Throw out workflow? Not so fast…

James Robertson at StepTwo says “workflow doesn’t work” for WCM and thinks maybe a task metaphor would work better (See original post and Is Workflow the Wrong Metaphor?).

I agree that when processes are not highly-formalized it can be tough or impractical to implement a workflow that deals with all possible scenarios. I agree that formalized workflows are probably not appropriate for the content authoring stage which is usually highly collaborative. And exceptions will always exist–it helps, for example, if you can put an emergency or “fasttrack” workflow in place to handle some of those situations where there isn’t time to go through the normal process.

I disagree, though, that a completely new metaphor is needed to implement something like task management. What is a task? It’s really just a step in a process. James is looking for a way to have the number and type of tasks be more ad hoc. For that why not implement one single-task workflow for each type of task with the performer being selected by the person who initiates the workflow?

For example, James gives “review”, “update”, and “add additional detail” as three examples for types of tasks. If someone wants one or more folks to review a piece of content, start a “review this content” workflow. If content needs an update, start an “update this content” workflow. Don’t think you can name all of the types of tasks you might need? Implement a generic “action needed” workflow that the initiator could further define in workflow comments or instructions.

It just seems like it’d be easier for everyone (vendors, customers, developers) if we could stick to the well-known workflow metaphor.