Workflow – Avoiding “lost in the system”

broken linkOn Monday I posted an article asking What is Workflow?

Here is part 2 of the series,

I’m sure we’ve all dealt with the infamous “lost in the system”, where we’ve gone to use a company’s services, and somewhere between team A and team C the job gets “lost in the system”. As a victim of this myself, I can assure you that customers are rarely tolerant of jobs seemingly going nowhere. In my case I ceased dealing with the company and took my business to one of their competitors.

So how can a business use a workflow system to avoid a “lost in the system” and make sure they retain customers? When a job is assigned to an individual or a team, give them a time limit which the job can remain assigned to them. If the team fails to handle the job and send it onto the next team within the time allotted, the job will be escalated to managers or administrators.

There are some rules around escalation which need to be followed to make it successful.

email1. Send a reminder to the team without escalating a little while prior to the due time.

Sometimes all a team requires is a little reminder that there is a task which they need to complete. By sending a reminder to the team about jobs which are in danger of going over its due time, it gives the team a little nudge to actually get the job finished before it becomes due.

2. Once overdue, send an notification to someone external to the team

Just sending another notification to the team is not good enough. Once a job is overdue a notification must go to someone external to the team, for example a manager or administrator. Ideally it will be someone with authority to tell the team to hurry up.

3. Include multiple people in the escalation notification

There is no much point in sending the notification only to John Smith if John is away for 3 weeks. Always send escalation notifications to multiple people. Also send periodic reminders if the job is still not completed after a period of time.

4.Send notifications via an external method

Don’t just send notifications via the system itself, especially if you’re sending the notification to a manager who seldom logs onto the system. Email is a good way of sending escalation notifications. Escalations can even be done via SMS. Basically any notifications of this nature must be seen in the shortest period of time possible.

5. Don’t flood the managers email box

Be careful how many notifications the system sends. Ideally for a manager they should only receive escalation notifications when something has gone wrong or is past due. Otherwise those escalations will be shifted into a “the database” folder along with the generic “a job has been assigned to the team” emails. Make sure that important emails like escalations are easily identifiable from the general “something is happening” emails. Escalation notifications must stand out on their own otherwise they do not work.

Over the next few days take an objective look at where jobs can be “lost in the system”. Is there a team which is not reliable with getting tasks done on time? Could having automated escalation of overdue jobs help? Remember that customers may not give you feedback if they think you’ve dropped the ball, plus they may decide to seek out your competitor rather than give you a chance to sort things out, so look at any team which is dropping the ball as a potential place where you could lose customers.

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One thought on “Workflow – Avoiding “lost in the system”

  1. Pingback: Use workflow to deliver on time and in budget | Software Development for non techies

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