All You Need to Know About Workflow Orchestration

Businesses don’t outgrow their workflows, they transform them. What may have been a relatively simple process at one time can evolve as an organization adds employees and stakeholders, multiple systems, and data.

Processes must sometimes undergo massive changes fast in order to adapt to a changing environment. These newly complex workflows must operate just as efficiently and smoothly as the previous iterations. With integrated moving parts like data lakes, nuanced ERP systems, and critical apps like Slack and Google Suite, however, this scarcely seems possible, let alone attainable. 

How do businesses do it? With workflow orchestration. 

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What is workflow orchestration?

Workflow orchestration is the coordination, synchronization, and monitoring of multiple complex, automated workflows within a business. Like an orchestral group in which musicians play different instruments simultaneously to create a single piece of music, workflow orchestration is a strategy that ensures workflows are operating together smoothly and guarantees the expected results for each process.

Workflow orchestration does not refer to the isolated or fragmented automation functions that organizations apply to a few business lines to reduce time spent on specific tasks. Instead, it embodies a strategy for connecting automations, which, in turn, fosters collaboration and better communication between teams and software systems.

What is the difference between workflow engines and workflow orchestrators?

While we’re on the topic of what workflow orchestration isn’t, let’s clarify a common misconception. Many sources use the terms “workflow engine” and “workflow orchestrator” interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Workflow engines are digital tools designed to streamline business processes and eliminate areas of waste to make them more efficient. They tend to follow and optimize one task at a time and require some coding knowledge to maintain.

In contrast, workflow orchestrators use advanced programming techniques to configure and connect different types of software to form a cohesive ecosystem. As a business acquires an increasing number of apps to run daily activities, they can become hindrances as employees continually log in and out of apps that don’t work together (known colloquially as stack scrawl). Workflow orchestration can help.

Benefits and challenges of workflow orchestration

You may be thinking: “Workflow orchestration is clearly the better choice, so why would I choose another method of workflow management?” The answer is that every department in every business runs different types, numbers, and scales of workflows. 

For example, a small law office might require a document workflow management tool to control the long, unwieldy documents it generates and sends to various parties. A large law firm with multiple branches, on the other hand, might consider a wide-scale tool like an orchestrator for workflows containing tasks that span several business lines such as human resources, billing, and scheduling.

We’ve provided a few benefits and challenges to workflow orchestration as you consider process management options.


Cost reduction. By avoiding rework, businesses save a surprising amount of paid working hours. End-to-end transparency also makes it easier to identify points of wasted or lost resources.

Fewer human mistakes. Well-planned automation drastically reduces opportunities for human errors, which inevitably occur among even top-performing employees. 

Increased collaboration. By connecting platforms and systems across business lines, your teams can break down silos and work together to achieve common goals. 

Higher employee satisfaction. Employees released from repetitive, manual tasks can shift their focus to more complex projects, contributing higher-value work for the organization and feeling satisfaction at contributing more meaningful work. 

Enhanced customer satisfaction. Error-proof synchronized workflows accelerate deliveries without affecting product quality. Higher quality products delivered faster will impress your customers. 

Data-driven decisions. Orchestrated workflows generate insightful data about your business results, keeping leadership decision-ready at the click of a button. Track performance and monitor progress in real-time to maintain continuous improvement.

Scalable operations. Well-connected, automated workflows can perform so many tasks that scaling up won’t necessarily mean hiring extra staff. A digital workforce can support your growth and enable rapid growth.


Resistance to change. The idea of learning software, or any new means of doing work, can make employees fearful and resistant to pending changes. By training alongside employees, keeping them updated on developments in the software implementation, and promptly answering all of their questions, managers can allay fears and ensure that improvements are positive for everyone.

Disconnect between IT and business teams. IT teams and business departments have a history of measuring success in completely different terms, but this is quickly changing. C-suite leaders have come to recognize IT as a driver of operations rather than a separate entity. IT teams can, in turn, communicate closely with the business side when weighing new tech options to eliminate all traces of a siloed culture. 

Process complexity. While workflow orchestration was designed to manage complex processes, some workflows become overly complicated over time or are unnecessarily complex from their implementation. 

For example, approval processes with unnecessary sign-off levels can create multiple bottlenecks in attempts to orchestrate operations. Streamlining those procedures as soon as the bottlenecks are discovered is the best way to avoid workflow orchestration hindrances.

Security. The completed workflow orchestration model improves an organization’s regulation compliance, but arriving at that point can prove difficult. 

Early in orchestration planning, identify the assets to be kept secure (customer data or intellectual property, for example) and the specific regulations to be followed, including every step involved in that adherence, and use them as guideposts for each system, human, and automation in every workflow. 

Once the new system is up for testing, pay special attention to those workflows that require access to sensitive data. Test them extensively and conduct both mock and official audits to ensure full compliance.

Key requirements of workflow orchestration systems

What your business needs from a workflow orchestration system depends, of course, on factors like its size, operations, and output goals. We’ve listed a few features below that many businesses consider to be non-negotiable requirements. 

End-to-end visualizations

When orchestrating processes, leaders must consider a holistic view of all execution. Any part of a workflow that cannot be seen or mapped is a source of potential waste, making the ability to see each phase and procedure a critical component of workflow orchestration.

