control and can be used as branch and synchronization points. It has no business functionality, i.e., execution of route activity does not have any impact on the business functionalities and is useful to create the notification effect when the workflow engine executes a process that doesn’t necessarily form a block structure.

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Subprocess can be an activity within a process and supports the process with systems, tools, and information to produce the desired result. Workflow is a subprocess in business process management.

Start And End Process Activity

The start and end process activity renders anchor points (markers) for the start and end points of the workflow. Transitions can attach other activities to these marker nodes creating a series of activities from the start to the end of the workflow.

Swimlane Diagram

A swimlane diagram is a visual representation of activity assignments in the workflow process. It helps to visualize the allocated activity and the responsibility the participant holds in accordance with the assignments.



Transitions are unidirectional links between different activities. Transition helps with flow and tries following a particular order to execute the activity. Multiple outgoing transitions (branch) and incoming transitions (synchronization points) make up an activity.

To-Be Workflow

The to-be workflow aims for the outcome that is prospective and is an optimized version of the as-is workflow. The to-be workflow outlines the future state of business and tries to reengineer the current business model by closing the gaps.



A task or an activity or a series of tasks/ activities intended to achieve a specific result is termed work.

Work Allocation

When a task or work is assigned, it is to be informed to the specific people/group to get it executed. This is work allocation and a set of allocation rules makes the entire process feasible.


Workflow is a set of steps or repetitive tasks that ought to be managed and completed in a particular order to achieve the desired outcome. Workflows are often visualized as flow charts or diagrams to help simplify and clarify the process.

Workflow Data Object

A workflow data object is the data handled in a workflow engine. It is a type of workflow that captures and stores all of the information related to a particular business process. Workflow data objects have names and attributes and are defined in the process definition. Data assigned to these logical objects are either enacted from the defined process or other activity outputs.

Workflow Engine

A workflow engine is a software system that creates workflows and automates their execution according to a set of predefined rules. It can be used to orchestrate the tasks of a business process, manage and monitor the progress of multiple tasks, as well as track dependencies between tasks. 

Workflow Instance

A workflow instance is a particular occurrence of a workflow. It is a single execution of the workflow process that is initiated when a specific set of conditions or criteria are met. Workflow instances can occur once, on a regular schedule, or be triggered by events or other external stimuli.

Work Queues

A work queue is an internal configurable list that enables a process to manage its workload. A process can use different work queues and a work queue can be shared by multiple processes if required.

Workflow Analysis

Workflow analysis is the process of examining (studying and understanding) the way in which workflow is performed in an organization. This involves analyzing the steps, tasks, resources involved, and processes in a workflow that are used to complete a job or task.  This analysis of specific workflow aids in improving the efficiency of the overall business process.

Workflow management system (WMS)

A workflow management system is a software-based system used to define, manage and automate the flow of tasks and processes. Workflow management systems enable the automation of manual tasks, helping to reduce time spent on administrative tasks and allowing businesses to focus on more important processes. 

Workflow mapping

Workflow mapping is a graphical representation of the steps in the process, the people involved, and the resources used. Workflow mapping is basically a business process analysis procedure used by the organization to analyze and document the steps, tasks, and decisions. 

Workflow modeling

Workflow modeling is the process of designing and documenting a set of activities or tasks that must be completed in a particular order to achieve a specific business goal or outcome. Workflow modeling involves mapping out the exact steps, tasks, and decisions as a visual flowchart in order to identify and eliminate inefficiencies. 

This comprehensive glossary helps everyone involved in the process know the exact meaning of terms used and make better business decisions. Managing and automating your business process is easy with Cflow. Know how now – Sign up for Cflow’s free trial now!

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