The trick…is to introduce bits of automation that will fit into the work and do useful things, and then make it possible for people to work with those bits of automation embedded in the systems while leaving them the discretionary space to exercise the kind of judgment they need to exercise to really get the work done.
– Derek Miers – Process Innovation and Corporate Agility (2007)
Start defining your workflow automation steps today!
A step is a unit of work; it identifies an activity or task(s) that needs to be done before the flow can move forward. Steps are explicitly defined and operationally independent units of functionality. Each flow consists of multiple steps, and a single step can be in multiple flows.
Workflow automation steps are a complete unit of work
Workflow automation steps are not executed until its pre-conditions are met, and is not completed until it satisfies the rules for completion.
Pre- and Post- Step Actions
The objective is to surround workflow automation steps with as much automation as possible to help a user complete the step as quickly as possible.
The goal of pre-step actions is to reduce the amount of work a human has to do to complete the step by preparing as much as possible in advance. This means making sure that all the data, documents, and information are ready to go.
The actions taken during the execution of the step, including any decisions, collaboration, documents, etc., must be complete before the step can be accepted as complete. Upon completion, the system will execute any actions specified.
The step repository
Each step in a flow includes a step repository, which provides the context needed to determine what happens next in the flow. It helps the flow participant responsible for the step to accurately assess the state of current affairs and their impact on downstream steps and what needs to be done now to accommodate likely events in the future.Anything related to a particular step that may be helpful in the future can be stored in the step repository. This can include a form built by the user responsible for a step, a set of guidelines and checklists, comments from users of this step, discussion notes, optional sub-flows, task lists, documents and files, past discussions around this step, as well as a full history of decisions made at this step and why they were made.
The step repository also provides a container for capturing implicit rules and tacit knowledge, and is enormously helpful in resolving problems and exceptions quickly. The repository contents are changed and added to as needed. Where a decision needs to be made, the repository includes data regarding the choices that were made previously, and why.
Everything needed to execute the step successfully is available in the step repository. The unique information related to each individual execution of the step is also stored in the repository, and provides an audit trail of that flow instance. The step repository provides information used to monitor the flow (like expected time to complete) and for analysis across multiple executions.