Security and access control

When the company behind an orchestrator can’t ensure data security or becomes known for leaks, the entire platform is rendered useless. 

Look for no-code automation software that meets ISO 27001, SOC1, and SOC2 certification standards. Check with your vendors to ensure they maintain industry-standard availability and learn how and where data is stored.

It is also imperative to find a tool with industry-standard authentication parameters, giving your IT team full control of individual user-level access and permissions. Specify in the planning phase whether or not external users will need system access to submit requests or track statuses; this should be possible without compromising data integrity. Look for low/no-code options that include SSO and 2FA authentication options. 

Cloud integration

Today’s global workforce operates from many locations across multiple platforms. 

Forbes predicts that 32.6 million Americans will work remotely by 2025. Instant access to both coworkers and the tech stack is critical. For example, customer support agents should have the ability to contact other members of their team without going through an intermediary. 

Cloud integration makes this possible; it employs servers, apps, and development tools for hosted services and computing resources via the Internet. This allows mobile access to the platform and nearly unlimited data storage, along with an extra layer of data security.

Workflow orchestration example

You’ve read a good bit of theoretical information thus far, but what does workflow orchestration look like in action? A fantastic example of a continuously active and evolving orchestrated workflow is that of IT process automation, as it constitutes the foundation on which businesses are built. 

Robust workflow orchestration can serve as the light at the end of the workload tunnel for IT teams. The back-end daily maintenance tasks IT professionals perform such as software updates and access control can be automated using rule-based logic, conditionals, templates, and forms. IT teams gain the capacity to increase business value with work like app development and security deployment. 

The key to workflow orchestration is system integration. Expanding tech stacks may make tasks easier, but they can double the time it takes to accomplish them. Process orchestration tools connect disparate systems and apps via API integrations, deploying triggers from one app to cause actions in another. 

Consider the many duties IT must perform for each new onboarding employee:

  • Obtain compliance signatures
  • Troubleshoot connectivity issues
  • Build and deploy custom workflows
  • Set up accounts, passwords, and access levels
  • Connect new employees to company databases and servers
  • Issue equipment (computers, smartphones, headsets, etc.)

Now consider the software systems involved in a typical employee onboarding:

  • Cloud network
  • Signature app (like DocuSign)
  • Google Suite and/or Microsoft Office
  • Team communication platform (like Slack)
  • ERP system(s) (finance, payroll, benefits, time off)

Across a workflow orchestration platform, a digitally signed employment contract can be set as a trigger for an email alert to IT for appropriate peripheral issuance (whose list items can also be automated/preset according to the new hire’s department) and addition to the ERP system, as well as an alert to Finance to add the new hire to Payroll. 

In this case, a diverse tech stack is seamlessly interwoven with multiple organizational workflows and people, all under the governance of IT. 

Better yet, when a workflow orchestration tool is no-code with a user-friendly, visually-based interface, business departments can be given the ability to create and tweak their own processes, further lightening IT’s load.

Top business process modeling tools and software

Traditional process automation can be a game-changing solution for businesses, but the time may come — or has come — when your business requires a more robust, flexible solution for its increasingly complex day-to-day operations. When it does, decision-makers have several options in a quickly growing workflow orchestration landscape. 


Pipefy’s no-code BPA (business process automation) platform is designed to help businesses conserve IT resources with rule-based logic and a user-friendly interface. 

Its automated alerts, analytics (including real-time performance dashboards), and internal and external portals give users control of data and processes. Pipefy’s AI feature also offers intelligent process solutions, such as building personalized workflows or quickly collecting process information to make informed, data-driven decisions.


  • Starter plan: free (up to 5 processes for up to 10 users with basic automations)
  • Business plan: $26/month per user
  • Enterprise plan: custom pricing; contact Pipefy
  • Special small business plan: custom pricing; contact Pipefy


Flowable Work is Flowable’s BPA/digital workflow management solution. It offers end-to-end process automation and orchestration. Flowable Work enables users to build embeddable forms, dashboards, and task widgets and provides mobile applications to support offline use and the use of mobile features like cameras and GPS. There is currently no Flowable AI solution.


  • Free plan
  • Open Source: Contact Flowable
  • Flowable platform on-prem & SaaS: starting at $99/month per user


AgilePoint is a low-code BPA for complex business process modeling, used primarily to capture workflow steps with its self-documenting capabilities. It includes integrations for multiple enterprise applications. There is currently no AI option, however, AgilePoint offers chatbot technology.


  • Free community option
  • Standard: Starting at $39/month per user
  • Professional: Starting at $59/month per user
  • Enterprise: Starting at $9,950/month per CPU core


Kissflow offers rule-based task management with the capability to assign multiple users in bulk approvals. Its task document functions are limited, however. Kissflow currently offers no AI solution.


  • No free option available
  • Basic: Starting at $1,500/month for simple use cases, internal users only
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing; contact Kissflow

Choose the right workflow orchestrator

With a user-friendly interface, Pipefy offers hundreds of ready-to-go templates, increases visibility, and generates complete data reports based on the performance of your processes. Leverage a scalable orchestration tool to standardize your processes and guarantee error-proof operations.

Bring harmony to your processes and workflows with Pipefy
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