WorkFlowSoft: the story of our friendship

    Hello. My name is Lydia, and for seven years now I have been working in the Marketing Department of Softline. In this article, I will talk about how differently you can approach the issue of organizing the work of a creative (yes, in fact, any other) team, and how different - fundamentally opposite! - results can be achieved.

    Our department at Softline is engaged in the production of design and content: this means that we write articles on IT topics, issue a magazine for clients and create many other printed materials, arrange events, help web designers, draw nice banners with funny slogans. In general, the work is very creative, and it has one feature - we always do everything, we meet deadlines, don’t lose emails, don’t stay at work ... And no, we are few, but there are very many tasks. I don’t boast now, I just want to openly share the “secret of success” - but about him a little later, and first backstory. This has not always been the case.

    When will the muse arrive?

    Ten years ago, I was invited to an interview at a large publishing house for the position of a publishing editor in a glossy magazine. The publisher, a stern girl with icy eyes, said she was looking not for anyhow anyone, but for a “Hitler girl”. It was necessary to immediately strain from this remark, but I did not give it due attention.

    - Such people work for us, how to explain to you ... They are used to doing everything in their own way, the creative team. Can you teach them to schedule? - asked the publisher. “They are all in art.”

    In general, I agreed to try.

    The trial dragged on for three years.

    The editorial office, of which I became a part, consisted of only seven people - editors and layout designers. All of them were very colorful personalities. They were united by absolute indifference to the fact that during the year stood in the yard, as well as what time and what day of the week. They went to work only at will, and did it when the muse arrived. The muse usually came to everyone immediately and exclusively three days before the issue of the issue to the printing house. This annoyed the publisher, who was forced to report to European partners, partly in charge of the project.

    Many worked at night, some came to the editor to sleep on floor ottomans.
    Two weeks a month in the office was almost nobody. A week before the number was handed over to the printing house, the editor-in-chief appeared and began to loudly accuse others of sabotage and betrayal with a transfer to personalities. The last four days, the employees occupied the editorial office, did not sleep, smoked a lot and frantically finished 164 pages of the magazine under the same cries about sabotage.

    However, the personal schedule of the employees, as the main production organizer, did not bother me because the colleagues simply did not inform others about what and how they were doing. The editors suddenly changed the topics and volumes of the articles, the art director forgot what and whom he ordered, layout designers redrawed the plan of the issue - everyone seemed to make his own magazine without warning others; but in the end I had to collect a picture from this mosaic.

    Around riddles

    I started cleaning up and working together by creating a shared folder with the only version of the number plan in Excel that only I could change. In theory, the entire editorial office was to adhere to it and check only with it. However, the idea did not work: in the process of working on the magazine, people have a number of tasks, and the progress in their implementation in Excel alone is difficult to reflect, especially considering that they still forgot or simply did not try to write or talk about how they have things with their articles. Because they themselves were not sure: often tasks and assignments were formulated vaguely, several responsible were appointed, etc.

    For clarity, I got a whiteboard in the editorial office, on which I drew with markers Processes and Performers. The latter, however, actively painted unseemly pictures on the same board, and if they tried to write something useful, it turned out to be a cipher rather than a report.
    Continuing the policy of visualizing work, we pasted printed pages of the magazine in several rows on the wall so that everyone could see who handed over something and who clamped it. "Wallpaper" lasted three or four months, then they simply stopped paying attention to them. Prints were admired exclusively by adjacent units - in order to give “valuable” design advice.

    I liked making the magazine, but being responsible for the general chaos and working at night was not. Support "from above" did not appear. After my departure, the publication lasted another three years, and then closed, owing employees more than a million rubles.

    Fiction Department - in the next room

    Transparency, understanding of current affairs, clarity in setting goals - does this happen in creative professions at all? I wanted to try a reasonable approach to workflow management, which would rely on a certain system, but not on a paper protocol.

    At first, it was difficult to formulate what it could be, because I had no experience working with any software product sharpened to streamline work processes in the company. And then I just saw it in business - it was WorkFlowSoft , which we began to use in Softline.

