We don’t do workflow

One of our knowledge stakeholders recently asked if we have a ‘workflow’ process document which is used across the intranet. The fact is we don’t – and deliberately so. Let me explain.

Content comes in different shapes and context. Some needs ‘locking-down’, other content is ‘open’, while elements develop as it is pushed, modified and enhanced. There is not a ‘one solution’ fits all process flow within each stream, nor within each site area within a community site. Some communities have areas which are controlled by a central team, and no-one else can update/add. They also have areas which are open and require no authorisation or approval to publish and enhance. Other communities are more centrally controlled with some locked-down areas.

What we do provide is a ‘governance structure’. Generally speaking teh governance structure provides visible ownwership for each area of a site. The owner is best placed to determine the requirements of content production for their area – from the user, risk and stream perspective. When we sit down with each ‘owner’ we then structure the content flow process and build as required. An overall ‘steering group’ would ideally determine the overall suitability of the workflow, however, experience suggests this is more a rubber stamping process.

Currently many sites are built around a traditional knowledge management approach – the sites are merely manipulation of information already created. This type of governance structure us suitable for this. When/if we look to introduce more ‘knowledge transfer/sharing’ elements it may be of value to look at adding various processes for each area.

The key thing in all of this, for me, is that whether we talk of process workflow, knowledge sharing, transfer, or management, it only has value if it can result in action: new knowledge generation; new ideas; thoughts. But I think that action is more likely if we are open-minded about where and how it may arise. This may not be an appropriate for some communities that require lock-down on many areas of content, yet maybe something that will develop once the site is launched, adopted and trust develops. But I think that action is more likely if we are open-minded about where it might arise. If we try and predict where it may be, and from which interactions it might come, I think it is most probable that no useful action and value will result in the long term.

Acquiring knowldge has no value – it’s what you do with it that provide the value.

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3 thoughts on “We don’t do workflow

  1. Mark,Workflow is only needed in exceptional circumstances – policy, sensitive content.BT’s philosophy from day 1 of its 15 year existence has been to have a one open intranet – not lots of siloed content.We have one set of standards that includes the need for clear ownership. We say if you own formal (factual and authoritative with one owner) the content then it is your responsibility to publish and manage it for its life span. I cover it in more details at http://markmorrell.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/building-an-intranet-publishing-community/.For other types of content http://markmorrell.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/all-intranet-content-is-not-the-same/ like blogs and wikis then only some of our standards are appropriate. But there is no workflow. For example blogs are on demand. The main thing is no anonymous postings.Mark

  2. True, true. Content varies so much – humans do such better than workflow systems when it comes to content management. I worked with a quarter of a million dollar workflow that made my life hell for a year. But that year was even worse for the vendor analyst who spent long evenings trying to bend the workflow around impossible corners. I say long live communication advisors who take responsibility for content.

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