Fit and Adaptability in Work Management
How well does your solution fit - and adapt?
Reading Time: 8 min.
How well our technology serves our work management needs now and in the future can be generalized by two measures: fit and adaptability. Fit is the degree of how accurately our chosen approach reflects our business information and process. Adaptability reflects how easily our solution will accommodate new learnings, changing needs, or an evolving business landscape.
Different work management approaches offer different mixes of fit vs. adaptability. While a spreadsheet-based solution's convenience and ease of use may serve our need for adaptability, it often does not provide a good fit. While an off-the-shelf or custom-built solution may initially offer a good fit, the business may find itself locked in when changes arise.
The world of software technology is continually advancing and innovating. Business units will one day assemble best-fit work management applications using simplified tools as easy as Excel. These no-code-required platforms will enable business units to deploy enterprise-grade applications without programmers or IT. These solutions will be quickly adaptable as the business's needs change.
The XOflow Work Management platform is an example of this trend in information technology. XOflow enables non-technical business teams to configure and deploy applications precisely meeting their needs - fit. Teams can quickly modify their applications and re-deploy them to their staff, customers, and suppliers - adaptability.
Want to learn more? Read on.
Fit and Adaptabilitry in Work Management
Every business performs and manages work, and this work comes in many variations. The quality and effectiveness of that work are the responsibility of business leadership at every level.
Growth, resource constraints, customer expectations, regulatory requirements, opportunities, and an evolving industry landscape - all continually challenge business managers and leaders. As a result, to improve the way our businesses work, information technology solutions are adopted.
How well these selected solutions fit our business today and are flexible enough to adapt tomorrow are indicators of the success or frustration we will experience.
True Story - of a $5MM Loss
On a blue-sky day in the mountains at a project kickoff meeting, the project sponsor gave us a tour of their team's facilities. He shared that their business had posted a $5MM loss the year before. As he explained, their system for managing customer orders with their suppliers did not adequately report their supplier costs against their customer billings. They paid for more than they could invoice.
Later, over the course of the project, it became clear that this failure in reporting was a different problem. Our customer was using a system built for similar work. Still, the real-world products and orders they were managing did not match. Like a square peg in a round hole, they forced it to fit - at the expense of $5MM.
How is a poor fit in your work management solution costing you?
What is Work Management?
Behind the products delivered and services rendered, work management happens behind the scenes. It can be generalized as information, the flow of that information between the business and its partners, and the criteria and guidelines which drive decision-making and action-taking.
No two businesses do work the same. Ideal work management solutions capture the nuances of your information or business process. These perfect solutions are often unavailable to the many business areas that do this work daily.
Read more about the Six Key Success Factors of Work Management here.
Fit and adaptability are two fundamental aspects of how well a business solution will serve your current work and when your needs change.
Fit is the degree to which your solution presently allows you to manage information and perform work as needed to produce optimal results.
Adaptability is the degree to which you can change as your needs and requirements evolve. It also represents the ability to innovate and expand your work to accommodate new ideas and opportunities for growth and improvement.
Fit and Adaptability in Work Management Alternatives
Fit and adaptability vary widely across the many alternatives that organizations employ for work management. While some approaches may fit well, they may be static and difficult or risky to change. Others may be easy to change, but the fit is poor, usually due to the simplicity of the solution. The key to successful outcomes is to achieve a balance between the highest fit and adaptability available.
Without the right technology tools, staff will construct solutions with what they have and know. The "Excel" approach is the most common for business units without good work management tools for this reason. Every business user has a spreadsheet and knows how to use it to some degree of sufficiency. Coupled with e-mail, they have "information and process."
Spreadsheets are highly adaptable. You can change columns and layouts quickly and easily. However, spreadsheets have a poor fit when used for work management. Information in a spreadsheet is variable and unstructured. While cells can be formatted, they do not validate, enforce, or adequately represent most structured information. Spreadsheet layouts cannot establish dependencies and relationships. Access control to individual data is impossible, so teams must carefully make copies to send to trading partners.
Spreadsheet data can reflect process status, but this is not a substitute for the actual process. The process remains tribal knowledge that individuals must manage. Often e-mail is the vehicle for conducting the process, with history and artifacts isolated in inboxes.
Cloud-based spreadsheet collaboration is growing in use. These capabilities allow for some level of revision control and data change history, adding to fit. However, there is often one point of truth for a spreadsheet document. Once it is copied and distributed via e-mail, it becomes dated and unmanaged.
Not surprisingly, spreadsheets are used throughout many enterprise organizations to manage everything from essential record-keeping to critical business processes.
