Thursday, May 24, 2012

Conversations Instead Of Workflows

Many people management products have work flows. Some are essential. Some overdo it for no additional value. Today @rutasraju and I were discussing the possibility of changing some of those work flows into conversations.

Many people I spoke to said that they hate work flows, because more often than not they are poorly designed. People try to avoid complex work flows. In the best case they call the other person and get the approval outside the system and then simply push the necessary buttons to complete the transaction. In worst case scenarios both parties lose track of who needs to do what to complete the transaction.

The work flow does not help a person make a decision or execute efficiently. I think there is a better way.

Instead of passing the control back and forth, it might be possible to turn every workflow into a small online conversation between two or more people.

Here is an example scenario.

1. Employee makes a travel request.
2. Manager has an option to Approve or Deny.

While Denying the request, manager can add a comment explaining what additional information is required before the travel request can be approved. Employee and manager can continue the conversation online in a free form manner instead of waiting for any work flow to kick in.

In some cases they might be able to invite one or more additional people to the conversation with a simple @notification. For example. "I have asked @John.Smith to be my back up while I am travelling". John is automatically notified that he is being mentioned and can join the conversation.

Not everyone will be comfortable with a free form conversation at first. It is worth trying. We are going to test the waters. I'll keep you posted.
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