Information workarounds –do you know if you have any?

by | Jun 4, 2020 | Digital workplace, Information Management

One of the many pleasures of intranet consultancy is that you get to meet employees who are keen to tell stories (always constructively) about their work and what they need in the way of information. It does not take long to discover that they have evolved workarounds to improve the way that information flows around the organisation. In general the more digitally skilled they are and the more they want to make a contribution to the organisation the more likely it is that workarounds are going to emerge.

In theory enterprise application workarounds are not acceptable. After all business analysts have worked diligently for many months to define tasks and workflows. That is often the origination of a workaround. All was fine at the requirements definition stage but a year later when the application is being implemented experience and/or sanity have resulted in a changed process. Indeed it is not uncommon for the process change to be agreed without the implications on the enterprise application being worked through. A good example of a workaround is with collaboration applications. In one client SAPJam was the default collaboration platform but Marketing and Sales wanted a specific functionality and implemented Slack in parallel.

Why am I blogging about information workarounds? It is very likely that organisations (even the UK Courts) will have developed these workarounds in order to keep going through the pandemic. Some of the workarounds may end up being adopted because of the efficiency gains. The issue is whether the culture of the organisation is such that a) staff feel about to report these workarounds and b) there is a process to assess and possibly validate these as the new normal. They could be one of the few benefits to emerge from the last few months of lockdown.

If you want to learn more about why workarounds are developed there is no better place to start than a PhD thesis [download]  by Eszter van der Schaft – Bartis from the Corvinus University, Budapest. She has developed a typology for workarounds. The categories were bypassing routines, substituting routines, complementing routines and data manipulation. A 2014 paper on a theory of workarounds is more interesting than the title might suggest.

Martin White