In a recent interview, I managed to score some laughs when I said I’ve been helping people manage their information “since workflow was two words.” In retrospect, though, the line serves as a good reminder, for many times what we’re really talking about is turning information into intelligence so we can improve the “flow of work” through an organization. The rest, as it says on the T-shirts, is just detail.
This is important to keep in mind because it otherwise can be too easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: to work better, and to work better together. Why do we want to more easily find, share, and track our enterprise information? So we can work more collaboratively to make better decisions, make them more quickly, and better serve our constituents (customers, managers, investors, etc.) accordingly.
Sounds simple, but it’s not.
For one thing, “workflow” as a phrase can mean different things to different people, including – or not – simple email routing and/or complex business process management. For another, effectively moving information around and keeping tabs on its progress can require a fair amount of technical interoperability and internal politicking as system administrators and department managers try to maintain control over their own fiefdoms.
While none of this is especially new, it is gaining renewed prominence thanks to Microsoft SharePoint, which – depending upon to whom you talk – either does or does not support workflow. (Answer: it does, but only to a point. Click here for a clever recap.) How to approach the issue and which way to turn depends, as such questions always should, on what your specific situation is. But as long as you stay focused on improving how your work flows, you probably won’t go far wrong.
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