Enterprise task management systems promise to deliver organization, efficiency, and work visibility, however a common issue is that they also deliver a straitjacket for work processes, are cumbersome, and while they offer insight for management they are frequently just another system layer for the people who must work with them. Tagged onto this is the price tag, not just of the initial cost of ownership, but the ensuing support burden typically laid upon IT’s shoulders.

Instead of empowering workers to respond and react to the business environment, to test ideas for work improvement, or to act upon customer service improvements and recommendations, the task management platform prevents thinking, creativity, collaboration and process improvement itself.

In essence, a fundamental weakness of task management software is the closing off of ideas and imagination, while building a barrier to business improvement.

“Get in your cubicle and start thinking outside of the box!”

The principal reason for this sad state of affairs is the difficulty with which enterprise task management systems can be customized and configured. While in many instances they are entirely configurable, and provide high levels of customization, the harsh reality is that system changes typically require specialist coders and developers, with a high level of IT involvement, or even the use of external third-party partners typically tied to the software provider.

The bottom line is that most task management platforms make customizing even a simple form difficult and unwieldy!

The result is that while changes can be made, they cannot be made quickly or cost effectively.

Agility and speed are therefore lost, and even worse is that once a platform is deployed then workers use the system as is and it becomes just another outdated patchwork of point solutions, deployed with the best of intentions and hopeful expectations.

Another issue with deploying task management software is that because they require specialists to intercede between the people who are actually doing the work, and the task manager itself. Not only does this arrangement contribute to an unwanted separation of “Church & State”, between IT or platform administrators, and the rest of the business, but this introduces a further barrier to implementing improvements identified by those who are closest to the work, e.g. process owners, supervisors and the workers directly involved.

The challenge is to deliver an enterprise task management platform which has the following attributes:

  1. Customizable and Configurable by non-specialists, e.g. business analysts, process owners, managers, and indeed the workers themselves;
  2. A platform which encourages thought, relevant collaboration, and creativity, allowing for fast testing of “What If” thinking; and
  3. A task manager which allows for no loss of functionality and security.

The Lean BPM Approach to Enterprise Task Management

A fundamental tenet of Lean BPM thinking is that the tools deployed in support of BPM (Business Process Management) should be usable by the people who are doing the work. In other words, if a supervisor identifies a method by which their team can work more efficiently, then that supervisor should also be able to implement the changes required within the toolset, and do so themselves.

The emphasis is added because this is at the heart of Lean BPM thinking: process and work management systems, even Low Code BPM software, inevitably create a class of “Software Admin High Priests” who control the levers of task management power. These High Priests typically look and sound like highly-paid business and management consultants, developers and coders, or your own internal specialists typified by the IT department which is stressed and stretched.

Lean BPM does away with the need for the High Priests of task management software, and this saves time and money – a lot of time and money.

The idea that a non-technical specialist can wield a task management platform on their own, with no IT support or need for substantial hand-holding is a bold claim.

HighGear is our Lean BPM task management platform, which is currently deployed by a range of organizations around the world, including the F.D.A., N.A.S.A., US Marines, TransCanada, Fifth Third Bank, Beazley Insurance, and many others.

HighGear delivers a business toolkit which provides powerful BPM functionality that the ordinary business person can use to create and improve workflows, processes, and task management configuration.

HighGear is currently used by people like you: business analysts, team supervisors, managers, process owners, LEAN practitioners, marketing directors, compliance specialists, R&D administrators, lawyers, bankers, HR, and many others.

We refer to such users as “Citizen Developers” who are able to make changes to the system such that they get a series of processes, workflows, or recurring task setups that works and fits around how they conduct business. At the same time, Citizen Developers are operating within an environment which is secure and sanctioned by the IT department, deploying HighGear either in-house or using the SaaS option.

HighGear empowers the people closest to the work to create and change task management templates, workflows, and processes. Collaboration and creativity are encouraged, but in a managed and controlled fashion such that efforts and focus are maintained on the problems facing the business, and in particular the problems being faced by the workers and teams performing the work.

Placing the power to change within the hands of Citizen Developers does pose issues.

With the focus on creating and making change and improvements, there is a need to manage this in a controlled fashion, while maintaining accountability, management control, and organizational visibility. If workers have the power to make change, there is the risk of anarchy and inefficiencies to emerge.

If a worker makes a change to the process they are working with, this may result in an improvement within the part of the process they see, however downstream, such a change may lead to inefficiencies and issues the person making the change upstream cannot readily see or expect.

If a change is made, how do you know that the change actually resulted in an improvement?

Who keeps a record of who changes what, and when did this occur?

How do we make sure that changes and improvement efforts are aligned with the overall goals of the business?

While Lean BPM delivers business agility and speed, how do I maintain control over what is happening?

There is a two-pronged approach to dealing with these challenges.

Prong One: HighGear functionality delivers control

A very powerful HighGear feature is the Audit Trail, which is one of the reasons the tool is used so often for compliance purposes. The Audit Trail maintains a log of every keystroke and mouse click performed upon the platform, no matter who does it, and this also includes system configuration changes.

At the same time, there are logs maintained of who is active on the task management platform, including successful and failed login attempts.

In other words, you always know who is doing what on the platform, and there is a non-repudiable date and time stamp of when the action occurred. Multiple version archiving makes sure that changes to artifacts are recorded and maintained, allowing for a fast rollback to a prior state if required.

In addition, collaboration tools such as messaging, contain a permanent record of task-related discussions which are readily available for those workers who will perform work on the subject matter downstream (providing they have the authority to access the information.)

Prong Two: Move Organizational Focus from deploying solutions to executing improvements

Lean BPM removes a major set of barriers to executing on change and improvements by cutting out layers of technical specialists who require time and money to execute on identified changes.

Because the workers themselves are given the power to execute change, the focus of the organization can move from “How do we make changes?” to “What changes do we want to make and how do we control this?”

Control implies not simply control over who is performing work here, but also control over how change and improvements are identified, and how ideas are tested and validated before being rolled out more widely.

Control also means ensuring that changes and improvements are aligned with overall business strategy and objectives, and this is one of the common reasons for setting up a Process Center of Excellence within many organizations.

Major Benefits of HighGear’s Enterprise Task Management System

Configuration & Customization – deploy a task management platform that molds around your people and processes, quickly configurable to how you do business now, and capable of being changed to how you want to do business in the future. Do business how you decide, not how your task manager lets you.

For the Workers by the Workers – deliver the power of BPM into the hands of those who understand what they need to get done and are on the front lines of work. This means that change is executed upon quickly, and encourages a ‘test-fail fast’ mentality leading to Continuous Improvement.

Reduce Reliance on High Priests – reduce the burden upon your IT department by reducing the need to support yet another solution, but ensure security is maintained. At the same time, reduce the need to rely on external partners for system deployment and change.

Increase Business Agility, Speed, & Control – maintaining control over change is fraught with problems and challenges, and a typical management response is to reduce speed of the rate of change, and migrate towards simplicity at the loss of value. HighGear allows you to enjoy agility and speed of operation and change, but to maintain control over change, especially when combined with a change in organization focus from deployment and platform change to a focus on how do we identify changes and improvements we want to make, and ensure change is aligned with the business objectives.

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