    I’ll explain to them just now. Background. Life before WorkFlowSoft looked like this:

    The department received dozens of incoming requests every day, the team of executors accepted them, and all the processes had to be resolved. To do this, lists of tasks were kept on paper. Every day in the morning we went through the list, checked the status of each task, set priorities for the day. It took a lot of time, it was easy to delay something or simply not to pay due attention. In addition, colleagues and managers came regularly with “urgent members” who moved the rest of the line. Plans changed, but it was not immediately clear whether there are resources for a particular project or not, and when they will.

    In addition to the large pool of tasks, one had to know the approach. For example, you had to remember by heart what to do if the text on the finished layout of the advertising module was rejected. The answer is to go back three steps, again turn to the responsible editor with a request to write a new text, coordinate it with who you need, make sure that the text fits into the finished design.
    Another common question is which designer is best to charge this or that type of layout.

    This is a pretty delicate moment, because our designers, on the one hand, are generalists, on the other - it was clear to me that Peter is better at making posters, and Misha's banners. In general, a hitch about who to instruct someone always meant a waste of time. Or even a mistake, because each designer and editor also has his own small specialization. So, only the editor Borya is engaged in the processing of texts in English, although everyone knows pretty well - it just happened.

    In general, the devil is in the details.

    What was done?

    Softline is a major IT integrator whose departments work with many solutions and share useful experience with each other. Colleagues, programmers, for example, advised trying their task trackers (which testers also use): they start all the bugs, tasks, etc. in the system.

    It’s a good idea, we thought, we need something similar, but with functionality more suitable for our working realities. In the trackers of programmers, it was not possible to go back and jump in the process under the given conditions. Why it is so important for us, I will tell below.

    He who seeks will always find: after going through several options, we learned about the existence of WorkFlowSoft - an online business process management system. In short, WorkFlowSoft has a very simple interface in which you can run applications for ready-made templates with routes. As a result, before your eyes you always have a list, you can check who is doing what and what is the progress. Nothing is lost. The tasks are formulated, the deadlines are set, and the ToR will not go anywhere from the application, and notifications will fall during the play. Some things mean not one, not two, but a whole series of performers, when they do everything little by little and pass it down the chain. Or return a few steps back for approval. This, for example, happens when creating presentations for company speakers, producing leaflets and brochures, and arranging events.

    Did a miracle happen?

    In general, it really happened.

    What I did with WorkFlowSoft: I saved the conditions inside the processes myself. This had to be done only once, it took half an hour. Quite easily, despite the fact that I would not call myself an advanced caster of new IT systems for myself. Now the process route goes automatically. Based on what the customer requested, the performers are selected. If you need to make changes to a previous job, the route automatically "rolls back" to the previous steps. I emphasize once again that precisely because of this, the system of projects or tasks did not suit us. The ability to automatically select only those tasks that are needed in a particular order and go back is only in process control systems, such as WorkFlowSoft.

    By the way, we actually talked about how work with applications for creating design and content actually looks, here .

    Separately, I note that the solution is suitable for processes that occur in the development departments, as well as many others where technical specialists and engineers work ( one of our employees already wrote about this ).

    As you know, it’s not enough to find a solution; we also need to make sure that people accept it and start using it. Vague doubts tormented me: what if the situation repeats itself, and the software “will not work”? It may begin to be ignored, like the notorious marker board ...

    Then the leaders connected. We made the decision not to take tasks into work if applications for them in WorkFlowSoft were not started. That is, they simply obliged colleagues, firstly, to start each task in WorkFlowSoft, and, secondly, not to make any “leftist” from the mail, even at the big request. How the performers were motivated: each completed application is evaluated by the customer, the estimates are collected and calculated by KPI, on which the bonus depends  the more points, the higher the amount.

    People work with WorkFlowSoft both from home and from the office. Everyone quickly got used to the interface (it is really very simple), and no one wants to go back to what it was before WorkFlowSoft). And when I start telling scary stories from the “past life” in another edition - they are only surprised if someone really can do that ... “strange” to work ?!

    Do not work “weird”, work with pleasure.

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