As a tool for managing workflows within teams teamfocus is a productivity app. Unlike most desktop, smartphone or tablet productivity apps, teamfocus is squarely focused on teams and the individuals in them.
As with any productivity system, users should consider what it is that they are tracking. Most apps deal well with tasks and most also slice those tasks into lists that might be context driven. Some apps allow users to organise tasks according to and within projects. And while almost every system claims to be workflow centric, the fact is that few systems or apps truly integrate workflows.
To consider these aspects of a productivity system, it is useful to take a few moments to define these key terms.
A task, also known as a ‘Next Action’ or ‘to-do’ is a discrete ‘thing’ that needs to be done. In some cases a task might be truly standalone (e.g. take car to get washed), or it might be one step in a larger project (wash car) or workflow (e.g. the business process used at a Carwash).
Most personal productivity systems provide simple lists of tasks. Users note those tasks on their own system when they become conscious of them, and check them off when they have completed the task—perhaps handing it off to someone else who would (hopefully) now have a task as a result.
Many productivity apps will allow users to organise their tasks into lists, such as ‘Home’, ‘Work’, ‘Online’, ‘Phone Calls’ and so forth. In his Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology David Allen encourages people to organise their ‘Next Actions’ into context driven lists. teamfocus’ user definable lists feature provides an enormous degree of functionality and flexibility in building custom views that cater for contexts.
When multiple, often sequential, tasks are required to be completed in order to achieve an outcome, David Allen also suggests that these be tracked as Projects. For example, ‘get car washed’ might be a project that includes several steps, such as:
- Take car to Carwash
- Drink coffee while waiting for car to be washed
- Check car wash quality
- Pay for car wash
Clearly this is a simplistic example, but it does show that even when there are ‘simple’ projects, there are multiple steps (tasks) that need to be completed before the project is ‘done’.
Wikipedia defines a project as a:
temporary rather than permanent social systems or work systems that are constituted by teams within or across organizations to accomplish particular tasks under time constraints
So getting my car washed might be a project for me, but it would not meet this definition for the Carwash where I take it to get washed. For them, washing cars would be a workflow…
A workflow, like a project, consists of multiple tasks that need to be completed within a team or organisation. A workflow differs from a project in that it is repeated constantly and consistently. The tasks to be accomplished will be specific, and there may be time constraints, but they will not be novel.
Wikipedia’s definition of a workflow shows that a workflow is a:
depiction of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person or group, an organization of staff
In our recent post on Personal Productivity for Team, ‘teamfocus was created with the vision of empowering companies to setup workflows that track the various business processes of the company from start to finish’.
Using our car wash example, the Carwash business might setup a workflow that includes steps like:
- Book in car and check for specific requests
- Complete interior cleaning and detailing
- Wash external vehicle
- Clean tires and wheels
- Polish and dry
- Quality control check
- Finalise customer payment
- Handover vehicle to customer
Traditional productivity apps would not cater for this type of workflow as a new project would need to be catered for each car that comes in. And each individual might need to setup a new task each time they receive the vehicle so that they can complete their part of the workflow.
teamfocus allows individuals or businesses to setup defined workflows . Each time a new opportunity arises (e.g. a new car arrives to be washed) someone creates a workflow. Others in the team can see the tasks that they currently have, and those that they will soon have. Of course, they can’t start washing a car until such time as the previous person in the workflow has completed the interior cleaning, so although they know it’s coming, they don’t yet have it as a task.
All three levels of productivity management are important.
Discrete tasks need to be completed, often as part of something bigger—a defined workflow or a one-off project. Project management is important, but workflow management is the bread and butter of any organisation’s day-to-day business processes.
teamfocus provides the most flexibility in workflow definition and management for organizations small and large.