about processes and engines

email and Knowledge Management

I just came across this insighful post by Thomas Ferris Nicolaisen about Email and Content Management. His reflection got triggered by that post from Seth Gottlieb.

Just mentioning one of his points :

Never reply with informative emails. Rather write a wiki-page on the subject and send the link to the correspondents

In french, there’s a saying that goes “les paroles s’envolent, les écrits restent” (spoken words fly away, written ones do stay). Email could be considered as ‘spoken words’ in opposition to knowledge management and sharing tools hosted content. You might argue that gmail does all the ‘archival’ for you, but it’s not shared knowledge (and it’s stored, well, ‘somewhere over the rainbow’).

From time to time I receive private emails requesting support for some open source project. I invariably reply : “please post your request on the mailing list or on the forum, replies do matter for the whole community”. That just displays one tiny aspect of the reflection initiated by Thomas and Seth, but it extends well to knowledge generated for other kind of projects / tasks.

Let me now digress a bit : I just used the word ‘task’. OpenWFE, being a workflow/process engine, shuffles tasks among human participants (mturks?) and automated participants.

The classical trick I’ve used and seen used by OpenWFE integrators is to have the link to a form included in the workitem (taskitem). The client interface to OpenWFE’s worklist reads the workitem, loads the mentioned form and pre-fills it with values from the workitem. That form (sometimes multipage) has to be completed by the participant in order to perform the task. There is potentially one unique form for each task in the process definition, or each task of the complete set of process definitions within an organization. One form may be reused by multiple processes.

One could also include a link within the workitem to a wiki page containing the detailed instructions on how to resolve the task. That page could easily be maintained up to date, and participants could comment / enhance it.

The wiki content could also be augmented by the workflow user filling a ‘comment’ box. A further (automated) participant would take care of commenting/enhancing the associated wiki page.

Written by John Mettraux

May 21, 2006 at 7:18 am

Posted in blahblah, bpm, bpms, openwfe, oss

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