“There’s more cloud applications than ever, which means more data... yada yada.”
But frankly, this cliché is true.
Today, modern businesses operate on hundreds of applications simultaneously. In order to have any kind of scalability, these applications need to talk to each other. It goes without saying: data needs to be consistent in order to have a source of truth.
Once this is happening, companies can begin to take advantage of workflow between systems:
When this happens in that system, take these actions!
It’s a thing of beauty to get your business moving forward with processes running on autopilot without human interaction. Simply ask any revenue operations person.
However, not all decisions, actions, and problems can be solved this way. Some of these enhancements still require that intervention from that fickle being we call humans.
Apparently, humans are more complex than “if / then statements.”
All of this means that the next generation of workflow is one that is built with a human-first mentality.. We can call this Human Workflow.
What’s Human Workflow?
An easy way to define Human Workflow is to juxtapose it with how workflow and automation are already defined today.
Most workflow automation and integration companies (IpaaS) are system-to-system:If this happens in system A, do that in system B.
Human Workflow takes this a step further. Based on what’s happening across your data and systems, information and actions are presented to a person or group of people at the right time allowing them to complete the desired action.
To go even further, human workflow adds a layer of judgement, validation, collaboration, or decision making that can’t be automated.
Here’s two quick examples:
System-to-System: If this lead status changes, automatically, send that email template to a prospect from our marketing automation platform.
But what if there is a prospect engagement that requires more nuance? Perhaps it’s a situation where a late stage deal’s executive sponsor happens to engage with a piece of content.
Do we want to automatically bombard them with a templated email? Probably not.
This would be a great opportunity to leverage more Human Workflow.
System-to-Human Workflow: When this happens, notify the account team when this engagement happens and present them a list of next best actions like make a phone call, send a custom email, leverage a piece of related enablement content, or send a Sendoso gift…(you get the idea.)
Based on the context in the head of a human they can decide or collaborate on which action to take with the given context. From there, they can execute and complete the workflow with a personalized touch. The added thoughtfulness is much more likely to result in a better outcome than yet another templated touchpoint.
Finally, once the correct action is taken, there is validation that this occurred. To go one step further, this can be measured and verified: just like audit logs in system-to-system workflows.
Sounds Great? Then Why Is Human Workflow Happening Now?
Up until the past few years, system-to-human workflow was near impossible to execute at scale for a few reasons:
- Lack of consistency across the workforce on where this would occur - should the output be in email, text, Skype, Google chat, or some application where we, as a business, only have a small footprint of licenses? Where does this happen!?
- Lack of access to information - half of your teams may not even have the ability to see and do things they need. This is often because of licensing constraints or simply a lack of comfortability and familiarity with tools outside their native workflow.
- Lack of device parity - simply put: this is when an application or worfklow might work on a desktop or laptop, but not on a smartphone; and vice versa.
- Lack of interactivity - you get an email notification that asks you to log into an application that you forgot your password for, and then need to figure out what you need to do. After all that, you get fatigued and end up quitting halfway through.
- Difficulty customizing - one-size-fits-all solutions work for some businesses, but not for your unique process and business.
- Difficult to employ - you need an army of developers to build and maintain these use cases.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Good news: There are no longer obstacles or excuses. The rise and characteristics of enterprise messaging has simultaneously solved many of these problems. Everyone in the company now has a familiar, interactive engagement platform that works across devices and can be integrated with your applications to unsilo information regardless of access.
These conditions make Human Workflow possible.
How Does Human Workflow Differ from Typical Workflow Automation?
This is a very meaty topic; so we are going to break this out into key sections here with examples so you can really grasp the concept.
- Lives In Messaging
- Concept of a User
- Intelligent Routing
- Audit History and Analytics
- Interactivity (Actions)
- Codeless and Accessible
- Individual Customization
Below are the core characteristics and differentiators of each section, as well as a brief explanation on the relevancy to human workflow.
Lives In Messaging
Messaging (Such as Slack or Microsoft Teams) is the only place where the entire company lives. In order to truly harness the collective power of your organization, human workflows need to be accessible to everyone. Messaging also provides interactivity. This interactivity enables you to present dynamic actions that other outputs simply do not.
Concept of a User
Human workflow has the concept of a user. Keep in mind, this is distinctly different from IpaaS or broad integration. The user concept is required in order to complete actions such as send individualized workflows, abide by permissions from applications, enable actions with individual audit trails, store preferences, and become more intelligent at the user level over time.
To demonstrate, here’s one simple example from the world of CRMs:
To ping an individual that they have an overdue close date, and present them with an action, the following must occur:
- Information must be sent to the right person in a DM
- They must be authenticated for the CRM to take an action
- Permissions and validations for that system must be maintained
- Actions and updates must be recorded in an audit trail for both the core system and workflow product
With these components in place, you’re able to measure the efficacy of the workflow at a user level to make adjustments or provide additional enablement. This improves the workflow over time.
If you don’t have the concept of a user, this simply isn’t possible or breaches common governance.
“Slack is noisey.”
If you just start dumping data into places asking people to monitor it for the 1 out of 20 times it is relevant to them, users will become desensitized. This is why you often hear about “noise.”
To maintain saliency, which is necessary to drive the correct actions, information needs to be highly targeted.
Furthermore, to do this at scale, workflow applications need to understand who someone is across systems and how that in itself relates to a particular workflow.
This concept presents itself in the form of routing based on reference fields or objects in applications. An example of this would function in the real world could be something like this: Send this workflow to the CSM or AE assigned to the account when XYZ conditions are met.
