Blog| blue maze with colorful marbles as methaphor for digital worklfows
Digital Transformation
The Digital Workflow Knows What It's All About!

The Digital Workflow Knows What It's All About!

Table of contents:


John is stressed out because he has been waiting for 30 monitors to be delivered to the new location in Munich for four days. He had placed the request by e-mail a few weeks ago, so he contacted the purchasing department: the staff first had to determine the current status and check whether the request had even been approved. However, the team leader is on a business trip and does not know anything about an approval request.  

Elif, who works for another company, is currently approving an invoice with her smartphone. She had requested giveaways two weeks ago. Purchasing placed the order, the goods were delivered on time, and due to the prompt invoice release, a cash discount was also secured.

Why is Elif ahead of John? Because of digital workflow management.


Digital workflow management = accelerator of business processes

Staff still processes invoices, requirement coverage requests and other documents manually. This costs a lot of time, which is often not available for the actual core work, not to mention the lack of transparency.

At this point, it is not sufficient to have the data or documents available digitally. And even if an invoice arrives digitally in the e-mail inbox: what happens to it afterwards?

This is where a digital workflow management system comes in handy, as it uses digital workflows to operationally optimize business processes. This shortens processing times, reduces costs and eliminates human errors.


Smooth Operator: what does a digital workflow do?

A workflow is a work process. The core objective of the workflow is to automate business processes entirely or in parts. It is important to note that all persons relevant for the approval process can also be included automatically. Workflow and business process therefore belong together but are not synonymous.

A business process follows business objectives and defines which actions are necessary in which order to achieve a certain result. An example of this is the purchase-to-pay process:

The purchase-to-pay process is a classic business process.

However, it is not described how the whole thing is implemented. This is where the workflow comes into the picture: it comprises a sequence of defined work steps to complete a specific task. In the process, it automatically documents all processes for later retrieval.

The digital workflow manages the technical implementation of the business process and uses a rule set to control how data is recorded and checked, i.e. who does what, when and how, and which documents are required when.

Standard workflow vs. ad hoc workflow

A workflow is standardized within a business process and follows a predefined sequence that generally does not permit any variances. The workflow also always repeats itself in the same way. An ad hoc workflow is more flexible and unique. Modifications to the workflow are possible, for example in exceptional situations or for simple approval processes. Depending on the system, ad hoc workflows are relatively easy to implement and basically an extension of the workflow.

Smooth approval processes in the field

Consider Elif and her purchase order for giveaways. Elif's employer uses SAP and a few years ago digitized and interlinked the entire purchase-to-pay process with solutions from a single source.

This means that although Elif herself does not have SAP access, she simply places her requests via a digital requirement solution in SAP.

  • The purchasing department will see in real time that there is a new requirement coverage request which is still open for approval. Simultaneously, the system starts the approval workflow because the purchase order exceeds a set amount. Elif's supervisor receives the notice via e-mail, checks the scope of the requirement coverage request, and approves.
  • The purchasing department now transfers the requirement coverage request to an SAP purchase order with a single click. The vendor will then return an order confirmation as an e-mail PDF.
  • The system automatically starts processing the incoming order confirmation: it checks the recognized header as well as item data and retrieves various parameters, such as: "To which purchase order does the order confirmation refer?", "Do the positions such as item, price and quantity match the purchase order?", "Are you a master agreement?" and others. Depending on what is identified, the workflow management system automatically starts the correct workflow.
  • In Elif's case, the system assistant recognizes that there is a delay in delivery for which the vendor provides a discount. The responsible purchaser immediately receives a note about the variances to the purchase order. The purchaser would like to benefit from the discount but needs Elif's internal approval to do so. He starts an ad hoc workflow, i.e. a short inquiry in the system to Elif as to whether it is okay if the goods arrive a few days later. That' s no problem for Elif.
  • As announced, the goods are delivered on time and the delivery receipt is scanned in. Once again, the system automatically recognizes the related transaction: the corresponding workflow informs Elif that the goods have arrived.
  • On the same day, the invoice reaches the accounting department via e-mail PDF. In the process, the system also reads out the data automatically according to predefined parameters.
  • Since the data quality is very high due to the accurate digital data which was captured previously, the invoice data now is flawless - including the discount granted.

At this point, it is possible to post the invoice directly or to start an approval workflow that Elif can approve conveniently on her smartphone. In any case, the accounting department can post the invoice immediately.

Documentation of an approval workflow from AFI Purchase

Conclusion: digital workflow management brings clarity

Apart from the newly gained speed and the increased data quality, workflow management also provides transparency. At any time, authorized staff can see what the status quo of the editing process is, and even at a later point in time everything is transparently comprehensible because every workflow step is documented.

John's company has now also decided to focus on process control and automation. A digital solution with a workflow management system is intended to make the company's business processes more transparent and controllable - regardless of location and device.

How's it going for you?

Would you like to know what digital workflow can do for you? Then simply select the document type you want to digitally optimize on our solutions page and see how it works.

Find your solution!

Call2Action Labyrinth with a way through as matapher of digital workflow

More articles about Digital Transformation


Don't miss a newsletter anymore!

Register now and benefit regularly from useful practical tips, information on new products and existing solutions, interesting field reports and early bird discounts on our events. We will keep you up to date and all this without obligation!


Oops, unfortunately your browser is outdated!

Our brand-new website was developed for the latest technologies and is therefore not fully available for outdated browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer).

To ensure that our pages are displayed correctly, work properly and are really fun to use, we recommend that you install one of the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Mozilla Firefox

Your AFI Solutions