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Workflow Orchestration: Key Facts and 5 Best Practices

Rachel Nizinski, Appian
June 5, 2023

If you think workflow orchestration sounds like tech jargon, check out this simple explanation and consider practical advice for how to apply it to your business processes.

Workflow orchestration, defined.

Let’s start with the basics: what is workflow orchestration? Put simply, workflow orchestration is the end-to-end management of people, digital workers, systems, and data in a process.

Workflow orchestration is the end-to-end management of people, digital workers, systems, and data in a process.

Orchestration, defined as “harmonious organization” by Merriam-Webster, is an apt goal for workflow management—which has been made more complicated by the rapid adoption of new cloud services and digital workers like bots and artificial intelligence (AI).

This technology sprawl contributes to siloed data, isolated work, and repetitive data entry. And because each one of these digital tools is essential to the work you do, you can’t just rip out and gut older legacy systems.

That’s where workflow orchestration tools can help. They give you the ability to design processes with visual flow charts across systems, so you can automate with pre-built connectors and APIs, assign and track tasks, and see the complete picture of your entire process from start to finish. 

[ Learn how to successfully implement end-to-end process automation strategies. Get the Process Automation Guide. ]

Key facts about workflow orchestration.

Workflow orchestration plays a big role in how an organization automates processes, integrates enterprise systems, and gains better control and visibility over complex workflows.

What workflow orchestration does:

  • Simplifies workflow design. Workflow orchestrators help you coordinate and monitor your processes to ensure the smooth execution of workflows. Using technology like AI, machine learning, and low-code design, you can draw processes, enforce business rules, automate activities, and embed workflows for things like forms and dashboards directly into your apps.

  • Automates processes. Workflow orchestration engines enable the automation of complex and repetitive processes by defining and managing the flow of tasks, data, and events. And with process automation that connects multiple systems and automation tools, organizations can improve efficiency, reduce manual work, and optimize complex processes from end to end.

  • Improves process performance. Workflow orchestration tools provide real-time visibility into the status and progress of workflows, enabling organizations to track performance, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions for process improvement.

While it’s possible to perform some level of workflow orchestration without the help of a dedicated software or platform, the use of workflow orchestration tools dramatically improves the orchestration process. They enable organizations to achieve automation, scalability, and efficiency that’s impossible to produce manually. 

5 best practices for workflow orchestration success.

Mastering workflow orchestration is the key to staying ahead of the ever-evolving landscape of your business operations.

1. Understand your current-state workflows.

The first step in effective workflow orchestration is to get an unbiased view of your current state. To figure out where to take your processes next, you need to know exactly how they work today.

2. Integrate data throughout your workflows.

Easy access to reliable data is one of the best ways to boost efficiency, increase productivity, and improve decision making. And before you can orchestrate a process from end to end, you need to have a unified view of your data. A platform with a data fabric capability can deliver this.

[ Want to learn about how data fabric works and explore the real-world benefits? Get the eBook: Data Fabric Guide. ]

3. Use the right automation tools in the right places.

If you dive headfirst into implementing the wrong automation tool for your business needs, you’ll never see the full potential of the technology. Avoid this by having a concrete understanding of where your process bottlenecks are, the type of work that is occurring there, and whether the automation tool you’re considering is good at doing that kind of work.

4. Build your workflows with external stakeholders in mind.

Most processes include collaborating with people across departments and even outside of your organization, like partners, contractors, or customers. Don’t lose sight of the full picture of your workflow—keep these stakeholders integrated in your internal workflows and not an afterthought in your workflow orchestration platform.

5. Challenge the status quo of your workflows.

As regulations, technologies, and business strategies evolve, your processes  should, too. Rather than looking at process optimization as a one-time goal,    see processes instead as a work in progress that should be continually    monitored for new opportunities to improve.

With the right strategy, data, and process automation platform, you can orchestrate everything from a single workflow to a wide variety of business processes.

 Ready to dive deeper? Get the eBook: 5 Workflow Orchestration Best Practices for Operational Improvement