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