October 23, 2019

How Henry Gantt and Frederick Taylor invented a workflow management system more than 100 years ago.

Organizing Work

The history of workflows dates back more than 100 years in the United States. It all started with two engineers, Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt (yes, the creator of the Gantt chart). At the turn of the century, Fred and Henry were busy introducing the idea of scientific management—applying the scientific and mathematical principles of engineering to managing a manufacturing business. If you've ever heard of a Gantt chart, then you can guess how this story ends.

In 1887 Taylor and Gantt worked together at Midvale Steel and later Bethlehem Steel applying the principles of scientific management to steel manufacturing. Thanks to their methodology, both companies became hugely successful and efficient in the production and sale of steel for railroads and shipbuilding.

The pair is remembered for launching the study of the deliberate, rational, organization of work in manufacturing. Taylor summarized his findings in his book The Principles of Scientific Management voted the most influential management book of the twentieth century. Gantt's method of organizing and visualizing tasks and resources gave rise to the modern study of time and motion in business management and is widely used in universities and software more than 120 years later.

Dozens of like-minded engineers and academics have since expanded upon the foundation of scientific management defined by Taylor and Gantt. Today, the study of workflow management is more popular than ever, thanks to the rise of process automation, artificial intelligence, and business process management (BPM) tools like Hivewire.

What is a workflow management system?

A Workflow Management System is a software tool for automating and streamlining business processes. The software uses if-then logic to turn data into meaningful actions and, ultimately, more efficient operations. Modern workflow management systems rely on no-code visual workflows allowing anyone to take advantage of their time and money-saving capabilities.

The ability to create a workflow management system used to be reserved only for computer programmers using functional programming languages. Today, there are more no-code workflow management systems than ever, making it possible for anyone to build dynamic workflows with data that automatically get work done.

Let's take a look at the three basic types of workflow systems and the tools available to create them.

The three basic types of workflow systems?

Integration-centric workflow systems

Integration-centric workflow systems communicate between existing applications, including but not limited to existing CRM, HRMS, and ERP platforms. Most integration-centric workflow systems allow users to create visual workflows to see the movement of data between internal and external systems.

Human-centric workflow systems

Human-centric workflow systems rely on people to complete tasks manually. Human-centric workflow systems are common when jobs are ad hoc, or execution and approval are continually changing. Although human-centric workflow systems are the least efficient in business process management, they are also the most common.

Document-centric workflow systems

Document-centric workflow systems are typically used when processes include contracts and the need to sign, edit, and verify documents is primary.

What is the best workflow management software?

Finding the best workflow management tool depends on the work you're trying to get done. Just like you wouldn't rent an excavator to plant a flower, having the right tools for the job will help avoid unnecessary complexity or costs.

Best free workflow management software

Google Sheets + Zapier

Google Sheets is a great, free workflow software because it's customizable to whatever work you're doing. It's easy to add to-do items, assign tasks, and track project completion manually. If you combine Google Sheets with Zapier, you can automatically send notifications, sync with your calendar, and add or remove a row of information from your Google Sheet.


  • Free
  • Beginner Friendly
  • Existing Templates


  • Requires Significant Setup
  • No Visual Workflow Builder
  • No Analytics

Best business workflow management software


Hivewire is a workflow creation and automation tool designed for streamlining business processes. It imports data from spreadsheets, Excel, or a CSV, lets you visually design workflows, and then automates projects and tasks based on your data. It's the easiest way to get work done and put your processes on autopilot.


  • Visual Workflow Builder
  • Easy to Import Data
  • Familiar Spreadsheet-like Environment
  • Easily shared with a team for collaboration


  • Few integrations
  • Cloud-based
  • Freemium

How do you create a workflow system?

Even though the concept of workflows began 100 years ago, the tools to create, manage and optimize them have never fully delivered on their promise. Enterprise workflow management tools were always too complicated for the average user or required extensive coding just to get started, while free tools like Google Sheets are simple enough to use but difficult to customize for specific use cases.

Hivewire is the best of both worlds, combining the flexibility of spreadsheets with the capabilities of an enterprise-level workflow management software. So you can start building powerful data-driven workflows from the familiarity of a spreadsheet. Once you've set up your spreadsheet, use the visual workflow builder to design and automate existing business processes with ease. Start automating your workflows today with Hivewire.

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