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Intranet Ideas

Short, practical tips on building better intranets.

Intranet publishing: Workflow doesn't work

Tuesday, November 29, 2005  

"Workflow" is often a requirement for enterprise content management installations. The idea sounds great: I log on, write a news item, click a button, and Jackie's notified by email to review it. But what if Jackie's on vacation? What if the item is outside Jackie's area of expertise? What if my particular news item requires a new layout? And does Jackie really want all this workflow spam in her inbox?

Workflow doesn't work--there are always too many variables at play. Humans should not be forced to conform to a strict publishing process--the publishing process should accommodate human behavior.

I favour a publishing process based on trust:
  1. Give users license to create and edit a range of content themselves
  2. Trust them to engage others where appropriate
  3. Where users don't have permission to create content themselves, tell them who does, and let them devise their own workflow--send an email, make a phone call, or walk down the hallway.
This kind of publishing process is flexible--and much cheaper to implement.

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About the Author

I'm Chris McGrath, an intranet consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I've been working on intranets since 1997, and on plain ol' web sites for even longer. I run One Intranets, the firm that co-created ThoughtFarmer -- an enterprise collaboration platform for Windows-based intranets.