Process Street: Workflow without workflow

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When we started covering BPM and workflow technologies at the start of MWD Advisors in 2005, relatively expensive, heavyweight products were pretty much the only game in town if you wanted to deliver systems to help your organisation manage the flow of work. Today’s world is very different – and Process Street is one example of a new wave of technology providers giving mainstream teams modern tools to help them drive productivity with transparency.

In 2005, if you wanted to try to enable a modestly-sized team to co-ordinate their work with the support of a software system, chances are you would be looking at building or buying some kind of extension to a corporate email platform (this is one of the reasons why Lotus Notes was so popular). More specialised tools were also available, but they typically required client installation and offered poor visibility into the work that teams did (and how effectively they did it).

Process Street is a great example of a modern SaaS-based, lightweight tool that supports team productivity with transparency. It’s an early-stage company: founded 2 years ago, and currently angel-funded, nevertheless it’s already picked up a number of high-profile customers (LinkedIn, Cisco, Sheraton, H&R Block, Air Asia and more).

Founder Vinay Patankar started Process Street when, as a marketing executive, he became frustrated at the lack of workflow tools that were intuitive, easy-to-use (and cheap). One of the main obstacles to ease-of-use, he found, was that every workflow tool seemed to assume you were happy to start by defining a workflow diagram. Vinay’s view was that this is unnecessary – in his words: “Can’t you build a workflow tool for people who don’t know about workflow?” – and so the idea to build Process Street primarily around checklists came about.

Right now, the product has 8 core capabilities:

  • Define work templates using checklists, and then run instances of checklists and monitor progress. Assign tasks to team members (or, in fact, unauthorised guests – meaning partners, customers, prospects can easily be included in work). Checklists can be structured with sublists.
  • Organise collections of checklist templates using folders and tags.
  • Schedule the initiation of checklists and initial task assignment – daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
  • Attach documents to checklists – both to help guide participants as they carry out tasks, and to provide documentation or templates that may need to be used as resources in carrying out the work.
  • Automate aspects of tasks – through integration with Zapier and email services today.
  • Build simple web forms to gather data that can be used throughout checklists (and that can be used as part of Zapier integrations too).
  • Gather team comments and conversations around tasks – there’s support for @mentions, and integration with Yammer too. There’s integration of Google for Work for synchronising organisation and member directory details; adminstrators can define permissions for checklist use and task completion.
  • Track task completion from a dashboard, and get notified when tasks are complete. Audit checklist activity after the fact.

As of today, there’s one key feature I’m looking for that is currently on the roadmap but not delivered: the ability to mandate some level of sequencing in a checklist (so for example, the ability to specify “no tasks in this sublist can be completed until these other tasks are completed”). Another big item under development: the ability to integrate with popular cloud-based document management services, enabling all your documents to be managed externally (on Box, Dropbox, etc).

Process Street is not the only technology company going down this road, but it’s perhaps the furthest ahead.

Having said that: if you’re aware of other similar projects or products, please let me know in the comments below!

 

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Neil Ward-Dutton

I'm passionate about helping organisations get real business benefits from the investments they want to make in IT. I love technology, and I've seen it used to amazing effect - but I hate waste, and I've seen so many organisations waste their investments. Over the past 10 years as the Research Director at MWD Advisors I've gained invaluable experience working with clients across many industries, learning about what works and where people come unstuck in trying to drive business change with technology. I've advised on technology strategy and business change management across Europe, and presented at dozens of conferences on these topics around the world.

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