The health, competitive power, and even survival of an enterprise largely depends on its ability to understand and harness the power of knowledge workers who are enabled to take responsibility for providing automatic solutions to meet many of their business needs.
– IBM System Journal, SOA Meets Situational Applications: Examples and Lessons Learned
The speed and efficiency of a responsive organization can only occur if people think for themselves and control their own actions. The notion that some central person can do all the thinking for everyone is a quaint idea from the days of the industrial revolution, when we lived in a slower, simpler and more predictable world.
– Michael Hugos, Business Agility: Sustainable prosperity in a relentlessly competitive world
Knowledge workers are required to make decisions and judgments based on their knowledge.
For decades, many IT organizations have been dealing with developers outside of the IT department as if they were insurgents – their weapons were Excel and Access.
–Mike Rollings (Gartner), Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT
Knowledge workers need to use multiple systems to get their work done, often with a combination of enterprise process applications, other data sources, and end-user computing tools such as spreadsheets. They frequently have to work around the predefined process in some way, especially for collaboration and customer communication. The systems may be augmented or integrated in an ad hoc, unsupported manner in an attempt to improve the functionality and information context, which is why automating workflows is so important.
Few organizations, until now, have actively supported the efforts of their knowledge workers to solve problems themselves.
But this doesn’t mean that knowledge workers have simply accepted this. They have gone off and found whatever tools they could to help them get their jobs done.
The tools knowledge workers use today to help them achieve their objectives are like the land of mutant toys.
Value creation is more and more based on intellectual activity rather than manual dexterity or brute strength. But we continue to use the management and organizational structures that worked for the factory and the field. Here success was determined by standardization and efficiency. These in turn demanded adherence to a set procedure. We used people as cogs in a machine when we could not devise a machine to do the job.
Ian James, The Process Consultant
For the past two decades, much of the focus for information technology deployment has been on automating or even eliminating less-skilled jobs. This has been largely effective, and organizations today are able to do far more with fewer people. Workers today spend less of their time on routine tasks than was possible just ten years ago.
These types of automated systems are givens, commodities that can add little additional value to the organization. What are left are the unstructured business processes that have received little attention from management until now.
Harnessing and coordinating these unstructured processes in a way that provides customers with a consistent, cohesive and agile experience is what is needed to become a Customer focused company.How do these unstructured processes manifest themselves in the organization?
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.
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.