Some IT products are relatively easy to discuss because their application to a given business problem is consistent, such as word processing and databases.

This does not apply to workflow products, where there are at least six significantly different types of product.

Production workflow Production control applied to an office.
Document workflow Routing electronic documents to target recipients.
Groupware workflow Structured email for Internal administration.
Database workflow Reporting on current status of work.
Process workflow The automated part of an overall business process.
Middleware workflow Synchronises data held over many separate systems.

It is also true that most workflow vendors will claim to cover all categories, but in reality, they have their strengths and weaknesses in each area.

The key common elements are :

Automates part of a business process or procedure
Involves multiple people and teams

The only real way to define these systems is by looking at what the systems can do for your organisation.

Typical benefits that can be achieved are :

Improve conformance
Automate repetitive work
Reduce content errors
Meeting target dates
Automatic exception reporting
Improve information on WIP
Improve understanding

Which in turn leads to :

Improvements in service quality
Improvements in administrative effectiveness
Improvements in the cost of service delivery