Or in the object paradigm, when anything is related to this opportunity (object) across systems, send it to the appropriate group of people or channel based who are attached or related to that particular object.
Without intelligent routing, it’s impossible to build a workflow that is highly relevant and easy to deploy one to many.
Audit History and Analytics
Are people even using this thing? If so, who? What’s working? What’s not working?
These are standard questions that any administrator wants to know about the performance and efficacy of an user centric application. Therefore, human workflow products must be able to answer these questions.
Since IpaaS does not contain the concept of a user, they cannot provide this information. Administrators fly blind while not understanding efficacy besides conversational anecdotes and lack the ability to improve or provide targeted enablement.
Human workflow is able to provide this information at a user and/or workflow level across your organization.
Information is shared with people in order for them to take action. Traditionally with most workflow or notification processes, the “action” part has always been where things fall apart.
Usually this happens because there’s friction (i.e. too many clicks) or users don’t know what to do.
The beauty of human workflow in messaging is that due to integration and available modules, actions into systems can be integrated into the experience. Presenting streamlined actions when you ask someone to do something, reduces the cognitive load and effort required to perform a task.
By making this easier, people actually perform the desired behavior more consistently and efficiently.
The other area of your organization that can see extreme gains from all of this to companies is for their new employees. Since many of these processes are tied to a role, new team members have clear directives at what they need to do in certain situations driven by the workflow. This means faster ramp times and better outcomes.
Codeless and Accessible
“I need to submit a request for this email alert or report”
We are past the age of 8 people at a company holding the keys to data on demand. This is an archaic and fear-driven paradigm.
Every person at a company, within the bounds of protocols and information sensitivity, should be empowered to get the information they want, when they need it.
This means providing applications that are user friendly to non-technical people.
Many low code / no code applications are truly glorified developer tools. You may not be coding per say, but you must be familiar with programming concepts in order to get anything done. What you gain in flexibility, you lose in usability which requires a significant amount of training in order to actually bring workflows to life.
Do you think your sales team knows what branching or webhooks mean? I can assure you they do not.
Human workflow is about pushing the ability for anyone at the entire company to have autonomy in setting up use cases that support their personal or team’s processes.
As with pretty much everything else in life and business: one size does NOT fit all.
Users have individual preferences. What might be an amazing workflow for one person, might not be quite what another teammate prefers or needs. Therefore, you need to be able to enable individuals to tweak and tune the dials for common workflows related to their unique preferences.
For example, let’s say that as a manager, you want your team to update their CRM notes after their meetings each day. So you set up a workflow to ping them based on their calendar. Half your team might want this in a batch at the end of the day, and the other half might want this immediately before or after a meeting.
Human workflow gives you the ability to customize broad based use cases and best practices at an individual level due to the concept of a user.
Looking forward, as users interact with workflows, intelligence can be applied to make these smarter or more tailored over time resulting in better outcomes.
When Does Human Workflow Make Sense For Your Team
We can talk about artificial intelligence (AI) all you want, but I don’t see a world anytime soon that will completely remove human judgement and interaction from most business processes.
That being said, it is my belief that the sooner you begin to invest in human workflow, the better. It is clear that the top companies recognize this which is why they are shifting their business to align with this paradigm:
"We're going to rebuild all of our technology, once again, to become Slack-first" - Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO
“Well, you need a tool like Slack, which is basically human workflow. It’s bringing humans together in this conversational interface and doing it at the speed of digital, so doing it quickly. -Parker Harris, Salesforce Co-Founder
At a tactical level, if the following conditions are true, it probably makes sense to begin experimenting with human workflow:
- Strong existing adoption of Slack or MS Teams or the desire to grow it
- Relatively complex customer journey that requires collaboration
- There are initiatives to increase efficiency, tool adoption, and process adherence
- Your workforce is global and/or remote
- Your company is growing and onboarding new people quickly
- Users like to have access to working from their desktop AND phone
It’s worth noting that it’s not like you have to go all-in overnight on human workflow. You can start to experiment with just a single business process and see if you reap better outcomes.
To embark on this journey of human workflow, I recommend taking an internal or personal inventory of what process you want to make more efficient, consistent, or reliable. That could very well be a great starting point!
How Troops Can Help With Human Workflow
Unlike most integration companies, Troops is purpose built to support human workflow across many systems your team uses.
Today, hundreds of companies are efficiently streamlining their processes by delivering insights and actions to their teams with Troops, where they already like working...and the results are profound.
Many of you reading this might be thinking, “Well don’t these applications that we work with already have native integrations?”
In most cases, the answer is yes. The challenge is that many of them tend to fall short on a number of vectors:
- Complexity and customization - many integrations are not robust enough to support your unique business processes. They typically offer some boilerplate use cases that cannot be completely customized to support enterprise needs. Shoe-horning isn’t going to cut it.
- Management and administration - because human workflow is not the core competency of the application in question, native integrations lack most of the administrative and management tools expected in any user driven application. Things like user provisioning, analytics, customization are just not available. At the risk of sounding repetitive, this means administrators generally fly blind.
- Codeless and accessible - the most progressive and agile companies are putting the power of workflow in their people’s hands so they can act quickly and autonomously. Native integrations are usually something that is set up once by a single individual on a narrow use case. This does not empower the organization to build personalized human workflow that supports their daily tasks.
Native integrations and IpaaS solutions can be a great start to understand how the connectivity of systems to messaging can impact your team.