Circular Karbon Workflow

  • 27 June 2024
  • 8 replies

Hi everyone!

I am wondering if anyone has has some success with a more circular workflow template style rather than a straight workflow? This may be with regards to which automatons to use?

Thank you!

8 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +19

Hi @Katrina Noenchen, welcome to the Karbon community! 😁

We have tried some circular work, especially related to review, but couldn’t get it to work the way we wanted it to. I’m curious if anyone here has better luck.

Thanks @max , helpful to hear. @Katrina Noenchen and I are curious for the sake of client onboarding, where the workflow might be started with minimal info about new client, begin to pass through the next steps but then need to circle back to earlier stages for completing initial set-up. We’ve tested this by using @mentions but are concerned that it might result in the workflow being stalled and wondered if there was a better way.

Userlevel 7
Badge +19

I've been thinking about the challenge of managing circular or nonlinear work items recently, and I wanted to share an approach that might help streamline the process.

The key idea is to break down a single non-linier work item into multiple work items. By doing this, you can handle each task individually yet link them to maintain flow and track progress effectively.

For example, let's consider our bookkeeping review process. Traditionally, if the reviewer identifies issues, they might reassign the work item back to the preparer, creating a loop that can be hard to track and manage. Instead, I'm toying with the idea of having the reviewer complete the initial work item with a status like "Sent Back to Prepare." This completion status would then trigger the creation of a new work item (can be done manually by linking the template in the work item, or programmatically using the API and a webhook handler) specifically for the rework needed by the preparer.

Here's how it could work in practice:

  1. Review Phase: The reviewer completes the work item with the status "Sent Back to Prepare."
  2. Trigger a New Work Item: This status completion triggers a new work item template designed for rework (can be manual or automatic as described above).
  3. Rework Phase: The preparer addresses the issues in the new work item, making the necessary corrections.
  4. Cycle Back to Review: Once the preparer completes the rework, the work item automations assign the work back to the preparer for review as a new cycle.
  5. Repeatable: This cycle is repeatable as long as it is necessary, and all automations would continue to work properly.

By handling it this way, each phase of the process has its own distinct work item, which ensures that all automations function correctly and each task has a clear conclusion. Additionally, this method allows us to track how many times a work item has been sent back for rework, providing valuable insights into process efficiency and areas for improvement.

For your specific case, you might have one work item for each specific thing you need to accomplish, but one master work item to keep track of the overall status of onboarding. You might break your onboarding down into different discrete aspects like:

  1. Sales work item (barebones trigger-type work item)
  2. Information gathering
  3. Work and Billing Setup
  4. Etc.

Another thing you could consider is digging into why it’s not possible to get all the right information at the right time and proceed through your work item sequentially.

This approach can help in keeping the workflow organized and transparent, making it easier to manage and optimize our processes over time.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any other ideas you might have on handling circular or nonlinear work items.

Thanks @max . That’s some great food for thought. I really like the alternative approach and the fact that then you can watch the trends on re-work. We’ll soon be headed into some conversations with our team to collect more information and input so we will definitely ask more questions to understand what info comes into the process when and why some tends to be missing earlier on.

Userlevel 7
Badge +19

We implemented a three-part loop in our bookkeeping review workflow with these three work items:

Bookkeeping (with review) → Rework Alert → Updated Bookkeeping (with review)

If the reviewer identifies any changes needed to the books, they trigger a Rework Alert work item where we address the reason necessitating the rework, make changes to our process (policy, work papers, and/or Karbon work item template) and resubmit the work item. Since the resubmitted work item has a review step, it can again trigger a Rework Alert if needed, and the cycle will repeat until there’s no more rework necessary and hopefully, we have permanently addressed all the reasons for rework.

I’ll do my best to report back here how it goes. 😁

Sounds good, good luck! And we’ll do the same.

Userlevel 1
Badge +1

@max Have you had any luck with this process you are testing?

I want to attempt something similar with our onboarding processes to start. I would like to break it down into smaller, more actionable steps that can be completed based on information received.

Ie: Prospective Client calls in → Prospective work item is created by the admin on the phone and assigned to the partner to call back the client and determine acceptance. Client accepted, prospective completed → New work item - Client Onboarding (all these items are assigned to admin and this work item can avoid the Partner triage completely once the client is approved.) → Admin Onboards client, and create needed work items based on contracted services. → work items are assigned based on the team comments by the partner in the intake work item. Client rejected → work item is set to Cancelled. Ending the process before it hits admin’s desk again. 

Our goal in this is to find a process that eliminates many of the items that hit the partners triage that could really just not…. Then once we know how this type of automated work item creation goes, we can move to more complicated work items to break into smaller chunks, if ever needed to reduce triage clutter and circular work items!

Userlevel 7
Badge +19

We have released the concept for our bookkeeping review cycle. We are still observing it and wouldn’t say that it’s where we want it yet, but I’m very optimistic about what I’ve seen so far.

We used a cascading work structure for our 1040s this past year and it worked really well so we are expanding the approach to more worktypes and decided to automate the cascading work using the Karbon API. We had three work item templates:

  • Individual Income Tax Return (Intake)
  • Individual Income Tax Return (Prep/Review)
  • Individual Income Tax Return (Sign/File)


  • Made it really easy to pick up improvement changes/new systems/process pivots made to the Karbon template since each work item gets created after the previous one completes.
  • Gave the client’s a visual on the status of their return based on the name. Whenever we would send a client request from one of these work items, we include the work item name in the email subject, so they can see where we are at.


  • Timelines don’t transfer between work items (we think we may have a fix for this).
  • If someone manually adds work items without following the instructions and completing the preceding work item, it can lead to confusion on work dashboards (we think we have a fix for this, too).