Simon Terry

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Design the Work

Don’t design workflow for the product features. Design work for the people. Let them improve the process from there.

Features Change

Microsoft MVP Melanie Hohertz, Online Communications Lead of Cargill recently remarked in conversation ‘People need to stop designing workflow in Yammer around product features’. This comment is needs to be more widely understood as it is a key source of frustration for many community managers and their organisations. I am not surprised Melanie would so simply distill the issues vexing community managers with Yammer. Melanie is always insightful about Yammer, based in both her excellent command of the product capabilities but also her expertise in community management.

Cloud software solutions have brought powerful new capability into our organisations. However they have also created havoc with traditional ways of working due to their agile product development methodology.

Processes Don’t Change

The process-centric history of management means we try to turn much of our work into a tightly defined process. Many organisation take agile cloud solutions like Yammer and build their features into tightly structured workflow. This process centric approach doesn’t work.

Yammer’s product development is highly agile. Product features change to a loose roadmap but also as a result of a continuous program of A/B testing. We might wish for greater certainty and transparency, but the agile approach isn’t going to change.

The testing enables Yammer’s product managers to learn from the use of the solution by all their users. Your unique use case of a tightly defined custom workflow won’t fit in this approach. That one workflow is a blip among the way millions of users engage with the tool. Melanie’s insight means that we need to step outside our traditional process-centric view and embrace a people-centric approach.

Collaboration takes Community

The opportunity with collaboration in the future of work is for people to be able to reshape their work. Collaboration is not just a layer over the process. Don’t design a process for the features of the tool. Design around the people, those who do the work. Give them the capability to shape their work. Help them to become more agile and adaptable. Let the people take their work forward from there. People will learn in time to navigate the changing features, adapting them to their needs. The product roadmap matters far less than the creativity and agility of community.

Supported in the right ways, people will improve their work through creating new network connections, sharing information, solving challenges and continuously creating new ways of working. The results will be more agile, more collaborative and more effective.


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