In software engineering, what does workflow mean?

Workflow refers to a journey that software business solutions take from initiation to completion and delivery. There are templates upon which a software code delivery can be modeled, depending upon its complexity. A typical software template can have decision gateways and milestones. Various milestones could include business feasibility, funding, resource allocation, development, testing, test closure, deployment etc.

Workflow Types

Workflows happen throughout the workspace. Some are very structured, and others are unstructured, but workflows exist anytime data moves from one task to another.

Here are three major types:

  • Process
  • Case
  • Project
Let’s see each workflow in detail.


A process workflow happens when the set of tasks is predictable and repetitive. This means that before an item begins the workflow, you know exactly what path it should take.

Business process workflows are set up to handle an unlimited number of items going through them. An example is a purchase requisition approval workflow. As soon as it starts, the workflow is set with few variations, and you can process any number of items in a single workflow.


In a case workflow, you don’t know the path required to complete the item at the start. The path reveals itself as more data is gathered. Support tickets and insurance claims are good examples of cases. It’s not clear right from the start how these items will be processed; only after some investigation will the path reveal itself.

Similar to process workflows, case workflows can handle any number of items, although they are dependent on a human or an intelligent bot to discern the right path.


Projects have a structured path similar to processes, but there may be more flexibility along the way. Think about releasing a new version of your website. You can predict with good accuracy the sequence of tasks required to complete the project.

However, project is only good for one item. Another website release may not be done for a long time and will not likely follow exactly the same path.

Most resources you’ll find online will only refer to workflows in the sense of process workflow, but the other two are just as important to consider as much of the work around the office falls into those two categories.

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