Public sector workflow explained

In this edition of Tech Bytes, we’re taking a closer look at the meaning of workflow and its benefits in the UK public sector. A huge proponent of end-to-end digital transformation, modern workflow technology is really gaining traction across healthcare, local government, housing, police and education organisations across the country. But what exactly is it? How – and why – is it used?  

What is workflow?

Workflow software, also known as business process management (BPM) software, completes business processes through a series of defined steps. A workflow might include several activities, such as creating emails or documents, sending notifications and passing information between different departments.  

These steps might incorporate different technologies, such as automation, and might include people, where approval is needed for instance. They may be triggered by emails landing in monitored inboxes or specific information being added into a database, and they might end where an appointment confirmation is sent, or an application has been approved.  

All of these elements create a workflow – essentially a checklist of activities that takes a process from initiation to completion. Workflow software manages this process, ensuring each step of the flow is completed and progressed to the next stage.  


RPA vs. Workflow: What’s the difference?

Workflow works in a similar way to robotic process automation (RPA), as it independently completes processes that would typically be handled by people. However, where RPA focusses on automating specific tasks in a process, workflow manages the process overall. Let’s put that into perspective with an example - applying workflow and RPA to an employee leavers process. A workflow would look something like the diagram - or storyboard - to the left. 

The workflow begins when an email is received in a monitored inbox, containing an attachment with details about an employee that’s leaving your organisation. Workflow software then extracts the employee’s CRM username, before passing it to an RPA bot to remove the employee from the CRM. Once the bot has completed this, workflow checks the employee has been removed successfully, before passing the process through numerous other checkpoints to complete the leavers process entirely.  

Where RPA completed an action (removing the employee from the CRM) workflow managed the overall process, working its way through a list of steps before completion. Both technologies use software applications to operate - we at NDL differentiate these as RPA bots, and workflow agents. 


How is workflow used in the UK public sector? 

Workflow technology can be used in a massive variety of ways within the UK public sector due to its nature. It can be used in every corner of an organisation, as most business objectives are achieved through several different processes – and many, if not most of these are suitable candidates for workflow. Even paper-based processes can be digitally transformed, achieving end-to-end processing with technologies such as mobile apps, eForms and RPA – all pulled together by workflow. Some examples could include: 

  • Public service delivery processes: This could include processes related to the delivery of healthcare services, welfare benefits, tax collection, and local government services, such as processing applications, payments, and requests for information. 
  • Regulatory compliance processes: This could include processes related to compliance with regulations and standards, such as licensing, inspections, and audits, which require a series of steps to be followed in a particular order. 
  • Human resource processes: This could include processes related to recruitment, training, performance management, and employee onboarding, which require coordination between different departments and stakeholders. 
  • Finance and procurement processes: This could include processes related to budgeting, invoicing, and procurement, which require approvals and sign-off from multiple stakeholders. 
  • Information management processes: This could include processes related to document management, data processing, and data sharing, which require strict adherence to data privacy and security protocols. 

Benefits of workflow in the public sector

With workflow being such a versatile technology, it often delivers outstanding ROI based on the number of processes it can transform alone. However, it provides several other tangible benefits too, including: 

  1. Increased efficiency: Workflow automation helps streamline processes, reduces paperwork and manual intervention, and speeds up processing times, leading to faster and more efficient delivery of public services. 
  2. Improved accountability: Workflow systems help to increase transparency, allowing the public sector to monitor the progress of work and track performance metrics, which ensures accountability and increases public trust. 
  3. Better resource allocation: Workflow automation helps to allocate resources effectively and efficiently, reducing costs and increasing productivity in the public sector. 
  4. Enhanced collaboration: Workflow automation enables collaboration between different departments and agencies within the public sector, improving communication and coordination, which leads to better outcomes for citizens. 
  5. Consistency and compliance: Workflow automation guarantees processes are followed consistently and accurately, which ensures compliance with regulations and standards, reducing the risk of errors, delays, or non-compliance. 

Overall, implementing workflow in the UK public sector leads to improved service delivery, reduced costs, increased productivity, and enhanced transparency and accountability - benefitting both the public sector and, most importantly, the citizens it serves. 

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No-code workflow

Interested in implementing workflow technology in your public sector organisation? NDL Flow makes workflow simple with its no-code studio, allowing you to create workflows in graphic-led storyboards as seen above. Seamlessly integrating with the wider NDL Evolve Digital Transformation Platform – including RPA, mobile app, eForm, web service and API connection technology – Flow unlocks powerful end-to-end capabilities without the need for advanced coding experience. Designed specifically for the UK public sector, book a demo to see Flow in action today.