Situational process management is an important part of workflows.
It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
W. Edwards Deming
Flocking birds are an example of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). There is no lead bird micro-managing the other birds and telling them all where to fly. The individual birds self-organize by adhering to a few simple rules.
Xpeditor works well because it is grounded in the way that knowledge workers actually work, rather than the way we think they should work. We always try to make things run like clockwork, but they rarely do. Instead of trying to make the clock work better, we need a more realistic way of looking at the way things really happen.
The self-organization leads to unpredictable results; you cannot predict the specific patterns that will emerge, but the behavior is adaptive and highly robust.
In order to truly become a customer company, you need a customer platform – a platform in which sales, service, marketing and applications, even products can leverage shared customer data and processes.
Cloud computing makes it possible to create new “business operations platforms” that will allow companies to change their business models and collaborate in powerful new ways with their customers, suppliers and trading partners – stuff that simply could not be done before.
-Peter Fingar, Dot.Cloud: The 21st Century Business Platform
No matter how good your user development tools are, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to build smart workflows that are stable, coherent, efficient and effective software solutions for your organization when your system environment looks like this to business users:
A self-service database can help you eliminate silos.
Most user-developed solutions are at the mercy of their underlying data sources. The data layer makes “businessperson-friendly” data sources and related services available. The data layer simplifies the interface to keep users from getting in over their heads. It is critical for the success of process management.
Making data easily available to users will make them much less likely to access data sources in ways that are less secure and less accurate.
The data layer brings together, in a single repository, the information needed to build cross-functional solutions. The database reflects the entire extended organization, rather a particular application. It is the anti-silo.
Database management requires no technical skills, is automatically tuned and optimized, and is highly scalable. There is no low-level management such as patching, backups, or configuration. Reliable and secure, the database is constantly monitored and administered by dedicated professionals whose only job is to manage the database. Databases are instantly available to anyone who needs them with just a few mouse clicks; there’s no waiting to provision databases.
Data security rules are isolated and managed independently from the rest of application business logic. This eliminates the need for applications to have to code, test, and maintain their own complicated security logic. Database sharing rules can be defined by user, profile, role, group, and record level. This protects against inadvertently giving the wrong person access to data.
Organizational hierarchy is built into the database. This allows access privileges to be set at different levels of the organization; e.g., a manager can automatically have access to the records of their team members. Yet another complication the solution builder doesn’t have to worry about.
New systems can be brought online quickly, because being enabled by Salesforce App Cloud eliminates the steps to acquire, install, and maintain software, and provides immediate access to accurate and complete data in a single location, obviating the need to build new interfaces or cleanse data, or waste effort due to incomplete information or looking for information.
All [citizen developers] need are services that can supply them with data to feed these tools. IT can facilitate their efforts by supplying data services that virtualize complex data sources.
– Mike Rollings (Gartner), Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT
When a user wants to build their own business process solutions, chances are they need access to data that already exists – accounts, products, transaction history, etc. Collaborative work management solutions that rely on existing data can be built much faster when a base inventory of reliable enterprise data feeds is pre-established so the data can be consumed and mixed as needed for a process.
Seeding the database is a highly cost-effective and practical way to eliminate or reduce the amount of time users need to spend to find the data they need, and the need to make requests to data owners and/or IT.
The Business Operations Platform externalizes the control of processes away from individual applications. It makes them equal peers, subjugated to the Business Operations Platform layer that controls the execution of the processes, the provision of services, and the delegation of tasks or activities to the individual applications according to their specific uses and needs.
– Peter Fingar, The Business Process Platform in the Sky
Need to eliminate process silos? We can help!
Like a digital nervous system, a platform is much more powerful than the sum of its parts. The functionality provided by the situational process platform is designed to work together. So, for example, every application is automatically social-enabled and mobile-enabled, and a single permissions schema is used in all the different functions, including workflow, reporting, and social networking. This dramatically reduces the time required to build function-rich solutions.
Having just one platform to deal with allows users across the organization to start building solutions immediately and deploy them quickly, globally, and inexpensively.
You could create your own business operations platform by cobbling together disparate social, mobile, process and cloud products. Or you could simply use a comprehensive, integrated, extensible, and ready-to-go platform.
In the future of work, employees must be empowered to operate at their full potential, and this requires a workplace that has freed itself of unnecessary and debilitating boundaries. It is only then that companies can hope to meet the business challenges of the fast-changing global economy.
– Cognizant, Future of work enabler: Worker Empowerment
A playbook is like an overall game plan in football. As in any sport, rather than trying to define all the ways the game will be played, you outline the properties and behaviors of the players and systems so they know how to behave when different “plays” come up. Things can be changed on the fly if necessary, and approvals, cooperation and exceptions are built into the process.
A playbook spells out the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for every participant, and lays out all the possible activities, paths, and resources.
Make your workflows more efficient by implementing workflow rules.
There are sometimes things that can’t be changed, like breaking the law by going faster or ignoring other rules of the road.
Xpeditor provides mechanisms to selectively restrict change to flows. With the potential for serious missteps in the execution of flows, organizations need the balancing capability to lock down certain steps in their flows, ensuring compliance on the one hand, enabling goal-centric behavior on the other. This provides flexibility while still ensuring control where variations are not permitted.
Many complex systems are based on simple rules. A set of several simple rules leads to complex, intelligent behavior, while a set of complex rules often leads to dumb and primitive behavior. There are many examples of this.
