How can it be that there is both magic and madness when it comes to implementing workflow? The magic is when you experience the efficiency of a successfully completed process – the approved budget, the signed contract, the approved scholarship. The madness is getting to that point.
Getting a digital workflow process designed and implemented is fun for people like me who love the challenge of figuring it all out. But it can be complete madness for others as they work to define the real process and consider options made available by the technology. If you want the magic and to avoid the madness as much as possible, follow these steps.
The first step to creating a workflow is make sure you understand what the actual purpose of the process is. Take the simple process of approving the purchase of a new computer. Is the purpose to approve the cost? Or is the purpose to help keep track of assets? The existing process, that might include a simple form, may not be clear. Possibly the form is used for both purposes but used differently by different people in the organization. Touch base with all impacted parties.
The second step is to take that new-found understanding and gather the required information and logic that will be factored into the process. For instance, are there dollar amounts that determine who can approve the purchase? Maybe there is a requirement to indicate if the computer will store sensitive data or not. Make sure to have these data points known so they can be captured, reported on and built into the logic.
The third step is to think about where this data will go when the workflow is complete. Does it get filed away in any special place? Are there supporting documents to go along with the approval, like specs and budget analysis? Who needs to be notified? Who will need this data later and how will they find it? You can create the proper reports and document organization strategy to meet those needs based on your research in step 1.
Ok, now you are ready to get started. One word of advice, stay focused on step 1 – what is the purpose of this workflow. There can be a tendency with all technology to try to make the workflow do too much. It might be better to create a second or ancillary workflow in order to stay sane. In other words, don’t go down a rabbit hole based on all the fun options available to you in a digital workflow world. Stay focused, test and re-test, tweak as needed.
Like all madness, sparks fly and a puff of smoke or two will emerge from your head as ideas and challenges arise. But the magic will be there. Follow your plan.