Thursday, 4 September 2014

Even (Work)flow

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy

"Workflow", "Task Tray", "Tasking".

All terms for your housing management systems means of generating and tracking tasks, when passed to different teams and users. Unless you have been living under a rock for about eight years, you will have noticed your HMS has developed these features. That's if you have a 'recent & decent' one in use of course.

I often ask RSL's I work with, "So does everyone use the system tasking then"?
In fact, since you are reading this, ask the question to yourself, about your organisation. Most people when pressed then answer "No". I find that with all types of common mainstream systems out there; Orchard, Civica UH, OpenHousing, Northgate etc. So why is that? Is tasking and workflow that bad?

I am coming around to the view that the problem lies more with users than the application. Where I see it work best and bring efficiencies to the table, the whole organisation is bought into the idea. With some illustrations, tasking can be justified as
- Necessary
- Efficient
- Tenacious (it hounds you until the task is complete)
- Convenient (users come in and see what's priority to do and when its due by)
- Helpful (it enables us to do the work we are employed to do)

Often arguments I hear revolve around tasking are, it is a "bit too similar to email", "tasking causes extra effort", "I like working the way I always have.." and "tasking will not work with chief execs and people outside of our organisation, so everyone cannot possibly be pulled into its orbit".

Well, if you have tried and failed to introduce tasking/workflow in your organisation, here's some points to de-bunk the above. Firstly, let's examine how its similar and also different to email. When using Tasking, we are ASKING someone to do SOMETHING (please). Email can be used to keep somebody aware of something, keeping them in the loop, keep its use, just for that. Tasks are traceable and visible to customer services and others, emails are not.

Tasks usually require completion, cancellation or referring on, so yes, they do require a few extra keystrokes. But that brings order to our procedures etc. Often, tasking falls down because certain members of staff would rather work the way they have always worked. I am sure these folk play music at home on wax cylinders, rather than ipod's. That's their prerogative, but while at work, management need to have everyone working in a consistent manner. Maybe they just need a little more help, to get on the bus. Some people may however find they dislike the destination on the front.

Chief Execs in my experience are mostly not of the Nick Atkin mould. While Nick might quite happily tackle upgrading the RAM on his laptop, the majority do not regularly log into the HMS, and yes, rightly would not see workflow tasks. Luckily, most have a very efficient PA, who if asked will do the latter, if required, at whatever frequency is set. Daily, Hourly, twice a day etc. Turning on escalation of (late) workflow tasks (upwards), in my experience, also helps everyone get on the bus.

Most HMS tasking does allow a mix and match of emails and tasks, so can support pulling non-housing system users (e.g. DWP, local authority or development agency), into the scope of the process. If your organisation collaborates closely with another, consider allowing them limited access to your HMS just for workflow tasking. Five tasks on their own waiting for them, instead of five emails, spread within their usual 200+ emails a week in Outlook, would be a better way.  

Once they start using your HMS desktop Workflow TaskTray better, you have the key to better, more traceable customer service. If you want to share any war-stories about using/abusing tasking in your organisation, or you would like help in kick-starting it, you know where to find me !

Related Post: Using Yammer to ban internal email

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You can link with me on LinkedIn here - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy It would be great to connect !

Pearl Jam – Even Flow.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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