Flocking geese follow a simple set of rules when flying in formation: don’t bump into each other, match up with the speed of the other geese flying by, replace the lead goose when it gets tired, and always remain with the group.
From these few simple rules, a complex and efficient flying pattern emerges.
The point is that workflow rules are used sparingly in Xpeditor compared to what you would find in traditional BPM. There is no attempt to nail down each possible path or every possible exception. This provides the individual participants a large degree of autonomy, while reaching the group’s objective efficiently under many different circumstances.
There are 3 types of workflow rules that can be included:
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.
In today’s business environment, project management has never been more critical to the success of enterprise ventures. Using project management methodologies, teams can keep an eye on the risks, scope and tasks associated with projects.
And while solid methodologies have helped complete large and intricate project for years, even small projects now have significant complexities and integrations inherent in their execution. As a result, the number of software tools specifically geared to help keep projects on track and help project managers get a handle on all of the moving parts has exploded. With so many choices, it’s hard to decide what the best tool is for an organization. CIO’s article on the subject, 11 Tips to Get the Most Out of Project Management Software, provides some guidelines, but 4 items in particular stand out:
Do a needs analysis: know what you’re tracking and what kinds of project will be managed with the tool
Consider a cloud-based service: Cost of ownership and deployment are two critical factors to consider when adopting a new tool, and cloud based tools frequently come out on top of those comparisons
Consider scalability: as your company grows, so will the number of users of the tool and the complexity of what’s being tracked with it
Integration with core apps: If your organization already had mission critical applications in use, your project management tool will be more useful, and experience faster acceptance, if it integrates with those existing applications
The last point, in particular, can make or break the adoption of your new toolset. This is especially true if your organization is heavily – or even moderately – invested in the Salesforce platform. Because Salesforce can house your client data, project information and even facilitate team collaboration, it makes sense to use a project management tool that can incorporate that information and minimize the need for duplicate, and inevitably mismatched, data and communication.
There are two types of project management tools that work with Salesforce – ones that integrate with the platform, using their own controls and establishing connections between Salesforce and their application, and ones that are applications that live inside the Salesforce ecosystem, adapting the common controls and leveraging the familiar tools that are part of the platform.
Below, we look at some of the most popular examples of each type as well as look at a tool that can elevate your project management to the next level.
Project Management Tools that Integrate with Salesforce
A number of project management tools in the market today stand separate from existing platforms like Salesforce. These applications allow users some flexibility with the outside tools that they can integrate with, perhaps offering connections not only to Salesforce but to accounting packages, time tracking and other business applications. One point to keep in mind when investigating tools that provide connections to outside applications – maintaining multiple integration points across your enterprise landscape can backfire, creating more work for your support teams, not less.
With these caveats in mind, you may still feel that a standalone solution will satisfy the requirements of your organization’s projects. Here are a few of the top contenders to consider that will integrate with Salesforce and a number of other applications as well.
Billing itself as “all in one collaboration software”, Wrike goes beyond project management, offering solutions for marketing, creative and product management teams in addition to the project management tools. While some companies may appreciate the range of tools available under one roof, others may find that they are only using a limited set of what’s available. The project management application itself, however, has all of the features you’d expect from the tool, including Gantt charts and resource management boards.
To integrate Wrike with Salesforce, you must request the integration instructions from the Wrike team through your Salesforce interface. Once set up, teams can be siloed but have access to project information. For Salesforce authorized users, Wrike tasks can be assigned and the status of tasks can be viewed all without leaving Salesforce. For project teams that don’t have Salesforce access, tasks can be worked on as assigned and updated within Wrike.
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 process steps, and a single step can be in multiple flows.
This is a list of process steps characteristics:
Step initiation depends on prerequisites being satisfied
Process steps get initiated until all the prerequisites are satisfied (though this can be manually overridden by clicking a “Proceed” button and giving a reason). A step doesn’t get started until someone has been notified that it needs to be done.
Steps surface in the responsible party’s activity feed
Instead of the user going from application to application to complete their process steps, the process steps appear in the user’s activity stream. For example, if a manager needs to approve a service request, instead of going to the service management application, the request will simply show up in their activity stream, along with any associated notes, attachments and a direct link to the record being acted upon.
Steps can be adapted to the prevailing conditions
The sequence in which a step is executed, and the rules by which it is governed, can differ from flow to flow and flow instance to flow instance. Users can spawn additional steps as they are being performed – these can be assigned to someone else and must be completed or canceled before the parent task can be completed.
Steps include just-in-time guidance
Employees need information quickly – they can’t wait for colleagues to email them back and they may not all be in the same office to speak in person. Acquisition of knowledge in a fast-paced, complex world becomes less important than the ability to search, create, and manipulate information to generate knowledge on demand and just-in-time learning. The best way to visualize this is to recall the movie The Matrix, in which revolutionaries trying to free an enslaved human race are hard-wired for data downloads. When in need, characters bark out their knowledge needs to colleagues who download the appropriate information – from driving directions to kung fu.
Guidance can be localized for different languages, and improved on the fly, as the instructions are being given. Poor guidance can make a simple task hard to perform, while great guidance can simplify a complex task.
Steps are a focal point of collaboration
Change is the organizing force, not a problematic intrusion. – Margaret J. Wheatley, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time