I've had this crazy idea for a while that the whole web-logging thing hasn't been leveraged by IT in any effective way. In some casual discussions with senior Fortune 500 folks, I proposed the following:
Imagine a DeskLog, which represents your personal weblog on the corporate intranet. It might have a picture of you, your current contact information, and your current status (i.e., on vacation, alternative contact info, temporary chain-of-command, in the office, etc.).
But in addition to the standard, diary-like capabilities of a web-log, there are some gadgets depicted that are far more important for conducting business:
1) An inbox with pretty little file folders listed, with the titles of each folder visible to the public
2) An outbox - ditto for stuff that you've processed and dispatched based upon the desired workflow
If someone wants to give you a document to review or ask a question, they place it in your inbox. They don't have to email it to you, where all accountability is lost.* How many times have you heard, "Oh, I lost that email" or "I never got it". Now the request is in their inbox - and everyone on the intranet can see the file folder's title.
To place something in an inbox, you just fill out a simple form (or choose a form from a template) with a title, a message, attach a file, and (optionally) a suggested routing order. For example, say I want my boss Bob to sign off on a travel authorization. I fill out the form as follows:
|Title: Doug Ross travel auth 8/4
Message: Bob, going up to visit the prime on a contract-required visit. Thks, --doug
Routing: Doug Ross
Bob knows exactly what to do with this. He checks it out, signs it, and checks it back in. The default routing order takes over and places it back in my inbox.
Here's why I think DeskLog wouldn't just be another lame intranet app that everyone ignores. It's called accountability. The interesting thing about DeskLog (at least as I envision it) is that everyone, including your boss, can see your inbox and outbox.
For each file folder (representing a request in the box), everyone can see the date and time entered, the requestor, and the title.
Your boss, if the system were so configured, could even read your boxes' contents, not just the titles. Other folks below you or not in your management chain could only see the basic folder data like title.
Not keeping up with your work? It'll be painfully obvious to everyone. That's why I think DeskLog would be used heavily. It forces the users to monitor and keep up with their workload. The last thing you want is your boss checking out your inbox and seeing it overflowing with 300 items.
Workflow products are known for being convoluted, hard to configure and generally ignored even if a corporation has sprung big bucks for an implementation. It's the complexity... they all seem to require a PHD in chaos theory just to pre-configure all of the business processes.
I'm here to say that I don't think any of that's necessary. How about simple, ad hoc routing of documents? I enter a request into someone's inbox and I simply... suggest the routing order to finish the process. Or if I've chosen a template (say, a purchase requisition), a pre-configured routing order comes along for the ride.
Another thing DeskLog has going for it is its quantitative nature. Do you just get more done than that goof-off down the hall? Now you can measure throughput of even the most arcane actor in a business process.
Best of all, you can find and eliminate bottlenecks.
And......... I'm spent
Okay, that's enough DeskLogging for now. Give me a little feedback, below, and tell me whether I'm on to something or... simply off my rocker.
* DeskLog could certain accept inbox items from an email account, but that's not germane to this tale