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Archive for December, 2014

Three Areas of Successful Workflow Implementation

Written by Ryan McVeigh – VP of ECM Solutions, Sales

Recently I was in discussion with our team as we contemplated a response to a proposal request. This particular request was heavily focused on workflow which lead to a spirited discussion. It occurs to me that often at Zia, we are cautious about scoping workflow implementation work. There’s good reason for this, as workflows are that type of software in our business that is heavily utilized by our client’s users, so we have to get them right. Workflows also typically have integration points with other pieces of software. What that tells us is that there is reason to be clear on both the technical and user-facing components of the implementation. Interestingly, the Java portion of this isn’t really the hard part. Our team agrees that ultimately writing the software, drawing the diagram and creating the workflow isn’t where the time is spent. I find that I get caution from my team around duration of workflow implementation and when we look closely at why that is, we can attribute the overall effort to three distinct areas:

  1. Requirements Gathering: This is where we collaborate with our client to understand their business process. We guide our clients on what makes for a successful workflow or business process implementation in Alfresco given their unique environment and build a successful implementation plan. Many organizations that Zia has worked with to implement workflows require multiple design iterations to finalize the requirements for their business processes. We recommend clients allow an appropriate amount of time in their project plan to finalize requirements for automated business processes.
  2. Implementation: This is the relatively straightforward part. Creating the software, implementing the workflow and integration points, and testing.
  3. User Acceptance Testing Loop: Users need to test and provide feedback, fix bugs and update, then test again.  This loop is important to enable users to get hands on experience with the workflow. Workflow Adoption-2

These three areas are ultimately very straightforward. What happens in reality is users learn through this process and the workflow changes – and thus we spend more time than it would seem is required for a workflow implementation. The lesson learned here is that workflow actually takes a reasonable amount of calendar time to implement, but not in the traditional sense. Time is spent more in getting user consensus and feedback which simply takes time, than in writing software.

This brings us to what does this mean to you, our reader? Well, if you’re thinking about implementing workflow as a developer, prepare yourself for the feedback loop. If you’re an Alfresco customer, what can you do to expedite this cycle? First, work on your requirements for the “To Be” process ahead of engaging your integrator. Second, don’t try to implement your existing broken process! I always tell folks to start small, get a quick win and build upon that. This seems obvious, but more often than not, folks request complex processes. These are not very easy to implement and usually do not facilitate user adoption or produce user satisfaction. Consider these trends before approaching the automation of business processes. Remember you cannot please everyone. Finally, be on point when it is time to test and verify. Be patient and don’t expect a perfect business process, but rather something that can work and can be built upon over time.