Workflow…Just Not in a Vacuum
I watch people from all “walks of life” within an organization sit around the table to discuss how workflow and/or systems can be different, faster, better, more efficient…whatever. In one corner, the operations folks are wondering how their interface on the screen will change. They ask questions regarding the customer experience. In another corner, the executive team sits wondering what this is going to cost and how their bottom-line will be affected. In another corner, managers are wondering aloud if the change can be taught and measured. In the last corner, IT folks sit wondering if everyone else will ever get it.
When I watch a physician nod his head and up and down as though he understands what is meant by ETL and a data warehouse, I know we’re in trouble (in a few rare cases, there may be physician who understands what it means to extract, transform and load…I just hope she’s not my doctor). When the IT guy stares at his Blackberry while the manager talks about how hand-offs actually work or how clerks are the only people in the organization who actually know what’s going on (I can vouche for this…clerks usually know more than anyone), I know we’re experiencing disconnect. And, I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but when the Business Systems Analyst is the latest hire and looks like a geek, sounds like a geek, walks like a geek, he’s a geek. Ask a geek to translate what a physician, a lab-tech, an accountant and a compliance manager are all talking about? Good luck. I have nothing against geeks. I love ’em. I just don’t expect them to be sophisticated translators between professionals from a variety of other disciplines. The problem is, that’s the jam they often get themselves into or are stuck into by others. That’s a problem we all have to own some responsibility for.
Take Your Time
It can be done. Just be willing to circle back around and triple-check for understanding. A head nodding up down does not necessarily mean you have agreement. A sigh and an exasperated “whatever…” do not mean you have understanding. It’s critical to review these things – not for the expediency of the programmers who have jobs lined up for the next thirty years – for the good of the implementation and the outcome it enables.
I challenge IT people to conduct a survey and find out what pops into peoples’ minds when you say “thin layer” or “extract” or “function” or “query”. Ask them to describe the difference between a system, a network, a server, a database, an application, and a report. The things we take for granted! Their answers will blow your mind.
Take your time no matter what your perspective is. You may be the keeper of business rules. You may be the defender of performance measures. You may be the expert in efficiency. You may be the .net programmer of the year. It doesn’t matter. When you’re working on a process or workflow with others and you’re opening the discussion to include data, systems, hardware and network dependencies, slow down and be certain people understand each other. Don’t assume the finance people will be happy just because customer service agents are happy. Don’t assume that just because the software will support it, it’s the right thing to do in your environment.
Questions, Questions and More Questions
For every answer in this work, there should be 15-20 really good questions. For every complete workflow diagram and improved business process, there should be a robust issues log and risk register. There should be artifacts galore and a record of existing and new business rules. We do not yet speak the same language. That being the case, take your time, collaborate with people you otherwise wouldn’t think of talking to, and think like an accountant, lawyer, engineer, developer and sales person all at the same time. Welcome to inner space!