Organizations may take the time and effort to select and implement off-the-shelf software products to address a vital work management need. Most off-the-shelf vendors build these products to handle broad mid-market use cases. It is difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate every variation its customers may require.
While the fit may be reasonable in a solution built for a specific use case, there are many exceptions. The product may not precisely reflect the specifications of the business's information. The PO Number must be eight digits and is required; however, the system allows for 20 characters and is not required. The order must record the bank identification number; however, there is no field for this information. The product may try to accommodate information fit by offering a limited number of "custom fields." These generic fields are often textual and cannot be structured well. A custom Need By Date as a text field.
Poor process fit is also very likely. Unless the product allows complete configuration of its workflow model, the business must adapt to it or use common knowledge to get around the limitations.
While some vendors offer customization services, this is a software development effort with a schedule, cost, and risk, reflecting low adaptability.
Organizations may invest in lengthy, resource-intensive software development initiatives to build a customized solution in more demanding cases.
Custom software can lead to a very high fit initially. However, it is not uncommon to encounter misinterpreted or changing requirements during development. The fit is relative to the accuracy of the understood (and implemented) requirements with any solution.
The adaptability of custom software is not always apparent. While the organization may command development resources that can quickly modify the platform, that process is often lengthy and risky. It usually involves competing with other development projects for scarce resources. Most importantly, it is not adaptable from the business unit's point of view. The business must rely on costly external resources to effect changes to their work management solution.
Custom software development efforts are historically over budget, over schedule, and fail to meet end-user expectations. Software engineers are expensive and in high demand to the degree that organizations can turn to alternatives other than software development to achieve better results.
No-Code Application Platforms
In the future, business teams will quickly assemble best-fit applications from pre-built software building blocks. The platforms that enable this configuration-assembly approach will often come with prepackaged "starter" applications that teams can tailor to meet their exact needs. Just as the Lego Star Wars Death Star set includes a pre-designed model, the user can re-configure the pieces, slightly or significantly, to build something unique.
This next step in the evolution of software development is inevitable. The risk in developing and modifying complex enterprise software is substantial. Projects are often over budget, over schedule, and fail to deliver on the actual requirements. Even if analysts gather requirements correctly and the engineering team builds them, business needs often change before the software is released, if not soon after that.
Enabling business teams with user-friendly tools to configure - not code - applications from pre-built, well-tested software building blocks leads to many benefits. Closest to the problem, these teams will build applications with the best fit to their problem. If they don't get it right the first time, they can quickly iterate and adapt their solution until it fits.
XOflow for Best-Fit, Adaptable Work Applications
XOflow by JIFFY.ai is a "no-code" application building platform allowing real, enterprise-grade Work Management applications to be configured - not coded - for optimal fit and future-proof adaptability.
Information. Nearly any business information can be presented, collected, and stored using rich web-based Forms your team efficiently manages.
Forms ensure validation, integrity, and structure. Achieve information fit by employing 30+ "field types," representing the majority of business information. Establish conditionality of your fields and relationships between concepts quickly, allowing for integrity, comprehensive reporting, and future expansion.
Sophisticated capabilities, such as line items as "subforms" and cross-references to other information, further facilitate the best fit to your business data.
Process. While some of your information may be for record-keeping or reference, most work management applications entail process to some degree. Forms are the foundation of the process, with Workflow moving that information as tasks between users or teams.
Your process workflows are also highly configurable, lending to fit and adaptability. Engage individuals, teams, customers, suppliers with Tasks at each step, providing information and moving work along your defined process. Define when information is applicable - omitted, editable, required, or read-only - throughout the process. Compose e-mail templates delivered when tasks are assigned, when specific events occur, and when work becomes late or critical.
Criteria and Controls. Criteria and controls augment these information and process capabilities. Rules and guidelines allow fine-tuning of how work performance is measured, what happens when work becomes late, who is alerted upon certain conditions, and how reporting is available. Control mechanisms allow process-based events to trigger actions within and outside the system: e-mail notifications, automated workflow transitions, and information sent to other systems.
These basic concepts enable work management applications with a high degree of fit. Your team can configure and deploy enterprise-grade work management solutions to your business and its partners quickly. Adapt your configured solution to reflect improvements, new ideas, and corrections as you find the need to change. This adaptability allows you to pivot rapidly to take advantage of new opportunities or respond to challenges without taking your eyes off the ball.
Contact us at JIFFY.ai to demonstrate this versatile platform and to explore how it can transform your organization's work management.